The city of Memphis was founded in 1819. It was named after the ancient capital of Egypt on the Nile River. It rapidly developed as a major trading center for cotton cultivated at the region’s large plantations and within the city, Memphis was becoming a regional destination for commerce as well. The wealthiest of the land & business owners displayed their success in the grandure of the homes in which they built for their families. By the middle of the 19th century, a neighborhood of Italiante & Victorian style homes could be found between Poplar Ave & Jefferson ave in an area now known as Victorian Village. This is considered one of the “Original” Memphis neighborhoods.
In 1878 and 1879, the city suffered a severe yellow fever epidemics. In 1878 tens of thousands of residents fled and more than 5,000 died, with hundreds more dying in the next year’s epidemic, causing the city to go bankrupt and give up its charter until 1893. Things weren’t looking good for Memphis.
Fast forward into the 20th century, things started to change. Urban renewal and modernization swept the city and several of our historic structures were lost to make way for new schools, offices, government buildings, etc. Now, these lost homes and buildings only exist in black and white photos in the archives. But through the passion of several people and organizations who understood and appreciated our history, a handful of these buildings survived. Today, these buildings exist within Victorian Village serving multiple purposes. Some are now house museums, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, offices, and even private residences. The neighborhood had been saved from the wrecking ball, but what is next for this National Register Historic neighborhood? Well, this is where the exciting part begins.
The neighborhood development corporation of Victorian Village, Inc. has worked diligently for many years to revitalize and promote the neighborhood. That being said, I have been given the pleasure to serve on the Board of Directors as their treasurer now for 8 months. I have seen first hand that this group of people truly care about this neighborhood and the direction of its future. On their website you will read:
“Our premise is simple: If we can create an active neighborhood with families out walking the dog, playing in the parks, supporting the medical district, and creating a strong economy, we can save the historic properties by making them the center of activity.”
Victorian Village, Inc. is working on several areas to improve the quality of life in this part of Memphis. One area is the revitalization and improvements to Morris Park on Poplar Ave. Plans include new lighting, landscaping, park equipment, and sidewalks. Fundraising for SkyCop cameras to be installed throughout the neighborhood is also nearing the final stages. Several local citizens, business, and organizations have contributed toward this cause as they realize the progress of this area will move forward only when visitors and residents feel safe and secure.
The City of Memphis is currently working on re-paving several of the main streets that run through the neighborhood as well. In addition, these road projects also include bike lanes being added as a second means of transportation through the area. Also underway is the printing & distribution of a walking tour brochure/guide that will guide you through the neighborhood explaining in detail the historical significance of each structure you look upon. You will be able to pick up these brochures/guides at several area hotels, visitors centers, local attractions, and within most Victorian Village businesses. Trees, landscaping, and medians are also being added to several areas of the neighborhood as well.
Being the advocate that I am for this neighborhood, I had to be part of the “change I wished to see”, so I purchased an 1859 Victorian home within the neighborhood and am currently working on restoring it to its original glory after years of being empty and lifeless. Three blocks away, construction has begun for a new residential development along Jefferson Ave. This new development, known as Planters Row II, has started with Downtown’s first single family home to be built since the recession.
This home, designed by Design 500 (a Victorian Village-based design firm) was created using ideas from the architecture of the surrounding historic structures while offering modern amenities and universal design. Currently, there are five additional lots available for purchase. More info on Planters Row II can be found here.
I encourage anyone looking to Choose901 as their home, as well as the nurses, doctors, and students that attend neighborhood schools or work in the area (such as LeBonheur, St. Jude, University of Tennessee, Regional One Health, Memphis VA Center), to take a closer look at what’s happening in Victorian Village. Look at both existing developments and future plans for the neighborhood.