Ashlar Hall (also called “Prince Mongo’s Castle” due to Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges‘ historical ownership ) currently sits vacant at 1397 Central Ave. Built in 1896, Ashlar Hall has 6 bar areas, 5 bathrooms. 3 floors, and a swimming pool.
Plans are in the works by a team that includes Jerome Hardaway, who owns and operates Frago, a nonprofit startup that seeks to take a proactive approach to veteran transition. He and his team are working hard to transform the building into a local place for vets that will offer developer bootcamps and veteran-based transition classes. Jerome would like the first floor to host local veteran pastry chefs, baristas, and possibly beer brewers.
Jerome was kind enough to give me a private tour of Ashlar Hall and explained why he is doing this, and future plans for the building:
Memphis is home. This is my ground zero. When I came back home, I felt that the system had let me down and now that I can do something about it, I refuse to be the guy that doesn’t do anything about it.
Ashlar Hall is epic. It’s a beautifully structured piece that has been diluted and marked by filth, negligence and drama, but if we work hard enough and want it bad enough, we can make both the building and the promise grand again.
Frago is an acromyn (FRAGO) for Fragment Order which means “change to the mission plans”. Everyone is focused on helping veterans only when they are down and out, when they’ve hit rock bottom, instead of putting programs in place that will help lessen the chances of a veteran hitting rock bottom in the first place. As I researched it, unfortunately I found that helping veterans after they reach that point of no return is actually good business. When you have tax rebates and grants that offer per diem for each vet, as opposed to doing something like this, its easy to make the other choice. As a member of Start Co. whose mentoring, along with the likes of Doug Carpenter and being a veteran, I want this project to be 100% private investments/donations and 100% transparent, because that’s the only way to keep it honest and fair, to keep the standards high.
Jerome hinted at plans for a Halloween party on October 31st, and a possible haunted house starting October 10th but volunteers are needed. How can you help? Go to Ashlar Hall and join the cleanup efforts this Sat (and every Sat) from 8am-12pm so they can host the most epic Halloween party ever.