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VOL. 127 | NO. 217 | Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Mallory-Neely House Reopening Seen as Boon for Victorian Village

By Sarah Baker

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Thanks to a new roof and disability compliance, the Mallory-Neely House will be open to the public Fridays and Saturdays beginning Friday, Nov. 9.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located at 652 Adams Ave. in Downtown Memphis’ Victorian Village Historic District, the Mallory-Neely House retains most of the original historic interiors, furniture and artifacts.

Nora Tucker, project manager with museum planning and exhibit design firm Design 500, said the reopening of the Mallory-Neely House to strengthen heritage tourism has always been one of the focuses of Victorian Village Inc., where she also serves as administrator.

“We field a lot of calls here in our office from tourists and visitors who say, ‘OK, Victorian Village, how many houses are open?’” Tucker said. “For this last six years that we’ve been in operation, we have been able to say, ‘Well, there’s one: the Woodruff-Fontaine House.’ And the Mollie Fontaine Lounge is open after 5 p.m. four days a week. But it’s very important to us to now be able to say, ‘We have got two beautiful, historic homes open that you can tour.’”

Isaac and Lucy Kirtland bought Mallory-Neely House in 1852 and built a two-story home for their family. In 1883, Columbus and Frances Neely bought the house and moved in with their five children.

The Neelys made significant changes, adding a third floor with an additional level for the tower, and were responsible for the interiors seen today. The décor and furnishings date to circa-1890 and include pieces the family bought at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and later from the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

The Mallory-Neely House was preserved in this manner by Frances Neely Mallory, known throughout her life as Miss Daisy, who moved into the house with her parents as a child and was the last family member to reside there until her death in 1969.

In the 1970s, the Mallory family gave the house and contents to Dar-Sar-Car Chapter House Inc., which opened it as a house museum. The group in turn gifted it to the city in 1985 and it has been a facet of the Pink Palace Family of Museums and operated as a historic house museum since 1987.

The Mallory-Neely house has been closed since the spring of 2005, when The Historic Properties of the Memphis Pink Palace Family of Museums were closed to the public due to budget shortfalls. While closed, two big projects have been under way.

One is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The first floor of the house is now accessible to visitors in wheelchairs, while a video in the newly remodeled Carriage House allows disabled visitors to see the second floor. The Carriage House also has an ADA-compliant restroom, refurbished entrance and handicap parking spot.

Secondly, the Mallory-Neely House has a new roof. The old slate roof on the house dated to the 1890s and simply wore out. Thanks to Clark/Dixon Architects, great care has been taken so that the new, city-funded $268,000 roof mirrors the original.

“It is just like the original slate. … It was matched in color, and we had to actually wait to get the correct roof material so that it could be,” said Dianne Dixon, firm principal. “It’s very important to us that the roof go back on and be as historically correct as it was in the beginning because this is one of the most important historic homes left in that block that’s held by the city.”

Victorian Village has certainly seen momentum recently. In August, the city agreed to transfer the James Lee House to local developer Jose Velazquez, who plans to invest $2.1 million to turn the 171-year-old Victorian Village mansion into a “top-notch, luxury” bed-and-breakfast inn with five suites.

Those interested in witnessing Mallory-Neely House’s new roof and celebrate the area’s resurgence are invited to attend the “Victorian Village Tent Revival” on Sunday, Nov. 11, from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. at Victorian Village Park across from Juvenile Court at 616 Adams Ave.

A catfish lunch will be available from Trolley Stop Market, as well as entertainment provided by Gospel Choirs, Di Anne Price and bluegrass music. Special guests testifying to the power of the historic neighborhood will also be present.

Admission ($10 for Victorian Village Inc. members/$20 for non-members) includes a free tour to the re-opening of the Mallory-Neely House. Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum tickets will also be half price.

Tucker said bringing visitors and locals into the neighborhood fuels the district, and therefore historic tourism.

“We hope to increase awareness of Victorian Village, to stimulate more retail, and follow that with some investment in residential structures,” Tucker said.

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