VOL. 132 | NO. 233 | Thursday, November 23, 2017
Speedway Terrace Seeks Historic District Status
By Patrick Lantrip
Located along a shady stretch of North Parkway, Speedway Terrace has all the look and feel of a classic Midtown Memphis neighborhood – historical homes, ties to the early days of the city, and an abundance of bungalows.
Speedway Terrace, which includes the 1300 block of Tutwiler, is seeking a historic district overlay to further protect it from development that would change the character of the neighborhood. (Daily News File/Patrick Lantrip)
Now, residents of the more-than-century-old neighborhood are looking to join many nearby contemporaries with the creation of a historic district overlay from the Memphis Landmarks Commission.
Even though the neighborhood was placed the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, a historic district overlay from the city will grant the neighborhood an added layer of protection from any future residential development that would alter the architectural fabric of the community.
According to its application, The Speedway Terrace neighborhood is marked by North Watkins Street to the east, the back property lines along Snowden Avenue to the north, Interstate 240 to the west and the back property lines along North Parkway to the south.
“Speedway Terrace is significant for its architecture, community planning and influential residents,” resident Cheryl Hazelton wrote in the neighborhood’s application. “Its significance is the notable and substantially intake collection of middle-income residences built in the first four decades of the twentieth century.”
The neighborhood is comprised of roughly 500 homes in a 21-block, 110-acre area. Architecturally speaking, the area’s period of significance runs from 1905 until 1945, and was heavily tied to early urban designer George Kessler’s plans for what would become colloquially known as “The Parkways.”
“The development and construction of Memphis’ Parkway System started in 1904 as a part of the city’s ‘Greater Memphis Movement’ revitalization plan to create a system of parks connected by a system boulevards,” Hazelton continued.
“Under the direction of George Kessler, a rectangular border was created around the city using existing streets. The north-lining avenue is what is considered today to be North Parkway, which was also known as the Speedway.”
Interestingly, Kessler had originally designed portions of the parkways to be tree-lined avenues where car and carriage owners could race against each other, which gave the neighborhood its gasoline-infused moniker.
The development of Speedway Terrace began in earnest in 1905 by the Speedway Land Co. and was considered one of the city’s largest real estate ventures of its time.
According to the application, Finley Faxon and Robert Brinkley Snowden, whose last names would eventually become attached to well-known thoroughfares in the area, were a part of the Speedway Land Co.’s turn-of-the-century design team.
In the 1920s, a trio of projects, which included the extension of North Parkway to Downtown, the relocation of Southwestern College to North Parkway and the construction of the massive Sears, Roebuck and Co. regional distribution warehouse that would eventually become the Crosstown Concourse, further shaped the neighborhood.
“In 1920, notable early twentieth-century home builder, William Cullen Chandler, developed a grouping of homes dubbed “Built-Rite” bungalows on Forrest Avenue,” the application continued.
“Their construction and detailing became the quality standard for other builders to emulate and aspire to compete with Chandler’s houses within the subdivision.”
By 1929, the vast majority of Speedway Terrace had been developed.
Now, almost 90 years later, current residents are hoping that the city grants them the official historic designation.
If approved by the Memphis Landmarks Commission on Thursday, Dec. 14, the application will then go before the Land Use Control Board and eventually the Memphis City Council.