Memphis Heritage uses state receivership law to salvage historic Richards House.


In 1883, cotton merchant Newton Copeland Richards built a stately Queen Anne-style home with a rounded porch and circular balcony latticework at 975 Peabody. Richards went on to become the president of the Memphis Cotton Exchange in 1902.

But today the crumbling Richards House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is hardly fit for a president. Or anyone for that matter.

“It’s been in dire shape cosmetically for years. It looks like you could blow on it, and it would come down,” said June West, executive director of Memphis Heritage.

But thanks to a 2007 state law aimed at curbing blight in urban areas, Memphis Heritage has entered into a receivership of the home. It has partnered with locally based Rising Phoenix Development Group to restore the property back to its original glory.

The property owner at 975 Peabody was sued under the Neighborhood Preservation Act, which allows an interested party to sue a property owner if their property is vacant and uninhabitable. In a first for the preservation organization, Memphis Heritage was named as the receiver of the property

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From the Memphis Flyer, Letters to the Editor:

About Bianca Phillips story, “Richards House Redux” …

Thank you so much for bringing awareness to Memphis Heritage’s first “receivership” project.

We hope, through this program, that the community and city leaders will understand MHI’s commitment to being part of the solution of blight in our city, especially in our older neighborhoods.

Many of the blighted properties in Memphis still have good bones, are built with higher quality materials than are available today and built to last more than 100 years. Many of these inner city properties are worth reinvesting in and will assist in revitalizing neighborhoods.

We are not saying that all buildings should be saved — far from it. But if we can effectively reuse these properties, get them back on the tax rolls and in some cases teach the building trades, through the redevelopment, then I think we can all win.

June Waddell West

Director, Memphis Heritage