Jackson Terrace-2nd Addition

Cultural Resources Survey of

Jackson Terrace-2nd Addition

Census Tract 13
Memphis, Tennessee
February, 2002

I. Description of Survey Area

The Second Addition to the Jackson Terrace subdivision is a small, irregularly-shaped area of north Memphis bounded by Crump Street [not Avenue] on the northwest, Hudson Street on the east and northeast, Pope Street on the southwest, and Guernsey Street on the south. Lamphier extends east to connect with Holmes Street. Jackson Avenue, the neighborhoodís namesake, is a heavily industrial highway just north of the survey area. It was not included in the survey. Streets in the neighborhood break the grid pattern of the older streets that surround them, winding in a roughly northwesterly direction from Holmes to Jackson. They are approximately 50 feet in width, surrounded by a sidewalk and neutral strip. Mature hardwood trees shade the lots, and houses share a uniform setback.

Houses in the survey area are modest post-war double pile cottages of one to one and a half stories. All are clad in brick, or occasionally fieldstone, rather than the cheaper weatherboard siding also commonly found in middle class neighborhoods of the period. Built in a relatively short span (1946-49), the building stock is homogeneous in style throughout. With the lone exceptions of a 1910 Queen Anne at the corner of Guernsey and Hudson and one infill Ranch, all are representative of the Minimal Traditional style that defines postwar housing in both Memphis and much of the nation. This no-frills style developed during the Depression era of the 1930ís and was perfected during the postwar housing shortage of the 1940ís to allow for quick, cost-effective construction. Modeled on the Cape Cod side-gable plan, the form of the houses has been reduced to simple rectangles with either gabled or hipped rooflines, often with a front-facing gable wing and a small portico above the entry. Exterior detailing is minimal or nonexistent, mainly limited to an occasional fluted-post door surround, a vague nod to the Colonial ancestry of the style. Touches of Tudor Revival are also evident in arched doorways and double gables.

Memphis Heritage previously conducted two surveys in adjacent areas. Most of Census Tract 13, which was largely built before World War Two, was surveyed by MHI in 1993 and judged non-contributing due to neglect. However, the Second and Third Additions to Jackson Terrace were consciously omitted at the time. Development in these areas came later and the survey team decided to wait until the neighborhoods reached 50 years of age. The Third Addition to Jackson Terrace, a cluster of duplexes to the east, was placed on the National Register in November 2001. These duplexes are currently undergoing renovation for use as low-income housing under the direction of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Soon after, the Second Addition was surveyed. This report summarizes the findings of that survey.

II. Statement of Significance

Memphis Heritage surveyed 156 structures in Jackson Terrace-Second Addition in November 2001. 138 of these (82%) were deemed contributing structures, making the neighborhood eligible for a listing on the National Register under Criterion A. Homes are generally well-kept, with only slight façade changes, if any. Their Minimal Traditional styling and construction date of 1946-49 places them within the context of the postwar economic boom, an important and definable period of American history. This also makes the neighborhood comparable to similar existing National Register districts in Memphis, most notably its neighbor to the northeast, Jackson Terrace-Third Addition.

III. History

Census Tract 13, known for the past century as Highland Heights, was originally part of the 900-acre plantation of John Pope, a Shelby County planter and businessman credited with sending a prize-winning bale of cotton to the 1851 Worldís Fair in London. His land was subdivided following his death in 1865, but would remain sparsely settled and miles outside the city limits for several decades. The first signs of modernization in the area came in 1892 when the Raleigh Springs Electric Railway Company installed streetcar tracks northward along National Avenue. The tracks were intended to transport some of Memphisí wealthier citizens out from the city to the then-fashionable suburb of Raleigh, where the natural springs were a popular destination for tourists. But this access to public transportation also made Highland Heights an attractive location for new permanent residents.

Finley Faxon brought large-scale development to the area when he opened his Highland Heights subdivision along the streetcar lines at Summer and National in 1905. 100 by 200 foot lots were sold for $10 down and $10 a month. Electricity was available, but shut off at 10 p.m. A boarding house built by the streetcar company in 1895 soon tripled as a church and a school for the burgeoning new neighborhood. Treadwell School replaced the boarding house as the neighborhood school in 1915, attracting still more residents.

As the population continued to grow, the northwest corner of the area above Guernsey Avenue remained untouched. Since Popeís death in 1865, this 80-acre parcel had been home to the Shelby County Poor Farm, Work House, and Insane Asylum. Inside, inmates were kept separated by sex, race, and classification—either “poor” or “insane”. These men and women were assigned to work on chain gangs, paving roads and clearing weeds for the County. In 1929, however, the “Workhouse” was discontinued. Wards of the asylum were moved to state facilities in Bolivar, Tennessee, and the poor farm and workhouse were relocated to the present-day Shelby Farms. Shelby County sold the old Workhouse parcel to developer Dave Dermon in 1944 for about $1,000 per acre. The Second Addition to Jackson Terrace stands on this land.

Following WWII, Dermon laid out winding streets in the area, breaking the grid pattern of surrounding streets. Construction on the roughly 150 houses began in 1946, and was completed in 1949. Home builders had by this time borrowed industrial mass production techniques like bulk buying of materials to lower overhead costs and speed construction. They had also implemented horizontal integration of the market, developing land and simultaneously subcontracting construction to carpenters, allowing for the completion of entire neighborhoods in a matter of months instead of decades. Borrowing ideas largely conceived by Levitt and Sons in New York, the houses were ready-made for a market hungry for new suburban housing. In 1948, Dermon further subdivided his property, selling a segment to developer Ben Margolin who built the duplexes that stand on Hardin and Atlantic.

Census Tract 13, in which the neighborhood lies, shows a population increase of 65% between 1940 and 1950. A rise in education level is also evident– in 1940, nearly half of residents were without high school diplomas, and one fourth had never made it past the 8th grade. By 1950, two to four years of high school was the norm. Residents were largely engaged in sales or clerical positions, or in blue-collar industrial jobs like plant managers or machine operators. Nearby industries included Firestone Tire and Rubber, Chromasco Smelting, and Buckeye Cotton. The 1946 City Directory lists residents in professions such as “meat cutter”, “accountant”, and “stage manager-Warner Theater.” Because of restrictive covenants imposed by developers which prevented non-whites from owning area property, the neighborhood was nearly 100% white.

Today this has changed. While a handful of older white residents remain, Jackson Terrace, along with much of North Memphis, has transitioned racially. The restrictive covenants that previously barred blacks from owning property were broken following the civil rights legislation of the 1960ís. Today, African-Americans make up a large majority of the population in the area.

DON NEWMAN