Status: Demolished; delisted July 22, 1980

Address: 544-548 Vance Avenue, Memphis

Built: 1876

Architectural Style: Victorian Italianate

The Robert S. Bowles Houses were placed on the National Register on Dec. 16, 1979.

History: An early description of the Bowles Houses reads: “The three-unit brick row house on Vance Avenue was built in 1876 for Robert S. Bowles, a successful cotton broker. It sits on a raised foundation of brick which has been stuccoed and scored to simulate stone. The only surviving row house in Memphis, the Bowles House maintains most of its marginal architectural detailing in the Italianate style.” The Bowles family appears to have lived here for only a few years, however. Their houses were listed on the National Register along with four others at the same time, but unlike the Bowles Houses, the others still survive: the Capt. Harris House, the Boyce-Gregg House, the Bradford-Maydwell House, and the E.H. Crump House. The structure was also included as a contributing property (No. 13) in the now-delisted Vance-Pontotoc Historic District. The photo above was taken on June 16, 1977 as part of a survey of Memphis buildings endangered by urban renewal. (That project was done in collaboration with the Tennessee Historical Commission; the records are now part of the Memphis Heritage Cultural Resources Survey in the Memphis and Shelby County Room of Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.) In 1978 the building was given to the Memphis Area Planning and Design Center headed by neighborhood activist and preservationist Stoy Bailey. Bailey believed the group’s move into the building would signal the beginning of a stabilization and revitalization of the Vance-Pontotoc area. Unfortunately, his optimism was misplaced, although one major improvement did result. The historic Vance Library across the street from the Bowles Houses had burned down months earlier during the firemen’s strike, and the city had intended to rebuild it elsewhere. But the arrival in the neighborhood of the new organization caused the city to reconsider, and to rebuild the library (now the Cornelia Crenshaw Memorial Library) on its original site. The site of the Bowles Houses is now a vacant lot.

City Council District: 6

Super District: 8

County Commission District: 8