The Old City 

Circa 1900 storefront in the Pinch.

The Pinch was the earliest settled area in Memphis. The city's original land office was established there, followed by the first trading store and two locations of Paddy Meager's Bell Tavern, where travelers could both sup and sleep. The area is adjacent to the old mouth of the Wolf River, which provided a harbor for flatboats and a ferry that crossed the river.

This harbor eventually proved too small for the riverboats, many of which were four or five stories high. The city center migrated south from the Pinch to a broad area where the riverfront could be paved with cobblestones. This remains the downtown we now know, where cotton-classing offices and grand hotels were built near the dockage for the floating palaces.

The Pinch survived as a dry-goods trading center with mill yards and breweries along the lower Wolf. Waves of immigrants washed through the area, most notably an Irish contingent after the potato famine of the late 1840s and early 1850s, and a large Jewish influx, which built a synagogue there. The surviving building stock is predominantly two- or three-story brick buildings, most having a commercial use on the ground floor and the lodgings above.

This building was constructed in 1900 by a Jewish tinsmith. It has been a pool hall, a restaurant, and an early home to a stained-glass studio. Four years ago, the then-uninhabited structure was bought, and a year of reconstruction followed.

The ground floor now houses an art gallery. Salvaged oak floors and one wall of exposed brick accent the 14-foot-tall space. Just behind the gallery is a spacious eat-in kitchen with three walls of pale birch cabinets and cast concrete counters. A new rear addition includes a dining/family room that opens to a brick-walled courtyard, a large workshop, and a two-car garage.

Upstairs has three bedrooms, three baths, and separate guest quarters that could be rented out as an apartment. Two of the bedrooms are suites that offer lots of options. The one on the front has cherry floors, and its diminutive fireplace has a metal mantel, possibly made by the original owner. A similar fireplace is featured in the suite's bath, and a large skylight crowns the adjoining dressing room.

The second suite has a private balcony that overlooks the courtyard and is built atop the new dining/family room. This position insulates the area from the typical sounds of an urban environment. Along the stair hall between the two suites is a third bedroom, a bath, and a laundry room. The one-bedroom guest apartment is above the garage.

The Pinch has languished while downtown and South Main have experienced a residential renaissance. Saint Jude Children's Research Hospital, Mud Island, and the Pyramid surround the area and suggest that this now quiet corner of the old city has lots of room for growth. •

356 N. Main

4,500 square feet

3 bedrooms, 3 baths,

plus guest quarters

$695,000

The Garland Co., 527-7779

Agent: Tracie Gaia, 649-6232

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