Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Empty Lot of Former "Underground House" To Be Sold

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2007 at 4:00 AM

On Monday, April 23rd, Memphians will have a chance to bid on one of this city's best-known eyesores. The winner then gets the rare opportunity to buy land and build a brand-new house in Central Gardens.

The property at the corner of Cowden and South McLean that for decades held what was called "The Underground House" goes on the auction block at Roebuck Auctions, 4932 Park Avenue, at 7 p.m. that evening.

For years, this house was one of our city's curiosities. At one time, a handsome bungalow stood on this corner. Sometime in the 1970s, that house was replaced with a more modern structure, which builder/architect Bill Fuller then covered with mounds of dirt and monkey grass. The whole thing was then surrounded with a wood-plank fence. The house wasn't technically underground; everything was built above ground, but just covered up.

According to neighbors, the house stood empty for almost 10 years, though it was hard to tell when the only thing visible (barely) was the front door. About three years ago, the house was sold, and the new owner scraped all that dirt off and announced plans to expand the house.

Unfortunately, those plans didn't meet the approval of the Memphis Landmarks Commission — this is Central Gardens, remember, a historic district with rather strict building codes — so the house stood for years stripped of its dirt covering, windows shattered by vandals, and the whole thing pretty much a big mess.

Last year, bulldozers finally pulled down the remains, leaving grass-covered piles of dirt in the yard. So here's a rare chance to buy land and build a brand-new home in Central Gardens. More info? And you might want to look back at the other eyesores that made our 2005 top-10 “worst” list. — Michael Finger

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