Loft Life 

From warehouse to your house.

Memphis' downtown residential renaissance is being fueled by developments ranging from mansions along the bluff to apartments and condos "above the store." Former hotels, department stores, and warehouses have been converted to housing. One of these is the former Livermore Iron Store Warehouse, with 13 recently completed apartments on its third floor.

The warehouse was built in 1905 on a site with access to the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad, which ran along Tennessee Street. When the Illinois Central Railroad purchased the rail line in 1898, the Livermore Iron Foundry greatly expanded its markets to new areas served by the giant railroad. Memphis had a major iron-foundry industry at the turn of the 20th century; this warehouse in the South Bluffs Warehouse Historic District is the last extant building associated with the Livermore Foundry.

The warehouse was originally a two-story brick-and-timber building. A third floor was added around 1925, and a large clerestory was built to get natural light to the center of the interior. An exterior steel-frame stair and elevator core were added in 1981 when the building was remodeled for use as offices for Contemporary Media, publisher of Memphis magazine and The Memphis Flyer.

The building's industrial appearance has been enhanced by a distinctive but restrained polychrome exterior color treatment. The third floor is a different color from the first two floors, hinting that it was an addition -- a successful contemporary use of architecture parlante (narrative architecture), which tells the purpose or character of a building, a design device popularized in the 18th century.

The main entrance to the apartments is a pair of monumental cypress-and-glass-paneled doors salvaged in New Orleans. Similar antique Italianate doors with solid panels are used at the entrance to each apartment. The corridor leading to the apartments is a circuitous space that waltzes through the building, many of its corners softened by large-radius curves that also form interesting spaces inside the apartments. The hall is bathed in softly diffused light from wall sconces and tiny skylights that look like ceiling light fixtures. Light also pours in from the clerestory high above the central atrium.

Each apartment has a different floor plan, but all have enormous kitchens open to the living and dining area, acres of counter space, pantries, ceiling fans, and intriguing Italian washer/dryer units. The oak cabinetry has a white pickled finish which reinforces the airy tone of the spaces.

Bathrooms throughout are large and lavish; most have big showers and separate tubs. Many have enough room for a chair or free-standing cabinet. In the one-bedroom units, the bath is usually accessible from the hallway and the bedroom. Every unit has several large closets and storage areas; some have walk-in closets that are about the size of a studio apartment.

The new interior walls are smooth and white, boldly contrasting with the exposed brick perimeter walls, heavy timber columns, and concrete floors. The board ceilings and exposed ductwork are also painted white. Broad banks of windows provide fabulous light, and all but two units have a river view. Because of the depth of the warehouse, a few rooms do not have a direct outside view, but they have glazed French doors or glass-block walls which borrow light from an adjoining room or the atrium. All of the doors are seven feet tall, a detail that accentuates the 12-foot-ceiling height. Now known as the Tennessee Street Apartments, this former warehouse is enjoying new life in ways that would have surprised its original builders.

Tennessee Street Apartments

460 Tennessee Street

13 apartments, 925-1,750 square feet, 1 bedroom/1 bath to 2 bedrooms/2 baths

$950-$1,900 per month

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