Medieval Modern 

Circa 1932 model home for Chickasaw Gardens.

The first leg of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was built from downtown Memphis to Buntyn Station. In addition to commuters, it brought produce and dairy products from the country into the city. The area that Clarence Saunders bought in the 1920s — north of the Memphis Country Club between Central and Poplar — had supplied many of these early dairy products and was known as Buttermilk Town.

Saunders intended to one-up the Memphis Country Club by building his very own golf course on the grounds of his new, pink Georgia-marble mansion, started in 1922 on Central. The pink marble commemorated the mascots of his self-service grocery stores that had grown into a chain of 1,200 stores called — as we all know — Piggly Wiggly. But before the house was completed, Saunders was beset by financial reverses.

Developers bought his 160 acres and gave the house that he had never moved into and 10 acres to the city to be used as a natural history museum. The remaining 150 acres, which Saunders intended to be his golf course, were subdivided in 1926 as a residential development called Chickasaw Gardens. The subdivision was laid out around a lake, with rambling streets meant to evoke rural English lanes.

This house, built in 1932, was one of the model homes built to entice prospective purchasers and was designed by George Albert Chandler of the local architectural firm Knapp and Chandler. It is faced in brick and limestone and is a variant on the Tudor Revival style, with medieval touches, such as eccentrically placed windows and a meandering roofline, meant to look like it has had additions made over the centuries.

The current owners have been in residence a very busy 11 years. First, they tackled a bad 1970s ground-floor family room addition, turning it into a sumptuous master suite. Its ceiling is vaulted and finished with planks and beams. Rough-cut limestone was used to reface the fireplace to great effect. Triple glass doors look out to the rear, with a long view across a sunken terrace to a lawn terminated by a dolphin fountain enveloped in greenery.

Three additional bedrooms are upstairs, each with its own bath — unusual in 1932, but then this was a model of modern living! The kitchen was recently redone with red sunset granite counters over painted cabinets and a pale cork floor. A few steps down from the kitchen is a most inviting sunroom with a tall, vaulted ceiling and slate floor.

The latest project converted the original garage and storage room into a media/family room with an office behind. Antique cypress doors from New Orleans continue the rustic touch. A heavy-timbered carport was built at the same time, with a covered walk leading around a large parking court to a welcoming porch at the house. The parking court is enclosed with evergreen hedges on two sides and a tall brick wall on the street side. A sunny corner near the kitchen door is bedded with herbs. This model home, based originally on some medieval precepts, has been exquisitely updated for modern living.

3008 Iroquois, 4,000 square feet

4 bedrooms, 4 baths, 2 half-baths $825,000

Jenny Grehan, Coleman-Etter, Fontaine, 767-4100

Linda Sowell, Sowell & Co., 278-4380


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