Love List 2020, Days 50 & 59: Ellfrow and Villa Belleair

Love List days 50 and 59

By Brantley Ellzey

Villa Belleair

Day 59

February 28. I was driving east on Poplar yesterday enjoying the first sunshine we’ve had in a long time. As I passed the empty property at Tucker that had once been the site of a charming apartment building and row of vintage commercial storefronts, I was once again enchanted by the picturesque apartment building on the next block east. 

The perfectly Midtown-scaled neighboring apartment building on the right in this picture is now dirt.

According to my research, the “Villa Belleair” at the corner of North Rembert and Poplar was built in 1925. One can assume its posh name was either coined in tandem with or in tribute to the crescent of beautiful homes just east on Belleair Drive. Early records are scant, but the building was sold on February 2, 1980, by Hubert and Doris Kiersky to Howard M. Fullenwide for $185,000. It sold again in 1982 for $400,000, in 2002 for $800,000 and most recently in 2018 when the Memphis College of Art sold it to Peacock Poplar LLC for $1,710,000. 

Villa Belleair
Villa Belleair, 1973 Poplar Avenue

Peacock Poplar, LLC is a limited liability company based in Fremont, CA. 1973 Poplar is the first property purchased by the company in Memphis. Pallavi Shah, asset manager for PP, said in a recent interview with the Memphis Business Journal that the company was drawn to this particular building because of its quality and location across the street from Overton Park and that a “major renovation” is planned after MCA student residents leave later this year.

Hooray! I am optimistic that Peacock Poplar, LLC will do a careful job with the renovation. The warm, multi-colored brick, stone, tile roof, arches, window grilles and detail upon detail coupled with pleasing massing and proportions make this painterly Italian villa one of the most special places in Midtown. 

We lost the historic buildings to the west for a gigantic, lumbering bully of a building. The Villa Belleair with all of its charms deserves to be preserved and restored to the highest standard, starting with the reinstatement of that lyrical name! <>

Ellfrow, center

Our Dear Old Ellfrow

Day 50

February 19. There really is no place like home. We love our house, our Dear Old Ellfrow. 

According to my research, the house was built around 1907 for a lumberman named D. S. Watrous. It was designed by the prolific Memphis architecture firm Jones & Furbringer in the shingle style – unusual for Memphis. The exterior is clad in cedar shakes in an alternating ribbon band pattern. There are many custom milled wood details both inside and out that one can attribute to the business of the original owner.

Ellfrow, aka the House of Mr. D. S. Watrous

Our favorite part of the house is the expansive front porch whose generous size allows it to act as an outdoor double parlor. The porch wraps around the east side of the house to form a more intimate loggia. Ellfrow combines elements of a bungalow (no entry hall, casual floor plan) with earlier Victorian residential design (high ceilings, molding profiles.) The floor plan has essentially remained the same other than alterations for a more expansive kitchen.

We’ve enjoyed Ellfrow for almost thirty years. It’s filled with accumulations, collections, much laughter and thankfully, few tears.

In researching the house, I ran across a terrific book from 1916 that documents our place as well as other J & F projects.

The full phonebook scan of Domestic Architecture can be viewed here on the Historic-Memphis website.

My name is Brantley Ellzey and I was born and raised upriver from Memphis in Osceola, Arkansas. In January of this year, I began this daily blog on Facebook called Love List 2020. I hoped it would act as a happy counterpoint to the constant barrage of troubling news and turmoil that fill our modern lives. Select posts are republished here, bi-weekly and parts in between.

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