DIG MEMPHIS MYSTERIES
We need your help! Below are images from our digital archive that are missing important details. See if you can help us fill in some of the gaps.
DIG MEMPHIS MYSTERIES will look a little different going forward. Starting in Summer of 2021, we’ll begin posting mystery “seasons” – a multi-week series of mysteries, all centered around a common theme. Use the Resources link below to access tools that can help with your research. If you suggest an answer, please share with us how you solved the mystery. Include your name, and we’ll give you credit on the record in the DIG archives. To keep up to date with all DIG MEMPHIS MYSTERIES, follow us on Instagram at @digmemphishistory!
As the month of August ends, we’re wrapping up our Summer 2021 season of mysteries with one of the oldest “unidentified” photographs in the Nadia Price Photography Collection. The description on this image states, “Black and white photograph of an unidentified house.” Can you help identify this old home?
Phoebe Moore solved this one by consulting Memphis A Pictorial History by Kitty Plunkett , which contains a photograph of the house with these details, “The Montgomery Home, which stood on the northeast corner of Poplar and Montgomery … was built in the late 1860s or early 1870s by Henry A. Montgomery.”
A Commercial Appeal article from November 26, 1933 contains more information about the Montgomery family, as well as a photograph of the house. According to the Commercial Appeal, the property was eventually purchased by the William R. Moore School of Technology in 1937, and Moore Tech College of Technology still stands in that spot today.
The description of the image on the left reads, “Photograph of an unidentified brick building, possibly a school.” Similarly, the description of the photograph on the right reads, “Photograph of the entrance of an unidentified building with a dog statue to the left. Possibly school.” Are these photographs of the same building? Is it in fact a school?
Multiple detectives recognized this building and share their answers over on our Instagram page! Gary Baldwin was the first to name the spot – the Juvenile Court building at 616 Adams Avenue. Glenn Bandy and Joseph Hoyle also submitted answers through the website, confirming the location.
This mystery is one of the rare instances where the answer can be confirmed by simply taking a look on Google Street View. The building – along with the dog statues – are still there! You can see the building located on Adams Ave, at Neely Street.
The description on this image reads, “Photograph of an unidentified intersection and brick building.” The photographer’s notes on the slide give us a little more direction – “4th + Vance or – Linden” – but the phrasing alludes to uncertainty. Can you help pinpoint which intersection is depicted in the image above?
This mystery was trickier than others due to the writing on the image. The Historic Aerial Maps do not show any structures that would match at the intersections mentioned. Phoebe Moore dug a little deeper and looked at intersections near those mentioned. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map does show a three-story multi-family dwelling at Linden and Hernando Street, which is indeed nearby. The aerial maps also confirm a structure that looks similar to the one pictured above.
According to articles in the Commercial Appeal and records in the City Directory, these apartments were initially known as the Graeber Flats, before changing names to the Hillcrest Apartments. They were located at 312-316 Linden Avenue, an area that is now completely transformed and home to the FedEx Forum.
The note that accompanies the above image contains more geographic data than previous mysteries; however, it’s still not clear which corner we’re looking at here. The note states, “Vance & Lauderdale – 1st west of.”
Using multiple resources, Phoebe Moore determined that this “unidentified white house” was known as the Hosmer J. Barrett home, located at 639 Vance Avenue. The carriage house in the image is same as seen in Digital Identifier NPP0396. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from 1950 – Volume 3, p. 268 has a footprint sketch that matches the shape of the house in this photo. The home was featured in the Commercial Appeal on October 22, 1950, when the contents of the house went up for auction.
After going up for sale, the property was briefly known as the Lumpkin Hotel in 1953, before becoming the Orleans Hotel in the mid-1950s. These photographs were taken just east of the intersection of Vance and Orleans, looking west.
For our second week of mysteries from this collection, we’re looking at two images that are titled, “Unidentified Wooden Victorian Style House”. The only data on the photograph indicates it was likely taken around March 1970, but we do not know where.
Phoebe Moore cracked the case on this mystery using a few different sources. She noticed that this house was also pictured in a mystery image from June 2020, specifically Street0829. According to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, this turreted house was at the northeast corner of Cochran and Poplar (1048 Poplar). The footprint and construction materials on the map match those seen in the photo. According to articles in the Commercial Appeal archive, the house was once home to Gwynne Yerger and his wife Lula. More evidence confirming this location can be found on a second photograph, which includes handwritten details! The notes on Street0830 also indicate that the home was at the corner of Poplar and Cochran.
Our Summer season of mysteries will highlight the Nadia Price Collection. Nadia Price was one of the first women in the city to make her living as a photographer. Her work was a staple of Memphis life after World War II. DIG Memphis’ Nadia Price Collection was donated by Nadia Price herself and includes photographs documenting people, places and events from the Memphis area over a span of 40 years.
Some of the items in the collection lack details describing the locations in the photograph. One example is this set of images titled, “Unidentified White Victorian Style House”. The only hint as to where this photograph was taken is a note on the back of the slide that simply states, “4th St.”
We received multiple answers to this mystery over on our Instagram page. Paige T. Sanderson pointed out that the number on the house looked like 353 or 358, which would put the house just south of Vance Ave., a location also mentioned by the Memphis Museum of Science & History. Another Instagram user, M.D., agreed that these homes were on the west side of S. Fourth, between Vance and Butler, and provided an old aerial map image showing structures that matched those in the photo.
Phoebe Moore agreed with the other submissions and provided further evidence using the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, which confirms the 355/353 S. 4th (duplex) footprint and the little building in front (and the houses in background). She also pointed to Memphis, an Architectural Guide, which includes of picture of the home and shows its address as 355 South Fourth St. Lastly, Frances Catmur further confirmed the location after research in the Memphis Room. All of this research places our photograph near the coordinates: 35.134823, -90.050077.