Victorian Village in Memphis: The Complete Guide

Mallory Neely House in Memphis
Thomas R. Machnitzki / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Victorian Village

Address
Victorian Village, Memphis, TN, USA

The Victorian Village is a small neighborhood next to Memphis' Medical District, at the edge of downtown. The area is primarily composed of 19th-century mansions—many of which are known for their exceptional architecture. Now, many are museums that teach visitors about the Victorian era, and one is even a bed & breakfast. The neighborhood is also close to Sun Studio, where Elvis Presley and other famous musicians recorded their albums, some before they were famous, and is home to a few exceptional restaurants and bars.

History

In the mid-1800s, Memphis experienced a period of growth, thanks to an influx of lawyers, entrepreneurs, and politicians. A few of the city's wealthiest residents built grand, Victorian-style homes outside of the bustling downtown, and this area, now in the heart of the city of Memphis, became known as the Victorian Village. Residents included Confederate brigadier general Gideon Pillow, who lived in a two-story Greek Revival home; Amos Woodruff, a booming carriage maker; and Noland Fontaine, a significant cotton supplier. The latter's children were famous for throwing lavish parties in the neighborhood. Their street was nicknamed "Millionaires Row."

As the city of Memphis expanded, this neighborhood became less attractive, and its wealthy citizens moved away. While many of the original homes were destroyed, others are now museums and hotels. In the past few years, the area has experienced a revival with bars and restaurants moving into the neighborhood. The entire neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

What to See

Some of the historic mansions have been converted into beautiful museums that tell the story of the Victorian era in Memphis.

  • Don't miss the Mallory-Neely House, which has been preserved from the mid-1800s, when it was built, and tells the story of how a family would have lived at that time. It has original furnishings, stained-glass windows, and stenciled ceilings. Hours are Friday and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours are offered on the hour and half-hour, with the last tour departing at 3 p.m.
  • At the Woodruff-Fontaine House, you can see 4,000 pieces of Victorian-era fashion. It has everything from undergarments to wedding dresses to church clothes. If you're into fashion, this is one museum not to miss. It is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • If you want a unique experience (and are in the mood to splurge) book a room at the James Lee House, a five-star bed and breakfast. During your stay, you'll live amongst hand-painted frescoes, stained-glass windows, and original Victorian floors. You can relax in the garden or snuggle up on a chaise with one of the house's many books. And you'll have a homemade breakfast waiting for you in the morning.

While not technically in Victorian Village, Memphis' Sun Studios is a short drive away. It opened in 1950 and was the very first place Elvis Presley recorded his music. During the exhibit you'll hear the stories of B.B. King, Johnny Cash, and other legends who walked in the same place as you'll be walking. For an extra fee you can even follow in their musical footsteps by recording your own song. It's open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.

How to Get There

The Victorian Village is located on Adams Avenue on the edge of downtown Memphis. It's not an easy area to get to by public transportation, so the best way is to get there is to drive or take a taxi or Uber. Most attractions have parking lots, so parking is easy. Be mindful of your surroundings and belongings after dark.

Where to Eat and Drink

In the past few years new restaurants and bars have popped up in the neighborhood. There are also some establishments that have been there for generations.

  • Locals will tell you that the best place to start the day is Sunrise, a colorful diner known for its southern delights. For a true Memphis experience order the biscuits and gravy bowl that comes with two open-faced buttermilk biscuits and two eggs mixed with cheese, bacon. Finally, the entire plate is covered in a thick, delicious gravy.
  • From Wednesday to Saturday, get a nightcap at the Mollie Fontaine Lounge where you can drink classic cocktails (some inspired by the Victorian era) and listen to live music on the weekends. It's set in a stunning Victorian mansion adding to the experience.
  • On the outskirts of the Victorian Village is High Cotton Brewery that serves hand-crafted brews that change regularly. Try the Rye IPA or the Mexican Lager. The scene is vibrant and young, especially during the day on the weekends. Note: It's closed on Mondays.
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Everything you need to know about Memphis' Victorian Village