The Cemetery across the Street

If you drive west on Central Avenue towards the Memphis Pink Palace Museum, you may notice a small cemetery at the corner of Central and Lafayette Street immediately before you see the museum’s fence. This graveyard was in use well before Clarence Saunders bought the land for his palace.

Buntyn's Station Map

In the 1870s, this area was outside of the city limits of Memphis and known as the Ridgehigh section of Buntyn’s Station, a railroad stop on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. Buntyn’s Station was a large area of land that stretched east to west from Highland Street to Buntyn Street and north to south from Central Avenue to Park Avenue. Farmers who settled near Central Avenue and Buntyn Street began to call the area Ridgehigh. Buntyn’s Station was a town in its own right, and Ridgehigh was the town’s farthest settlement. The center of this neighborhood became Ridgehigh Baptist Church at the corner of Central and Buntyn. James Prescott, a Civil War veteran, donated the land for the church as well as a small parcel down the street for a cemetery. The earliest identifiable headstone dates from 1877 and marks the burial of William Lee Lowery, an eight-year-old boy. The church burned in 1926, moved several times, and eventually moved east and renamed itself Ridgeway Baptist Church. The last Baptist burial in the cemetery occurred in 1936. In the early 1940s, the cemetery’s administrators considered moving the bodies to Memorial Park, the newly established cemetery in East Memphis. However, the law required that the overseers must contact all of the descendants of the deceased before moving graves. When the owners abandoned the plan, the cemetery fell into disrepair.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, located at the corner of Central and Greer, bought the cemetery in December 1979 for $10,000. The congregation put in a small road, built a brick and wrought iron fence, put a gate on Lafayette, and installed underground crypts. They also constructed a gazebo and cleaned and re-set the gravestones that were already there. The cemetery now serves as the final resting place for some of the congregation’s members as well as a few Civil War veterans.

Information for this post came from the cultural resources survey of the Joffre neighborhood and an article from the November 25, 1980, edition of The Memphis Press-Scimitar.

Caroline Mitchell Carrico works in the Exhibit Department at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. She has a graduate degree in history from The University of Memphis, and her favorite artifacts are the Cold War civil defense supplies.


An Irish Memphian

In the nineteenth century, many Irish citizens immigrated to Memphis. The poorest of these lived in an area of downtown known as the Pinch District. The name is credited to Mr. Craven Peyton, an early Memphian, who called the area “Pinch gut” after noticing the near emaciated look of the inhabitants. However, not all of Memphis’ Irish immigrants were the working poor.

Eugene Magevney

Eugene Magevney was born in County Fermanagh, Ireland, and immigrated to the United States in 1828 before settling in Memphis in 1833. He opened a school for boys and eventually lived in a boarding house run by the McKeon family on Adams Avenue. In 1837, he purchased the white frame, six-room home for $2,500 (roughly $60,000 in 2015 dollars). Magevney continued buying real estate and purchased a pasture at the current intersection at Main and Union in 1839. As the city grew, he was able to sell the pasture for a handsome profit and reinvest the money is further real estate ventures.

The Magevney House

Father Stokes celebrated the first Catholic mass in Memphis in Magevney’s house. Eugene married Mary Smyth, a former pupil from Ireland, in the house two and a half years later. It was the first Catholic marriage in Memphis. Also in the Adams Avenue home, Magevney’s daughter Mary had Memphis’s first Catholic baptism. He was also one of the men who helped build St. Peter’s, Memphis’ first Catholic Church, in 1841 in the lot next to his home. The first church building was a small brick structure. One decade later the congregation rebuilt the church on a much grander scale. Magevney was a major contributor to the building fund.

Eugene Magevney died in the 1873 yellow fever epidemic. After a lengthy probate of his will, the house on Adams passed to Blanche Hamilton Harsch, the adopted daughter of Eugene and Mary’s second daughter, Katherine. In 1941, Mrs. Harsch gave the property to the City of Memphis with the stipulation that no admission fee could be charged.

You can visit the Magevney House on the first Saturday of the month from 1-4 PM. Admission is, as promised, free.

Information from this post came from “The Magevney House, Memphis” by Charles Crawford and Robert McBride published in the winter 1969 edition of the Tennessee Historical Quarterly.

Caroline Mitchell Carrico works in the Exhibit Department at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. She has a graduate degree in history from The University of Memphis, and her favorite artifacts are the Cold War civil defense supplies.


It takes a Village…

You’ve heard it said, “It takes a village . . .”   Well, for a project like this one – the repair of Mallory-Neely’s 91 historic wooden windows – it certainly does take a group to make it happen, but in this case the “village” is our Project Team. Each team member has a specific role and works with the other team members to contribute their expertise and services to the project’s success.

We, at the Mallory-Neely House, are proud to announce our Project Team members!

Project Manager – Mike Lemm / Project Manager, Building Design &

Construction, Division of Engineering, City of Memphis

Site Manager – Jennifer M. Tucker Manager of Historic Properties, PPFM & Division of Parks and Neighborhoods, City of Memphis

Architect – Dianne R. Dixon, AIA, NCARB – Clark/Dixon Architects

Contractor – D.W. McAlister / D.W. Contracting

Historically accurate repairs are of utmost importance!  So, the starting point was the commitment we made to follow the National Preservation Standards (NPS) for the work to be done.  The NPS were developed by the Department of the Interior of the U.S. government as a guideline for performing repairs on historic properties.  Preservation Brief #9, “The Repair of Historic Wooden Windows,” describes the detailed process we are using.

The guiding philosophy from the Standards is this: Respect, Retain, and Repair!  Respect the Original Windows!  Retain and repair – when possible – every historic part and piece. Replace only when it is absolutely necessary, and even then, replace only with parts, pieces and materials that are identical to the historic originals.

Prior to the assembly of the entire team, these steps were completed:

  1. Tested for Asbestos. Good news!  None found!
  2. Inspected Each Window Unit for the condition of the paint, frame, sill, sash rails and stiles, muntins, putty, glass, and hardware. Is there peeling paint, rotten wood, cracked glass, missing parts, or structural damage?  Has there been moisture or insect damage?  Will the window open and close?  Are the weights, pulleys and cords all present and working?
  3. Assigned a “Repair Class” to Each Window. According to the extent of the window damage and the repairs needed, each window falls into one of 3 Repair Classes described in Preservation Brief #9:

* Repair Class #1 – Routine Maintenance (least serious repairs).

Simple peeling paint, no rotten wood, no structural parts missing

              *Repair Class #2 – Structural Stabilization (more involved repairs).

Rotten wood that can be patched, built up, sanded and painted

*Repair Class #3 – Parts Replacement (most serious repairs).

Removal and replacement of non-repairable rotten wood sashes, sills,

frames, muntins, hardware, weights, cords, etc.

(*See photos at the end of this post)

  1. *Created a Window Schedule for each window. Includes the location, all the parts, condition of the wood, parts and paint.  All necessary repairs listed. Photographed each window and noted the Repair Class of each. (*See photos)
  2. *Compiled a Project Manual – Hundreds of pages that include the bid and contract documents, general requirements, extremely detailed repair instructions from the NPS, and the Window Schedule. (*See Photos)
  3. Bidding by Qualified Contractors – In order to achieve quality control, only contractors with historic preservation experience were allowed to bid on the window project. Pre-bid sessions and inspections by prospective bidders were held, bids were submitted and reviewed.
  4. Contractor Bid Awarded – Team is complete!
  5. Many Other Details which you will hear more about in future posts!

Needless to say, we have already been quite busy for many, many months, and now new windows – or should we say, “old” windows! – are on the horizon!

Keep checking our Journal Posts for the next developments!  More exciting things are just around the corner.  And don’t forget – The Mallory-Neely House is open for tours every Friday and Saturday from 10:00 until 3:00.  Don’t miss it!

Pic #9  - 2nd Post- Repaint Shutters Pic #10 - 2nd Post Patch Rotted Wood #1 Pic #18- 2nd Post - View D -Repair Class III


The Story of the Polar Bear

Just in case you haven’t noticed, we have a large, male polar bear in our lobby. He has been present at hundreds of weddings that have taken place at the Pink Palace through years. When the Memphis Grizzlies make the Playoffs, he is often lit with blue lights. You might think he looks out of place, but really, the museum has been his home for over 40 years!

Grizz with the polar bear.

Grizz with the polar bear.

Our Polar Bear has been a part of our collection since 1972 when Roger Van Cleef, an education instructor at the Pink Palace Museum, convinced fellow Memphian Dr. Harold S. Misner, an avid hunter, to donate the prized bear to our collection for educational purposes. Dr. Misner was Secretary of the Shikari Safari Club International during March 1967 when he was sent on an expedition to the Arctic to address the issue of abandoned polar bear carcasses. Apparently, several members of the Club were disturbed by inexperienced sportsmen shooting the bears from planes and not claiming their pelts, so they sent Dr. Misner to Alaska and the Arctic Ice Cap to investigate.

Dr. Howard S. Misner fishing in New Zealand.

Dr. Howard S. Misner fishing in New Zealand.

During March of 1967, Dr. Misner travelled to Alaska with his wife, Sara—who was one of the founding members of our volunteer organization, the Friends of the Pink Palace or “the Friends.” The Misners had been to Alaska several times before.  From there, they took a private charter plane (a Super Cub with skis for landing) to the isolated town of Kotzebue, Alaska. When they arrived it was -56 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a very harsh climate; it took less than 5 minutes for your hands to freeze if you took them out of your gloves. The Ice Pack moves and it was obvious that you couldn’t retrieve a polar bear with just one tiny plane. You had to have one plane for the pilot and hunter, the other plane for another pilot, and space for the detached polar bear head and pelt.

Google maps screenshot of where the hunt occurred.

Google maps screenshot of where the hunt occurred.

From the experience, Dr. Misner developed a conservation protocol to appropriately hunt polar bears. On the way back from this hunt, they saw another hunting plane that was tracking a bear. They watched as shots were fired at that bear, saw blood on the bear, and saw as the bear went into the open ice float. “That bear was dead and gone,” Dr. Misner explained in his oral history. There is no way to retrieve a polar bear unless the hunter works quickly and with a team of experts.  If you’re shooting a bear from the air, “it’s just a crime,” Dr. Misner reiterated. Many of the hunters who did this also did not care about the sex or size of the bear. He also has heard stories of “hunters” killing mother bears and their cubs. Dr. Misner took the information he learned from this expedition back to the Shikari Safari Club, so they could implement rules for future polar bear hunting excursions.

The polar bear next to a wedding.

The polar bear next to a wedding.


Our Collection by the Numbers

Pinewood Derby Car

Pinewood Derby Car

Here at the Pink Palace we have a large permanent collection of artifacts related to the Mid-South’s cultural and natural history. Like all accredited museums, we have a collections policy that lays out our procedures and responsibilities for acquiring, protecting and using the objects in our care. One question that we are frequently asked is how many artifacts we have. The answer is an estimated 84,000 objects. Here’s a quick rundown of the categories:

Minerals, rocks and fossils 44,536
Zoology, invertebrate 6,092
Records/documents 5,319
Botany 4,669
Currency 3,620
Chipped stone, pottery, shell, bone 2,956
Culinary equipment 2,766
Clothing 2,393
Medical equipment 2,122
Hardware 1,675
Zoology, vertebrate 1,159
Recreational equipment 1,072
Books/periodicals 1,030
Furniture 928
Military equipment 690
Advertising media 646
Jewelry and token items 454
Paintings, prints, etchings, murals 373
Communication equipment 313
Weapons 202
Sculptures, pedestals, vases 201
Transportation 195
Architecture 130
Measures 99
Musical items 92
Fabrics, leather goods, cordage 90
Religious items 87
Scientific equipment 73
Photographic equipment 49
Confederate Money

Confederate Money

Approximately 10-15% of our artifacts are on display in the museum. The remainder are stored in the Pit, a three story secured area, with fossil and biological specimens stored in a different location. We use these objects for research and for display in future exhibits. We also conserve them to preserve the material history of our region.

Boy’s wool coat from the late 19th century

Boy’s wool coat from the late 19th century