Step back in time (or at least feel like it) as you stroll through the neighborhood once nicknamed Millionaire's Row, now known as Victorian Village. This line of mansions along Adams Avenue on the edge of downtown Memphis grew during the booming heyday of the mid-to-late 1800s, when wealthy Memphians built their homes in the area. Tour the remaining mansions and hang around: Victorian Village is also home to a humming breakfast and lunch spot, a stylish cocktail lounge and a historic bed-and-breakfast.
First, A Snapshot of Memphis' Victorian-Era History
Back in the 1800s, this neighborhood was actually on the outskirts of Memphis, since most of the businesses and residential areas were further west. Between 1845 and 1890, over a dozen three- and four-story Victorian-style homes were built along this “Millionaire’s Row.” Cotton magnates and riverboat tycoons were beating down the door to move into this prosperous neighborhood.
However, the city of Memphis continued to grow and expand eastward, and the areas surrounding Millionaire’s Row became less exclusive. By the end of World War II, the neighborhood had changed so much that the wealthy families abandoned their mansions here. While many of these fantastic homes are gone, several still stand today, thanks to careful restoration.
A Victorian Village Itinerary, From Breakfast to Cocktails to Bed
Line your belly with a hearty breakfast before exploring the awe-inspiring mansions of Victorian Village. Start the day off with one of Memphis' favorite breakfast spots, Sunrise, with The Rooster biscuit sammie — fried chicken, pickle, Tabasco honey, and for those with a big appetite, add an egg for a "Mother & Child Reunion."
The Woodruff-Fontaine House is rumored to be home to the ghost of Mollie Fontaine and is open to the public for self-guided tours Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. The Woodruff-Fontaine House can also be rented for private parties. The holidays are a special time to visit as the home transforms into a Victorian Yuletide.
The Mallory-Neely House was built in 1852 and contains beautifully stenciled ceilings, parquet flooring and stained-glass windows purchased at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. The Mallory-Neely House is one of the oldest houses in Memphis to retain most of its original furnishings. Guided tours are open on Fridays and Saturdays.
Across the street is Mollie Fontaine Lounge, a Victorian mansion transformed into a cocktail lounge with a super cool vibe, creative menu and live music. The seating is "lounge-chic" and spans multiple floors. You'll have to visit at the right time because Mollie Fontaine Lounge only opens on select pop-up nights. Keep tabs on their social media accounts for the next open evening or rent it out for your next event.
For a truly unforgettable and memorable experience, book a room at the James Lee House. This Memphis bed and breakfast allows guests to enjoy the bygone era at an intimate property offering 5-star modern amenities and a very personal touch. You truly have to experience this property first-hand to appreciate the craftsmanship of this home.
Victorian Village Homes
- James Lee House (690 Adams Ave.) – Built by riverboat tycoon, James Lee, this house was the first home of the Memphis Academy of Art. Today, the James Lee House operates as a bed and breakfast offering five handsome and exquisitely decorated suites for guests wanting to experience the ultimate in luxury and comfort.
- Magevney House (198 Adams Ave.) – One of the oldest remaining residences in Memphis and site to the first Catholic mass, the first Catholic marriage and the first Catholic baptism in Memphis.
- Mallory-Neely House (652 Adams Ave.) – A 25-room Italianate mansion that is the only historic property in Memphis to still keep most of its original furnishings.
- Massey House (669 Adams Ave.) – Built in 1846, this house is currently the home of Memphis City Beautiful.
- Mollie Fontaine Taylor House (679 Adams Ave.) – Built as a wedding gift from Nolan Fontaine to his daughter Mollie. It is currently a pop-up bar and lounge.
- Pillow-McIntyre House (707 Adams Ave.) – Purchased by Confederate General Gideon Pillow, this is one of the only pre-Civil War Greek Revival houses left in Memphis.
- Woodruff-Fontaine House (680 Adams Ave.) – Was once the site of many social events including a party with 2,000 guests and John Philip Sousa as the guest conductor.