Memphis Commercial Appeal  .  Posted August 9, 2012 at midnight

Editorial: Saving the James Lee House


Memphis does not need to lose another one of its 19th-century mansions, so here's hoping the city and developer Jose Velazquez can reach an agreement on a proposal to turn the vacant, dilapidated James Lee House in Victorian Village into a bed-and-breakfast.

A Memphis City Council committee Tuesday gave initial approval to transfer the mansion to Velazquez for a dollar if the city can legally part with the property. Velazquez expects to invest $2.1 million in the historic house at 690 Adams Downtown. It was originally built as a two-story farmhouse in 1848, but was refashioned into an elaborate mansion. The home's owner left the mansion and the Woodruff-Fontaine House next door to the city when she died in 1936.

Search our databases. The Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities operates Woodruff-Fontaine and, of course, the city needs to make sure the Lee House sale will not hurt the APTA's ability to hold functions that pay the operating expenses for Woodruff-Fontaine.

George Little, the city's chief administrative officer, said Wednesday the city will make sure Velazquez has the financial resources to complete the restoration "in a way that satisfies all historical design guidelines" before he receives title to the home.

The homes in Victorian Village are important pieces of Memphis' history. Any viable plan to restore or maintain their essence is welcomed.