A Day at Historic-Memphis.com

"...one thing leads to another "  



Historic-Memphis.com Team Member Dave French checks eBay daily for anything related to Memphis.  In May 2013, he spotted this 1909 postcard on the left and immediately recognized it as the old gates to Tech High School  at 1266 Poplar.  Then after reading the note "Our opposite neighbor's place", he knew that he had found an earlier photo of the actual Van Vleet Mansion, which was sold to the city by the Van Vleets to build Tech High School.

The story would normally have ended here, but Dave was curious about the neighbor who had written that note.   He checked the 1909 City Directories on line and found that the address across the street was 1225 Poplar.  Then he told Team Member Maureen Thoni White about the card and the note.


Maureen went into over-drive.  Within minutes she knew that the owner of the house was George Dyer Burgess and his wife, Lily Early Burgess, and that Lily had written the postcard.  It was addressed to her mother, Mrs. Alexander R. Early.

George Dyer Burgess was in business with William H. Russe of Russe & Burgess Manufacturers and Exporters of Hardwood and Lumber.  He was Vice President of the Company.  William H. Russe was President.   George was born November 12, 1862 and died April 20, 1917, and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery Mausoleum in Midtown.  Lily Early Burgess was born in 1866.  They had one son, John Early Burgess 1893-1962.


Team Member Gene Gill now knew about the Van Vleet postcard and the neighbors, George and Lily Burgess.  He wondered if their house might still exist across the street.  He quickly learned that a house located at 1225 Poplar,  was built in 1887 and was currently for sale.  He googled the address and there it was -  the old house from 1887.   Of course, it had been remodeled many times since that 1909 postcard was written, and it has currently been divided for businesses. 

If the Burgess house sells, this being Memphis, the building will probably be demolished.  And this little bit of history we have uncovered will  quietly be forgotten.  And this same process will begin all over again for us, anytime there's a new historic photo or any new discovery.   We seem to have this burning desire to trace it down until it's resolved or until it comes to a dead end - but we still don't give up.  This is not particularly remarkable unless you consider that none of our team lives in Memphis, nor near each other, and two of us have never met.   We're all just volunteers, who love Memphis. 

Click on small photos to see an enlargement

Van Vleet Mansion -1266 Poplar Ave

Tech High - 1948

Tech High School Gate - Circa 1927

Tech High Gate - Today

The Van Vleet Mansion was located at 1266 Poplar.  The family sold the land and the mansion to the city as a location for the proposed Tech High School.  The architects incorporated the portico and columns of the mansion into the design of the school.  They also retained the original walls and gates around the property.  The stone lions at the gates were later donated to the Memphis Zoo, where they remain today.


Aerial View 1225 Poplar Aerial View 1225 Poplar 1225 Poplar today 1225 Poplar today.

1225 Poplar Avenue was built in 1887 and currently has approximately 5,442 square feet with a lot size of 7,427 square feet.   The average price for similar homes for sale is $193,138 and the average sales price for similar sold homes is $190,255.  The average List Price for this area is $239,127.


George D. Burgess Obit

George D. Burgess Obit George D. Burgess Obit George D. Burgess George D. Burgess

The number and size of the Obits we have located indicates that George D. Burgess was a well-respected businessman in Memphis.  We have not, regrettably been able to locate a photo of Lily Early Burgess.  The double standard continues to exist - it's simply harder to locate photos of married women - even when you know their maiden name.

Abby Mausoluem - Forrest Hill

George D. Burgess Tomb

Lilly's 1909 written note to her mother

Partner Wm. H. Russe


And of course, Peter Van Vleet, owner of the Van Vleet mansion on that postcard, as well as partner in the major drug company of Memphis is another story. 

"One thing leads to another..."  

Peter Van Vleet Van Vleet-Mansfield Drugs  

Click here for the story of Peter, Van Vleet-Mansfield Drugs, the Van Vleet mansion and old Tech High School




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The "Historic-Memphis" website would like to acknowledge and thank the following for their contributions which helped make this website possible:  Memphis Public Library, Memphis University Library, Memphis Law Library, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis Press Scimitar, Shelby County Register of Deeds, Memphis City Schools, Memphis Business Men's Club, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Memphis City Park Commission, Memphis Film Commision, Carnival Memphis, Memphis Historical Railroad Page, Memphis Heritage Inc, Beale Street Historic District, Cobblestone Historic District, Memphis Historic Districts, Vance Lauderdale Family Archives, Tennessee State Archives, Library of Congress, Kemmons Wilson Family, Richard S. Brashier, Lee Askew, George Whitworth, Woody Savage and many individuals whose assistance is acknowledged on the pages of their contributions.  Special thanks to Memphis Realtor, Joe Spake, for giving us carte blanche access to his outstanding collection of contemporary Memphis photos.

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