My 8-year-old daughter loves exploring new things, my dad is a huge history buff, and I love photographing houses, if that whole “freelance real estate photographer” thing hasn’t given that away. Cue Friday’s final Spring Break activity: touring the Woodruff-Fontaine House in Memphis.

Grandpa and Monkey after our tour on the front steps of the Woodruff-Fontaine House.
Grandpa and Monkey after our tour on the front steps of the Woodruff-Fontaine House.

The Woodruff-Fontaine House originally belonged to Amos Woodruff who came to Memphis from the Northeast in 1845. He was a carriage-maker, and apparently a very successful one. Eventually his endeavors expanded into the cotton, railroad and lumber industries, bank and hotel ownership, and even politics, serving on the Memphis City Council and twice running for mayor. In 1870 construction began on this home, fitting for a man of such prominence. Completed in 1871, the cost of construction in today’s dollar would be over $1 million. The most ornate features were put in on the bottom floor, to be sure their wealth was appropriately showcased. By the time you hit the third floor there’s not much oomph left.

This is inside the fireplace in the dining room. There's more detail in a hole in the wall used to burn wood than there is in my entire house.
This is inside the fireplace in the dining room. There’s more detail in a hole in the wall used to burn wood than there is in my entire house.

I learned a bit about Victorian architecture as well, like the importance of symmetry. In one section of the house is the so-called “door to nowhere.” On one end of this room were two doors, and on the other, two doors as well, but one of those doors wasn’t needed. It opened to a wall. It was only installed to keep things balanced. This was apparently such a common practice that tradition dictated that family members and construction workers would sign the backside of the unneeded door.

The names on the door. Flash photography is not allowed inside, so that reflection is the flashlight our tour guide used to point out names.
The names on the door. Flash photography is not allowed inside, so that reflection is the flashlight our tour guide used to point out names.

The home is part of the Victorian Village District, and this is where my hard-sale real estate advice comes in. The district was created by Victorian Village Inc., a non-profit dedicated to reviving this section of Memphis. Keeping the original structures in tact is a big part of that. Knowing about these projects and districts is vital if you want to be a full service agent in your city. You might have a client that would love to be in a historic district, or locate in an up-and-coming community that they can really take part in. People are attracted to locations for all different reasons. The more you know, the better you can serve your clients.

The second family to own the Woodruff-Fontaine House (you guessed it, the Fontaines) had this house built across the street when their daughter, Mollie Fontaine (not the same as Mollie Woodruff) when she married. It is now called the Mollie Fontaine Lounge, open Wednesday-Saturday from 5 p. m. - 3 a. m.
The second family to own the Woodruff-Fontaine House (you guessed it, the Fontaines) had this house built across the street when their daughter, Mollie Fontaine married. It is the Mollie Fontaine Lounge, open Wednesday-Saturday from 5 p. m. – 3 a. m.

Really though, the big draws for me were getting to take photos of a stunning house and totally freaking out my daughter with the stories of the house being haunted. That last part is said to be true, and our tour guide claimed to have seen or heard a number of different ghosts. While one room in particular is widely believed to be haunted by Mollie Woodruff, who lost both a husband and a child in the same year in that same bedroom, our tour guide believes that ghost is Virginia Fontaine.

Here's the Rose Room, Mollie Woodruff's supposed haunting ground. This bed is not original to the house, but was once owned by Nathan Bedord Forrest.
Here’s the Rose Room, Mollie Woodruff’s supposed haunting ground. This bed is not original to the house, but was once owned by Nathan Bedford Forrest.

While I saw no evidence of ghosts during this tour, our tour guide was certain more than one spirit is contained within that house. While this house is now a museum, it did get me to thinking, what happens when you list a “haunted” house? Have you ever lost or made a sale thanks to rumors of the supernatural? I want to hear your stories, and if you have a really good one, I’d love to feature it on my blog.

Now, if you’re like me and just love browsing through photos, I’ve got a few more shots of our  tour here. If you’re ever in the Memphis area, I recommend a stop. The tour only takes about an hour for the Woodruff-Fontaine House, which is open Wednesday-Sunday 12 p. m. – 4 p. m. The other house I haven’t mentioned is the Mallory-Neely House, located practically next door to the Woodruff-Fontaine House. It’s open Friday and Saturday, 10 a. m. – 4 p. m.

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