photo by Steve Bledsoe
In our November 2014 issue, in a column I called “Burt’s Lair” (it was a play on the name of the actor Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, but nobody got it), I wrote about a very unusual home (below) built in the late 1950s by architect Frank Burt in East Memphis. It was located on Oak Grove, to be more precise, and the Memphis Press-Scimitar newspaper featured it in a story titled, “Builds Home Unlike Anybody Else’s.”
The newspaper noted the home’s unusual design, especially its massive, sloped-wall balcony, adobe brick, and swooping rooflines. It was certainly a house that stood out from the more traditional homes in the neighborhood, and his neighbors “couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw it.”
But was it really a home “unlike anybody else’s”?
Because, as you can see, a remarkably similar house was constructed at this same time, just a few blocks away, on Collingwood (above). During my exploration of this neighborhood, I had spotted this home myself, but I was too lazy to haul my Speed Graphic out and take a picture of it. I must give credit to my pal Steve Bledsoe for doing that.
I was never able to turn up much information about Burt’s own home. He built it in 1957, but within ten years he had moved out. It’s had a series of other owners since then, who have removed most of that massive balcony that made it so distinctive. The home on Collingwood, however, looks about the same as the day it was built. Compare Burt’s home as it looked when new (below) with the home on Collingwood (above). It can’t be just a coincidence.
Did Burt built TWO homes? Did somebody else like his home so much that they copied it? Are there other homes like this around town? Oh, it just tires me out to worry about these things. I think I’ll spend the afternoon pondering it while I take my daily eight-hour nap.
BOTTOM PHOTO COURTESY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS LIBRARIES