photos courtesy Sheila and Mark Moody
The old Wonder Horse factory in Collierville has found new life as a special-events space just a block south of the Historic Town Square.
What’s a Wonder Horse?
First built of wood, and then cast more realistically in plastic, these were child-size horses, mounted on a wooden or metal frame, and suspended by springs that gave them their rocking motion. In the 1950s and 1960s, it seems every kid in America had — or wanted — one.
These popular toys were manufactured in a cluster of factory buildings just a block south of Collierville’s Historic Town Square. The firm closed in 1982. Over the years, the old buildings became home to a variety of businesses, until August 2014, when Mark and Sheila Moody decided to give one of them new life as a reception hall and special-events venue.
A portion of the old factory had been housed in an original Quonset hut, a rare double-humped design which provided more than 4,700 square feet of interior space, enough to hold 250 people seated, or 400 standing.
The Moodys quite naturally decided to call their new business The Quonset.
The building is so long that it stretches from Main to Center Streets. “It’s certainly an unusual building. We have two entrances and two addresses,” says Sheila, who serves as the special-events director for the Town of Collierville.
These sturdy galvanized-steel buildings were named after Quonset Point, the location of a naval base in Rhode Island where they were originally designed. They were shipped in sections and assembled wherever they were needed. Built primarily for military use as barracks and storage, over the years, the sturdy buildings found new life across America as warehouses, manufacturing plants, even college dormitories.
Renovating the 63-year-old building presented special challenges. Over time, the metal that sheathed the building had developed small leaks and rusty areas, so the Moodys had the entire building “reskinned.”
When they purchased the old Quonset hut, the front had plain windows and an ugly metal garage-type door (see photos below). The new building now presents a much more attractive façade, featuring antique windows, hand-crafted wooden double-doors, and “The Quonset” name and logo carved from heavy steel letters bolted to the outside of the building. Inside, the bare concrete floors were smoothed and stained, and a brick wall, with arches that mimic the building’s shape, was built to separate the 200-foot-long building into two distinct areas. The portion facing Center Street is officially The Quonset event space. The remainder of the building will house Mark’s printing company, Black Knight Press.
The building’s distinctive history hasn’t been overlooked. The “Wonder Horse Wall” catches visitors’ attention by the entrance, adorned with vintage photos and advertisements showing kids enjoying the toy that was once made here.
The Moodys are looking forward to a bright future for the old toy factory. “What we wanted was to provide Collierville with a special-events space that was truly unique. Until now, people had to drive all the way to Memphis, and now they can have their events within walking distance of the Town Square.”