Anyone who drives down Central Avenue and sits idling at McLean's traffic light has surely seen the stucco structure on the northwest corner. It languished there for years, rotting, sagging, and peeling, until real estate broker David Dickten and his half-brother in charge of renovations, Zach Dunlap, restored the eyesore to its former elegance.
"It was a thing of chance, really," says Dickten, who bought the house for $136,000 in 2007 with business partner Gene Lawrence. "I was at the courthouse, bidding on another foreclosed property, when this one came up for auction. I had always liked its elevation on Central, its architecture. I said, 'Let me have that one.'" With 24 hours to decide on it, and seeing what work lay in store, Dickten could have said, "No way." But despite the damage by time, termites, and a tree through the roof, along with the staggering piles of debris left by the last owner, he and Dunlap plunged ahead. Two years and about $400,000 later, the circa-1922 home boasts several modern must-haves while retaining its period charm.
Designed by Mahan and Broadwell, a renowned Memphis architectural firm, the Spanish-Mission-style house was one of several built in Midtown during that era and was owned by Giles Bond, president of a realty company, and his wife Bertha, a socialite and arts patron. Records show the Bonds lived there until the early 1940s, but over the next six decades the home passed through numerous owners and renters. When Dickten bought it, his brother's first reaction was, "Oh my, where do we start?"
First they had to clear it of furniture and garbage, filling five Dumpsters, and in one room "climbing or crawling through stuff piled four to five feet tall," says Dickten. Amid the wreckage were china plates in the cupboard and beer steins on living room shelves. "We sold the beer steins to a collector," he adds.
Work crews removed the tree against the house, and demolished the ruined downstairs floors, the kitchen, and half the back of the house that had been eaten by termites. They reframed that part of the structure, laid new hardwood floors downstairs, created a laundry room in the basement, and furnished a new kitchen with granite countertops and travertine marble tile. They installed new electrical, plumbing, heating, and air; replaced damaged wood molding with pieces salvaged from other renovations; and rebuilt shelves and a fireplace mantel that features plaster swags and ribbons. "I did a lot of that work myself," says Dunlap. "I had to be very careful when sanding not to hurt [the decorations]."
On the second floor, Dickten and Dunlap took a hallway and part of a sunroom and created a master bathroom — with a double vanity, a walk-in closet, and marble tile and floors — to serve three existing bedrooms. An original small bath was retained and updated.
Outside, the once mauvey-peach crumbling stucco was replaced and given a fresh coat of white paint with a slightly darker shade for the trim. "My wife and I were in Mexico right after I bought this," says Dickten, explaining his color choice, "and the place we stayed in was all-white stucco. I liked it." He and Dunlap also added a dimensional-shingled roof, reglazed the windows, replaced rotted sashes, and rebuilt a concrete wall. They spruced up the landscape with arborvitae, lorapedlum, and Japanese hollies, as well as outdoor lighting.
As the house was restored, residents of the upscale Central Gardens neighborhood stopped by to show their pleasure, says Dickten. The Memphis Landmarks Commission, which had to approve changes seen from the street, "were more than eager to work with us," he adds. "I didn't want to change it, just rebuild what was here as much as possible. It has such great details."
Dickten removed a For Sale sign when the housing market tanked and is currently leasing the roughly 2,300-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. Interested buyers can call