African American News and Genealogy

This site was developed to provide you with news that relates to African American Genealogy, History and News. Please feel free to forward this link to others. I hope you enjoy this site and good luck with your research! Cheers, Kenyatta D. Berry Managing Director

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Doors open to treasure of a hotel in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- One of the grand discoveries of the upcoming travel season is the Inn at Hunt Phelan, tucked away on 6 acres on historic Beale Street. Though when I told friends I was staying on Beale Street during a recent stopover in Memphis, they were concerned. They figured I was crashing among the voodoo candles at A. Schwab's Dry Goods Store (established 1876) or catching some z's in the kitchen after a catfish dinner at Blues City Cafe. After all, years ago I fell into a Rebel Yell-induced dreamland at Elvis Presley Campgrounds, across the street from Graceland. But the Inn at Hunt Phelan is the only antebellum home in Memphis open to the public. Built in 1828, it opened last month as a five-bedroom luxury inn with two restaurants. (A new replica condo building adjacent to the house opened in May with seven hotel rooms. Here, more than 600,000 handmade clay bricks were used from an 1840s South Carolina textile mill that was being torn down.) Robert Mills -- best known for designing the U.S. Treasury Building, the Washington Monument and part of the White House -- was architect for the original Hunt Phelan. The 20-room mansion is an all-masonry structure with wood only in the ceiling joists. The house originally was built by Eli Moore Driver. His daughter married Col. William Richardson Hunt, who was a Memphis attorney. Their daughter married Col. George Richardson Phelan, who was in the Union army, then changed his mind and joined the Confederates. In his memoirs he wrote he wanted to return to Tennessee and the best method was to arrive with his fellow troops. There are many more stories in this old house, which is, of course, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For instance, during the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant took over the property as his headquarters. The hosts will tell you that four presidents have stayed in the home and a fifth is on his way. (Hint: It's not Gerald Ford.) Other Hunt Phelan presidential guests were Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson and Confederate president Jefferson Davis. During my visit, I had to pretend Davis was a real president. You know how they are in the South. Upon Gen. Grant's departure, the home served as a hospital and lodge for Union soldiers. After the war, the house became the First Freedman's Bureau School to educate newly freed slaves. Beale Street itself was a harbor of freedom for blacks in the early 1900s.


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