Photo: Homes in the Glenview Historic District, Memphis. Thomas R Machnitzki, photographier, 2012, the District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, [cc-3.0], accessed via Wikimedia Commons, January, 2023.
The Glenview Historic District [†] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Located in southeast Memphis the Glenview Historic District consists of houses built between circa 1910 to 1997. The vast majority of the residences are from the 1920s to the 1940s. Also located in the district are a small number of commercial buildings and a church. The area is bounded by South Parkway East on the south, the Frisco Railroad on the west, the Southern Railroad to the north, and Lamar Avenue (Highway 78), a major commercial street, on the northeast. Glenview retains the original street plan of its early subdivisions. Included within the district is the large Glenview Park. The landscape elements in the Glenview Historic District constitute a contributing site. These features include the concrete sidewalks, curbs, and the curvilinear street alignments of Burris, La Paloma, and Worthington Streets, Foster and Kendale Avenues, and Shady Lane. Glenview Park, established in 1943, is also one of these contributing landscape features that mark Glenview as an excellent example of early suburban planning practices. Incorporated into suburban developments to lend a country-like atmosphere that contrasted with urban blocks were street furniture, sidewalks, tree-lined roads, and parks. Glenview has a concentration of original landscape features that retain their original design integrity.
The principal architectural influence in the District include: Craftsman Bungalow, American Foursquare, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Minimal Traditional, Cottage Style, and Ranch Style.
The majority of buildings in Glenview are single-family homes. However, there are also multiple family dwellings. Many of the dwellings have secondary buildings, primarily garages and sheds. Also located in the district are commercial buildings and churches as well as the park.
The Glenview area has a grid street pattern geared toward the use of the automobile, since most of the streets were opened during the first period of suburbanization in the 1910s to 1930s. [See: Early Automobile Suburbs, 1908 to 1945] However, four streets date to the nineteenth century: Barksdale (formerly Cocke), Kyle (formerly Center), Netherwood (formerly Cayce), and South Parkway East, which was known as Austin Street before its development as a parkway. Long blocks form an east-west pattern that is usually subdivided into single house lots of approximately 50' to 60' frontage. This pattern of east-west primary street grids is characteristic of development in Memphis.
The suburbanization of the Glenview area was spurred by the development of the Memphis Parkway system in 1904. Designed by nationally known landscape architect George E. Kessler (1869-1934), the parkways were intended to furnish a scenic landscaped route around the perimeter of the city. The City Beautiful Movement, which motivated the creation of the Memphis Parkway system, also emphasized the use of street furniture, like lampposts, and the creation of parks. Both of these types of amenities were eventually incorporated into the design of Glenview's suburbs.
Glenview was settled in phases as several independent subdivisions were created in this area along South Parkway East. Development began in the central section of the district near Glenview Park, roughly between Rayner and Oaklawn Streets. This area contains a concentration of Bungalows, particularly on Rayner Street. The first subdivision filed for the Glenview area was in 1908, when E. O. Bailey established a thirty-six-lot subdivision in his name on the west side of Glenview Park. Bailey was a clerk for the Orgill Brothers Building Supply. It was bounded by the Southern Railroad on the north, Cayce (now Netherwood) Avenue on the south, Kyle Street on the east, and the western lot lines of Rozelle Street on the west. Two years later the McLaughlin Land Company re-subdivided this area as the Magnolia Grove Subdivision; therefore the first houses were completed circa 1910.
Development continued in the central section of the district in 1913 with the 196 lot Glenview Park, a subdivision bounded by Netherwood Avenue on the north, Glenview Avenue on the south, the west lot lines of Magnolia (now Burris) Street, and the east lot lines of Oaklawn Street. W. C. Johnson and John Hayley were the developers of this area. C. M. and William Crump were the next to subdivide in the district. They owned commercial property on nearby Lamar Avenue and filed a thirty-one-lot subdivision bounded by Rayner Street, South Willett Street, McLemore Avenue, and the rear lot lines on the south side of Netherwood Avenue.
The next subdivision in the Glenview district was Worthington Place (1923), a thirty-six-lot area bounded by the west lot line of Worthington Street and Castalia Street and containing the ten lots south of Lamar Avenue. Mrs. Edna Worthington Passino's, who subdivided the area, circa 1910 house remains at 1276 Worthington Street. The 1923 Southern Terrace subdivision, filed by a businessman, developer, and lawyer, opened up forty-eight lots for development to the east of the Crump Brothers subdivision. That same year, the triangle of land at the intersection of Lamar Avenue and South Parkway East, east of Worthington Place was turned into the thirty-nine-lot Parkway Lamar subdivision. Rosa Gieselman and H. H and Elizabeth Litty established a third subdivision in 1923. The thirty-seven lots of the Rosa Gieselman Subdivision were to the south and west of Glenview Park and were bounded by Kendale Avenue, the southern rear lot line of Glenview Avenue, South Willett Street, and the lot lines eleven lots east of South Wiliett.
Glenview continued to expand westward with the twenty-five-lot Cherokee Park Subdivision filed by J. E. Trotter in 1925. This linear subdivision includes the twelve lots north of Netherwood on either side of Melrose Street. With the Frisco Railroad on the west, this section of Glenview has become less attractive to homeowners and now shows more deterioration in general than the other parts of the district.
The 1920s continued as a busy period of development in Glenview. Two subdivisions were filed The 1920s continued as a busy period of development in Glenview. Two subdivisions were filed in 1926. Parkway Terrace, a sixty-lot development, filled in area east and south of the Glenview Park Subdivision. South Parkway East bound it on the north by the northern lot lines of Kendale Avenue, on the south, on the east by Barksdale Street, and on the west by lot lines ten lots west of Barksdale. Edgewood Manor, filed by the L. B. Wilcox Company, was the largest single development in Glenview with 212 lots. It occupied a large area bordering the Glenview Park, Lamar Avenue, and La Paloma Street. The southern boundary was the southern lot line of Foster Avenue, and the western boundary was twelve lots west of Barksdale Street. This area still includes circa 1926 original concrete streetlights with glass domes, which are significant elements of the historic landscaping of the Glenview neighborhood.
Magnolia Oaks, filed in 1928, was the northwestern most section of Glenview to be subdivided. Carl M. Jacobson, a real estate agent, and Florence Jacobson filed this horseshoe-shaped development. The Southern, Union, and Frisco Railroad lines and McLemore Avenue bound the twenty-two lots. The rear lot lines of Shady Lane, the development's only street, form the eastern boundary. The Shady Lane dwellings represent the district's best single collection of 1930s domestic architectural types.
The final historic subdivision in the Glenview District was the Kingfisher Subdivision (1937). This development included only eleven lots west of the E. O. Bailey Subdivision. Its boundaries were Southern Avenue, the south lot lines of East McLemore Avenue, Rozelle Street, and the west lot line of four lots west of Rozelle Street.
Green spaces and trees were retained or created during the development of the Glenview Historic District as a suburb. Many lots are shaded with hardwood trees. The 1800 and 1900 blocks of Netherwood are lined with mature trees that form a canopy over the roadway. Glenview residents who live on tree-lined streets cite this characteristic as an important reason they wanted to live in the area. Each house has a lawn, and many have hedges, flower beds, and other plantings that indicate the care given to the appearance of the lots. Sidewalks throughout the neighborhood are usually separated from the street with a four-foot green space. Glenview Park is another element that adds to the natural appeal of the district, reinforcing the early twentieth-century emphasis on the importance of nature in suburban areas. Curves in streets break the grid pattern and were used by developers to create a sense of the pastoral within suburban areas, further emphasizing the naturalness and informality of suburban living in contrast to the inflexible rationality of the urban grid. This flexibility was made possible in part by the automobile, which is not tied to linear arrangements in the same way that streetcar lines were. Burris and La Paloma Streets and Shady Lane in Glenview show how curvilinear street design were incorporated in early automobile suburbs.
Glenview Park was created in 1943 when the City of Memphis purchased part of the former George Schmalzreid Farm. Schmalzreid owned twenty-one acres that were cut to seventeen when Netherwood Avenue was constructed during the first decade of the twentieth century. The trees on the property had never been cleared, making it an ideal location for a park close to the new suburbs in Glenview. The city acquired the property for $45,000 and demolished the two homes of the Schmalzreid family at 1765 and 1813 Southern Avenue. Three acres to the east, known as the Andre property, were acquired at the same time to make Glenview Park.
Businesses developed in the east end of the Glenview District as the area was settled by suburbanites. The first commercial structure was Mr. Bower's Store #44, built circa 1920 at 1551 Netherwood Avenue. Five years later another branch of this business opened at 1716 Netherwood Avenue. Foltz's Suburban Market was constructed next door at 1714 Netherwood that same year. By 1930 the commercial structures in Glenview included Clarence Saunder's Store at 1544 Netherwood, next to Howard Cleaners at 1546, Glenview Pharmacy at 1718 Netherwood and Wright's Pharmacy at 1550 Netherwood. The owners of Wright's Pharmacy, Eugene and Ann Wright, were Glenview residents. They lived down the street from their business at 1540 Netherwood Avenue. A commercial area still exists at the intersection of Netherwood and Willett today. 1560 Netherwood, now the Peter Pan Cleaners, is an example of gas station from the mid 1920s. This one-story stucco box with a service canopy is a material reminder of the technological and transportation changes that made the growth of suburbs like Glenview possible. The expansion of this small commercial area attests to the steadily increasing population of the Glenview District's suburbs.
The 1916 Glenview Presbyterian Church, now Tabernacle Baptist, is another community institution that was quickly established in this developing section of Memphis.
Glenview's modest homes represent a variety of styles that were popular throughout the suburbanizing United States in the years before World War II. Beginning with Bungalows, the houses in Glenview also include Tudor, Colonial, Spanish, and Dutch Colonial Revival styles, Craftsman style, minimal traditional style, and foursquare houses. These styles are among the type of plans published by the Architects' Small House Service Bureau and domestic magazines during the first four decades of the twentieth century. In this period, the progressive influence in home design stressed the organic unity of using a single, coherent style for the interior and exterior of the house. As Bridget May observed in her essay in the Winterthur Portfolio, this principle was "particularly important for suburban houses; they needed to conform to their sites and harmonize with other homes in the neighborhood." The similar scale of all the homes in Glenview insured their harmony. Individual blocks also tend to exhibit a similar style.
The expanding suburban market for small homes reflected and encouraged the developing American ideal of the single family home surrounded by nature as the most appropriate and healthful location for family life. Studies published by the federal government in the 1920s, such as "The Home and the Child" (1929), endorsed the single-family residential area as the best environment for raising a child. The absence of trees and green spaces in urban areas, as well as the perceived concentration of vice in cities, were considered detrimental to children. Suburbs offered a comfortable, healthy alternative to members of the expanding middle class who were purchasing cars and could afford to move out of the city. The Department of Commerce, in turn, endorsed the designs published by the Architects' Small House Service Bureau, which were intended to provide the builder of a small house (no more than six rooms) with professional designs for site location and building style. The Bureau typically employed revival styles and Bungalow designs, which were among those house types thought to reflect the taste that would make a small suburban house an asset to both its owner and the neighborhood, "a monument to good taste and good sense." Although no homes in the Glenview district have been positively linked to the designs of the Bureau, many are similar to the examples published in the twenties in all aspects of their design.
Alan Gowans writes about the development of the suburban house in The Comfortable House: North American Suburban Architecture, 1890-1930. Though no one style was dominant, suburban housing of this period shared certain characteristics that distinguished it from urban neighborhoods. "Three basic comfortable qualities were projected by the post-Victorian suburban house at all levels, rich and poor, white collar and blue collar: security in the sense of defense against the world; roots in the past, especially a Colonial and English past; and virtue in the sense of family stability."
Tudor and Colonial Revival styles provided a link to an English/Anglo-Saxon past. Colonial Revival was also linked to nationalism and the patriotic cultivation of a national style distinct from European precedents. Colonial Revival was especially popular for public buildings, but it also gained favor for houses, especially in the East, where traces of the nation's colonial history remained. The first World War intensified nationalist sentiment and prompted architects to criticize Continental styles. The Colonial Revival appeal was translated to embody the early American virtues of hard work, honesty, and simplicity in the home. It was also a response to modernization and a way of establishing a "personal identification with the past, even if none existed." The restoration of Colonial Williamsburg during the 1930s generated enthusiasm for colonial buildings and furnishings and was well documented in architectural journals and home magazines of the decade. It became a dominant image for the respectable middle-class home. The Williamsburg restoration also insured that Georgian style was the dominant Colonial Revival vocabulary. As a result, characteristics such as bilateral symmetry, doorways with pediments, entrance porches, and gently pitched gable roofs became hallmarks of early twentieth-century Colonial Revival houses. The period of the Glenview District's development coincides with the expansion of the Colonial Revival's popularity, which climaxed in the 1930s yet remains popular with American homebuilders to the present.
Dutch Colonial Revival style is a substyle of the Colonial Revival style. It was most popular in the mid-Atlantic and other areas that were settled by the Dutch. Features are similar to Colonial Revival with the added distinguishing characteristic of the gambrel roof. An example of Dutch Colonial Revival style is found at 1496 McLemore Avenue. This house presents the gable end of its gambrel roof to the street. The house at 1266 Willett Street illustrates the popularity of Colonial Revival styles in remodeling older homes. This antebellum house belonged to cotton factor William P. Dunavant before being sold to H. H. Litty and remodeled around 1915 in the Dutch Colonial Revival style. Litty was one of the largest owner of rental property in Memphis and served as mayor from 1917 until 1918 while living in the Glenview District.
Tudor Revival styles called upon an English heritage associated with countryside living considered appropriate for the pastoral setting of suburbs. The Tudor Revival house at 1911 Kendale Avenue is an example of how the chimneys, mullioned windows, and stonework of English country houses were adapted on a smaller scale to the suburban house. Another Tudor cottage at 1872 Kendale is an example of the even more prevalent stucco work a characteristic of Tudor Revival style.
Spanish Colonial Revival was most popular in areas like Florida and California where Spanish influence was historically important, but it also found acceptance in other parts of the country. Mediterranean elements suggested the harmony of indoors and nature that was part of the suburban appeal. Porches, patios, and rooms with many windows were selling points of this style. The pair of houses at 1755 and 1749 Netherwood are an excellent example of how Mediterranean elements were used in American suburban architecture. 1755 Netherwood has a wide tile entrance porch and large windows. 1749 Netherwood is of stucco and has a tile roof that recalls Spanish architecture.
The bungalow is another popular house type in the Glenview District. Alan Gowans characterizes bungalows, along with foursquare and homestead temple-houses, as forms developed in the early period of suburbanization (1890-1930) "that were distinctive enough to constitute new styles in themselves." Their innovation was a contrast to the popularity of revival styles, whether academically correct or implied through ornamental details. The bungalow rose quickly to popularity during the first decade of the century, as it was hailed as the quintessential American house of the future. Bungalows were ideally suited to the new suburbs because of their conveniences and affordability. One writer suggested that "the attractiveness of the bungalow strongly appealed to the person of moderate means, especially to apartment dwellers, who had been 'educated to the rooms-on-one-floor idea, the elimination of the stair climbing act, overhead or adjoining noises, also frequently too close to ill-fitting neighbors."' Thus, the Bungalow retained "'all the economical household labor and step saving features of the flat or apartment life, but in an environment close to nature where it is possible to enjoy her beauties consciously.'" Bungalows were also cheaper to construct. They were often made of wood, and the Bungalow aesthetic could look good with a rougher type of workmanship than other styles. Mass production of pre-cut houses also lowered the cost for bungalows. For first generation suburbanites moving out to new developments accessible by streetcar or automobile, like Glenview, the convenience and economy of the bungalow made the ideal of suburban living attainable.
The Glenview Historic District initially was settled by members of the middle class employed as small business owners, skilled craftsmen, professionals, and in white-collar jobs like bookkeeping and sales. Until the 1960s, the racial composition of the area was predominantly white. The only African Americans seen in the neighborhood were domestics, black laborers on suburban work crews, and sanitation workers. Glenview's population included two mayors of Memphis, H. H. Litty (1917-1918) and Rowlett Paine (1920-1928). Litty lived at 1266 Willett Street, and Paine lived at 1674 South Parkway East. Paine was the candidate supported by a businessmen's group interested in improving city government. During his first term the city hired Harlan Bartholomew and Associates to produce the first comprehensive city plan for Memphis. Planning was a progressive impulse that accompanied the rise of suburbs and automobile culture, so it is singularly appropriate that the mayor responsible for its introduction in Memphis was a resident of one of the new suburbs.
During the mid-1930s, an amateur theater group gave performances during the summer months at the home of Alice G. Rosebrough, "Rose Arbor," at 1780 Glenview Avenue. These performances are significant to the early history of locally produced and directed theater in Memphis. On the evening of July 12, 1935, the Rose Garden Players staged the first play of a young playwright, Tennessee Williams, who was attending Southwestern College at Memphis. "Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay" was directed by Arthur Scharff. This performance is commemorated with a historical marker erected by the Memphis Arts Council. The garden where the performance was given is extant and is significant to the history of theater in Tennessee as the location of the staging of the first play by nationally significant playwright Tennessee Williams.
These incidents, significant though they were, pale in historical importance to the association of the Glenview Historic District with the social and cultural transformation of Memphis's neighborhoods during the mid-twentieth century. This process of fundamental change, by 1970, would see the establishment of entirely new residential patterns in the city as African-Americans owned and/or dominated the central core of the city while whites increasingly chose to live in new suburban enclaves in eastern Shelby County.
Historian Gloria Brown Melton has discussed the social, economic, and political prospects for the Memphis black population during the years of "Boss" Crump's influence in Memphis politics. His years in power, from his election as mayor in 1909 to his death in 1954, roughly coincide with Glenview's years of development as a white suburb. Melton's study sets the stage for the conflict that arose between whites established in Crump-era suburbs and blacks experiencing increasing prosperity in the postwar years that sought new housing opportunities outside the city center. Traditional black neighborhoods lacked many of city services and amenities associated with the suburbs along the Memphis Parkway System. Melton finds that change came slow. She describes the 1920s as a period when most blacks expected to advance their economic status despite Jim Crow segregation. The Depression during the 1930s slowed this process. Economic uncertainty placed blacks in a precarious position and helped stifle political and social activity. During World War II and the postwar period, however, Memphis's black population revived the search for equal opportunity, sharing to some degree in the prosperity and optimism that came with the postwar boom. A new generation of African-American leaders, who came to maturity during the 1950s and 1960s and assumed leadership roles in their neighborhoods, played a pivotal role in this new activism. Several significant members of this new post-war generation of leaders chose to reside in the Glenview neighborhood.
The period of advances from 1945 to the mid-1950s set the stage for African Americans in Memphis to respond positively and quickly to sudden developments in 1954. The U.S. Supreme Court announced its Brown v. Board of Education decision, a surprising ruling in that the justices used the case to call for the abandonment of the principle of separate but equal, the legal underpinning for Jim Crow laws and segregated facilities across the South, in public facilities. Another important impetus for change in Memphis was the death of Edward H. Crump in 1954 and the resulting uncertainty about the future of his massive political and patronage machine. John V. Moeser and Christopher Silver write that the death of Boss Crump and the Brown decision in 1954 gave anti-machine leaders in Memphis a chance to take control of local government. However, they proved a disappointment to African Americans in Memphis despite forming an alliance with the black community. "Like Richmond, Memphis lacked strong biracial coalitions, except for a brief moment between 1955 and 1959, when reformist Mayor Edmund Orgill sought to establish a relationship with blacks that differed from that of Boss Crump, whose black support was generated through fear, intimidation, and patronage. Orgill, while disavowing the tactics of the Crump machine and setting Memphis on a more progressive course, proved a disappointment to the black community."
Then in 1955, under the guidance and sponsorship of A. W. Willis, Jr., a civil rights lawyer and businessman, came a new financial tool to encourage middle-class blacks to look for better suburban homes. Willis established an integrated law firm and helped to initiate the Mutual Federal Savings and Loan Company that could provide mortgage loans to middle-class blacks wanting to acquire better homes. In the years to come, Willis would expand the opportunities of blacks to acquire homes by creating the Homebuyer's Revolving Loan Fund for low and moderate income first-time home buyers.
Thus, by 1956, the stage was set for the initial attempts to integrate the Glenview neighborhood. From 1956 to 1958, several African-American families acquired homes in the district. Perhaps they were encouraged by the progressive spirit in local politics and timed their move into suburban housing accordingly. The resistance they met, however, indicates how deeply the racial divide ran in Memphis and how significantly it affected the housing market. As Moeser and Silver explain, black suburbanization is frequently used as an indicator of upward mobility but can be very misleading. Most suburbs that blacks moved into during the post-war era were older ones close in to the city center, a pattern true of Glenview in Memphis. Black property ownership in a white area was not necessarily a sign of integration, but an indication that the neighborhood would soon be subject to the same type of white flight that had affected city centers. Glenview also followed this pattern early in the period of post-war suburbanization among blacks in Memphis.
Glenview residents did not greet the arrival of the first black family with pleasure. Reverend Charles H. (Bob) Mason, Jr. was pastor of the Church of God in Christ at Lauderdale and Georgia. He was the son of Bishop Charles H. Mason, a founder of the Church of God in Christ, one of the largest Pentecostal churches in the nation and the largest Pentecostal congregation in Memphis. Mason, Jr., and his family bought a Tudor Revival-styled house at 1755 Glenview Avenue in 1956. Mason's purchase of 1755 Glenview from a white couple moving to Illinois in June 1956 occasioned a special meeting of the Glenview Civic Club. The Press-Scimitar reported on June 30 that Mason said he was told other property owners were selling to blacks in the area and that he was willing to sell the house since there was such open opposition to having a single black family join the 1700 block. The Glenview Civic Club wanted to seek a white buyer for Mason's house and to discourage other property owners from selling to blacks.
They had fought unsuccessfully against the sale of houses on South Parkway East to blacks two years prior. Although the sales never took place, although Mason waited over 18 months before moving his residence to Glenview. When Mason and his family moved into the house in February 1958, they received a threatening letter. This initial action soon escalated into a battle between the Mason family and white property owners in the Glenview area opposed to the integration of the neighborhood. Newspaper reports chronicle the efforts of white Glenview residents to prevent blacks from buying homes in the area. Violence marked the first months after the Mason family moved into Glenview in February 1958. A burning cross was placed in the front yard of the Mason home. The Press-Scimitar article reporting the cross burning quoted Mrs. Alice Rosebrough, the patron of the Rose Garden Players, who lived across the street and a few houses east from the Masons. She called the paper, claiming to be a property owner active in the "Glenview Plan," through which white property owners were attempting to purchase the Mason house and sell it to a white buyer. "He agreed to sell it to us at first," Rosebrough claimed, "but now he says he will not. We have done everything we could to be polite and courteous about this, but now the people out here are inflamed" Rosebrough's choice of words and the timing of her public comments to the newspaper left little doubt about what motivated the cross burning.
The Glenview Plan, Inc., already had been in operation for two years. It was formed as a corporation in which homeowners bought stock to provide funds for the purchase of homes for sale in Glenview and their conveyance to white buyers. A 1956 newspaper article describing the formation of the corporation describes its aims as delineated by attorney Richard Tucker, a founding member: "...to have a legal identity ... which can properly deal with the repurchase of property, to let people know that Glenview is a good place to live in, and to take further steps so that this sort of thing won't be coming up again." Homeowners would sign over their homes to the corporation when they were to be offered for sale, thus preventing the sale of houses to blacks. Dr. William Cason, identified as "Glenview president," mentioned that similar plans were working in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Kansas City. Moreover, he claimed, "Seven of the nine Supreme Court justices live in areas protected by similar plans." Perhaps this information would convince property owners of the efficacy of the Glenview Plan in the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision and other actions by the high court that threatened the traditional segregation system of the South. Cason cited dropping property values as a negative result of black home ownership in white areas. He stated that "By forming corporations, people can be sure their development will remain white, always."
But by 1958 the Glenview Plan did not seem to be fulfilling its basic goal of keeping African Americans out, thus some whites turned to violence and intimidation as another tactic. Opponents of black home ownership in the area terrorized the first wave of African-American residents, especially Rev. C. H. Mason, Jr., in an effort to get them to move. His visibility as a leader of the Church of God in Christ would have made his property a meaningful target for white opposition of black property ownership in Glenview. Liquor bottles and trash were strewn in Mason's yard; a rock was thrown through the window; and African-American homebuyers were greeted with signs stating "Cross Burning Row. Luxury Homes" when they arrived to view houses on Glenview Drive. Four teen-age white boys exploded a small bomb made of a metal cylinder filled with four and a half pounds of black powder in Mason's front yard. They later apologized to Mason.
Arson was the next tactic used by white opposition to the integration of Glenview. Mason's Church of God in Christ at Lauderdale and Georgia was also an apparent target. On February 14, 1958, the church burned to the ground. Despite $150,000 in losses, the Fire Department ruled out arson. The cross-burning incident preceded this fire by only a week, and Mason's home at 1755 Glenview was burned on the evening of March 3,1958. None of the family were hurt, as Mason was at a friend's house and his wife and children had been staying with relatives since the cross burning. He stated that "Because of the cross-burning and the fire at my church it doesn't indicate that [the fire] was a mere coincidence." In this instance the Fire Marshal considered arson a possible cause.
By the spring of 1958, the Glenview Plan's efforts to buy out and discourage black property owners were clearly not working. The second black home buyer was another prominent citizen, Rev. R. W. Norsworthy, minister of Mt. Moriah Baptist church and Memphis NAACP leader. Albert G. Riley, an attorney who owned a home in Mason's block at 1745 Glenview, defended his real estate company against the criticism of Charles C. Kerr, the president of the Glenview Civic Club, who had asked the Memphis Real Estate Board to request the resignation of the head of the firm. Riley had listed his home for sale "for colored occupancy after a careful study of the true situation of our community, and especially the particular block in which I reside. Of the thirteen homes, two have been sold for colored occupancy and six others are now being so offered." Riley went on to say that he had participated in the Glenview Plan, but had notified his neighbors that his house would go on the market if the Plan failed to remove black property owners. In his judgment, it had failed as of this report in the Press-Scimitar on April 14,1958. Riley expressed regret about leaving his home, which he had built in 1921, but felt impelled to leave because of the encroachment of black residents on his block.
Alice G. Rosebrough made another public statement about the sale of homes in Glenview to African Americans after Riley's decision was made public. Her visibility as the patron of the Rose Garden Players seems to have contributed to her role as unofficial spokeswoman for property owners involved in the Glenview Plan, a role recognized by white residents and the African Americans interested in moving to the neighborhood. The Press-Scimitar reprinted the following among her comments on April 16, 1958:
We are not like the Arabs folding tents and silently stealing away. We are citizens the nation depends upon to uphold the honor, dignity, and integrity of a great people. We have beautified our homes, are loyal to our neighbors, and are not the type to run away, taking our stand and fighting it out. And the important thing to remember is that the vast majority of the Negro race is helping us in our battle as proved by letters both from individuals and groups of Negroes opposed to the NAACP ... We are battling for the entire city of Memphis, both black and white.
Despite Rosebrough's strident claims to the contrary, many white property owners in Glenview did not support the Glenview Plan's activities to discourage or harass black homebuyers. An article published a month later describes the case of Mrs. Edward Ward, who had already moved out of the area but had a house for sale in the troubled 1700 block of Glenview. "She said there are about 15 to 20 residents of that area who are set against sale of property to Negroes, and that they have been intimidating her and others who have property in the area up for sale. "Mrs. Ward swore out warrants on a man who had been repeatedly stealing "For Sale" signs from in front of her house." The harassment in Glenview had grown to include those white residents willing to sell to blacks as well as the black homeowners themselves.
Concern about the integration of Glenview spread block by block, as efforts to remove black property owners turned into efforts to preserve racial homogeneity in each individual block. The purchase of a home at 1801 Glenview by another black minister, Rev. R. W. Norsworthy of the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, garnered notice in the newspaper because it represented the penetration of black home ownership in another block of Glenview. The article noted that Norsworthy was a member of the NAACP, but claimed his involvement with that organization had nothing to do with his purchase of the house. Rather, he had "been wanting a house for seven or eight years," saw the sign in Glenview, and negotiated with its owners. According to interviews with current Glenview residents, the opposite is more likely the truth. Civil rights leaders in Memphis were very interested that the integration of Glenview continues and not be stalled by legal maneuvers or intimidation. The fact that two well-respected and prominent ministers of the African-American community, Mason and Norsworthy shared the potentially dangerous spotlight of being the first residents is not by accident. They represented the largest black congregations (Church of God in Christ and Baptist) in the city and their leadership gave others the courage to step forward and join the move into the neighborhood. The leadership of the ministers is significant, since the clergy had traditionally supplied leaders within the black community. Ministers not only organized and motivated their own congregations, they were also recognized as educated leaders by African-American society at large.
The newspaper coverage of the sale to Norsworthy indicates that a turning point had been reached. The Memphis Press-Scimitar stated that "Sales to negroes have the neighborhood in a turmoil. There was a demonstration last Sunday against showing houses to negroes. Some who have been friends for years aren't speaking to one another."
The conflict over black property ownership in the Glenview Historic District reveals how the housing market for blacks was strained in the post-war period. Norsworthy's comments show how long he had considered a move from the Orange Mound community. Whites in Glenview, however, continued to argue that the neighborhood was not suitable for African-Americans, even if residents were such solid middle-class citizens as Mason and Norsworthy. The Glenview Plan, for example, began to advocate for the annexation of the Walker Homes area to provide "suitable housing" for blacks within city limits. They also considered other methods of providing homes for blacks in segregated neighborhoods so that the pressure of blacks wanting to buy in the Glenview area would be lessened.
After almost two years of efforts to reestablish white racial homogeneity in Glenview, the area's white residents were still unwilling to concede that integration was underway in the Glenview District. W. D. Galbreath, president of the Memphis Real Estate Board and past chairman of the Memphis and Shelby County Planning Commission called the Glenview Plan, Inc.'s efforts a "losing battle" when he denied the group's request to speak to the assembled realtors at their meeting. Although Galbreath claimed this remark was a personal opinion and did not represent the official position of the Memphis Real Estate Board, he further incurred the ire of Glenview Plan officials when he suggested they refer their complaints to the Board's committee for transitional areas. The transition from white residents to black residents was underway. By 1959, a third black family had moved into another Glenview block. Dr. and Mrs. Joseph W. Westbrook were prominent educators. He later became an area assistant superintendent of Memphis City Schools while Mrs. Westbrook was a project director with Memphis City Schools.
The middle-class blacks that moved into Glenview included many educators and professionals as well as blue-collar workers in jobs with good wages. Glenview's growing African-American population also included people moving into city jobs like firemen (several of whom lived on Barksdale and would carpool to work) and policemen. Roscoe Williams of Foster Street was one of the first black policemen in Memphis. Marion Carter and Joe Scott were both players for the Memphis Red Socks, a Negro League baseball team. Scott was a star in the old Negro Leagues, who began his career with the New York Black Yankees in 1946. He and his wife Mary lived at 1749 Netherwood in a classy Spanish Revival-styled dwelling. Glenview was home to many teachers. Mrs. Ada Aikmen, Mrs. Henrienne Jenkins, and Mrs. Mollie Fields were all teachers in the Memphis City Schools. The neighborhood's teachers, in turn, held degrees from the leading African-American colleges in Tennessee: LeMoyne College (now LeMoyne-Owen), Fisk University, and Tennessee State University. Other early black residents held federal professional positions. Mary Scott, for instance, worked for the postal service for over 30 years. Dr. Joseph W. Westbrook, the first black to have a position on the city school board, was also a Glenview resident. Charlie Walton, the first black to work the polls at the Glenview precinct, was another early resident. Rubye Coffman, of Netherwood Avenue, was the first black to write for the Commercial Appeal when she began work in 1969 for the women's page after earning a master's degree in history at Memphis State University in 1966. Coffman was an important Civil Rights activist throughout this decade. She had been one of the first three African-American women selected by the Sears Roebuck Corporation to serve on the Sears Fashion Career Conference in Memphis. More importantly, Coffman was among the first black women to be a member of the Panel of American Women in Memphis. The panel was an important integrated group speaking in favor of progressive city government and civil rights in Memphis. The panel members spoke to various white church and civic groups, presenting personal testimony of the need for more equitable race relations. Typically, the Panel's presentations included a white woman, a Jewish woman, and an African-American woman.
Not all of Glenview's new African American residents were from the educated professional middle-class, but they all held well-paying jobs. They worked at the factories of RCA, Firestone, International Harvester and the meat packing plants for Armour's and John Morrell. These residents worked typifies a diverse group that shared in holding good-paying jobs, valuing education, and desiring a house in a safe and attractive neighborhood of which they could be proud. While a fair percentage of the residents were first time homeowners, a greater percentage had owned their own homes before moving to the area. The initial wave of African-American residents from 1958 to 1968 were well aware that they had placed themselves and their families on the front lines for the local struggle for civil rights in Memphis. Several individuals and events create a strong and significant historical association between the Glenview Historic District and the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis. Ministers' Mason and Norsworthy, the first residents, were key local figures in the movement. Mason and his father, in fact, arranged for the use of Mason Temple by Martin Luther King during the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968. There Key gave his famous "Mountain Top" speech the day before his assassination in April 1968. Charlie Walton, Rubye Coffman, Joseph Westbrooks, Charles Johnson, and others were involved in public and private groups advocating political change in the community.
Yet, other new African-American residents looked to new homes in Glenview, not to make a statement about Civil Rights but because they believed that they and their families deserved better homes and neighborhoods. Ms. Mollie Fields was aware of the conflict in Glenview when she moved into her house at 1804 Netherwood in March 1967. She recalls driving through the neighborhood before it was integrated and thinking that it was a pretty area. However, she was reluctant to move to Glenview at first because of the resistance by white residents and the newspaper reports of Rev. C. H. Mason, Jr.'s problems. After the hostilities quieted down, Ms. Fields remembers that "quite a few" white residents were still living in the area and that there were no problems between them and black property owners. Mrs. Ada Aikmen remembers moving into Glenview in 1965. Although the attractiveness of the homes was a reason to choose Glenview, her family was also "running from what was coming to our community." People displaced from their homes by the construction of a levy north of the city were crowding into any vacant houses in Klondyk, "a couple of families to a house .. They walked the streets, they talked loud, and their actions were different from the things that we had been used to." This displacement left an impression on Mrs. Aikmen, who recalled that urban renewal and other city projects seemed to remove landmarks from all black areas: "Places of pride, they removed those. Anything that had historic value, they seem to zoom in on those and tear them down." For the African American residents of Glenview, this area became a new source of pride. The upkeep of the houses reflects their sense that the black residents have improved the neighborhood since they arrived, repairing structures and organizing to prevent crime.
The year 1968 marks the end of one period of race relations' history and the beginning of Glenview's history as a mostly African-American middle-class neighborhood, at least in the eyes of white residents and city officials. In April 1968, in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., city officials ordered National Guard soldiers, tanks, and local policemen to occupy the streets of Glenview, imposing a curfew on African-American residents while escorting and allowing the remaining white residents to move about freely. The National Guard occupation of the neighborhood was an unmistakable sign from city officials that they considered Glenview to be "black." Once the troops left, most remaining white families moved out, sometimes selling properties at a loss, and often leaving them damaged, defaced, and defiled (such as spreading defecation over interior walls) to be cleaned up and restored by their new black owners and occupants.
But a year earlier, in 1967, another event signified that the new African-American residents of Glenview were taking careful steps to protect, preserve, and enhance what they already considered as their neighborhood. Toward the mid-1960s, a new problem faced the neighborhood from among some of the people who had recently moved into the area. A group had petitioned the Alcohol Commission for a license to open a beer establishment on the corner of Netherwood and Willett. A majority of the residents overwhelmingly opposed this commercial venture. They expressed their dissatisfaction by gathering the names of homeowners in a petition and calling for a hearing before the City Council. The residents argued that such an establishment would defile and undermine the character of the neighborhood. The City Council ruled in favor of the residents and no license was granted.
The rise of the liquor license issue convinced several community leaders that, without proper organization, other issues might threaten the tranquility and status of the neighborhood. Some residents suggested the creation of a civic club; others wanted a broader organization. In 1967 a mass meeting was called for the purpose of forming a neighborhood organization. Spearheaded by black resident Theodore R. McLemore, who was well respected in academic, civic, and religious circles, interested community members met at the Presbyterian Church. For suggestions and guidance in creating such an organization, McLemore had turned to the Central Gardens Association, which provided pertinent information, materials, and legal expertise to help set up the organization as a non-political and non-sectarian entity, fashioned after the Central Gardens Association. At the meeting, McLemore announced the purpose of the proposed association and then agreed to serve as the initial president. Vice-president was Dr. Ouelette, a professor of philosophy at LeMoyne Owen College and membership was open to all residents. The stated purpose of the group, as cited in its initial constitution, was "to gather into an effective group all persons residing in the area, in order that they may speak with one voice to resist encroachment for commercial or other purposes upon the homes in the area, and mutually support and encourage all efforts, both organized and individual, to maintain and improve the homes, the streets, the facilities, and quality of life together."
To define the boundaries of the association, Theodore McLemore, Clifton Satterfield, and Arthur Thompson walked the entire area within the boundaries of the Glenview community, and counted all houses between Rayner and McLemore, and from Parkway East to Cooper, and all-inclusive streets. In 1967 area resident and attorney Albion Ricard drew up the legal document creating "The Glenview-Edgewood Manor Area Association." Judge Hosea T. Lockard, then an attorney and also a resident, supervised the drawing up of an application for a charter with the State of Tennessee. This charter application was successful. The association created five standing committees-membership, finance, liaison/legislative, beautification, and telephone. Working together the committees and the membership have achieved much of significance in the last thirty years, including the preparation of this National Register historic district nomination. Some of the major accomplishments include:
Theodore McLemore has credited the residents themselves for the successes of the association and the neighborhood over the last thirty years. He is also quick to remind people that some white residents, such as the Dunavants who remained at their home into the late 1980s, played integral roles in the association's activities. Other key community leaders during this period were Clifton Satterfield, Henry L. Jackson, Mrs. Dorothy Westbrook, Charles Johnson, Mrs. Polly Walker, Arthur Thompson, and Mrs. Lula Wilson.
In general, what the residents working through the association accomplished in the last thirty years is the preservation and enhancement of a beautiful and historically significant suburban neighborhood in Memphis. Here is where the most compelling irony of the history of the Glenview Historic District becomes apparent. In the late 1950s, the guiding assumption of city officials, real estate professionals, and many white property owners was that the Glenview neighborhood was an obvious "transition" zone, a place once solidly middle-class, prosperous, and "nice" that was headed to become a black neighborhood. Meaning (to them) it would soon be low-class, unkempt, and undesirable. For at least the next decade and a half, city officials gave the neighborhood little consideration as they focused attention and money to other parts of town However, the African-American property owners hardly "slummed" the neighborhood. Rather they carefully preserved, nurtured, and enhanced it over the 1970s and 1980s. Glenview Park now has the Glenview Community Center, a meeting place for all types of groups. Many houses are well landscaped and carefully kept. While whites often trashed their yards and houses as they moved out in the 1960s, subsequent black owners have restored these homes and yards. A high degree of architectural integrity characterizes the historic district. And this pride of place manifest in the dwellings of today speaks loudly to the significance of the social transformation experienced by the neighborhood from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Far from "ruining" the neighborhood, Glenview's African-American residents have turned it into a place of their own, a true source of history and ethnic identity for themselves and future generations of African-Americans in Memphis. Little wonder then that people in the neighborhood took the architectural survey of the district prepared by Memphis Heritage and built out of it an effort to identify a historic district worthy of listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Glenview Historic District occupies a significant place in Memphis's history by virtue of how clearly it illustrates patterns of suburban development and changing demographics. Glenview is a remarkably intact and well-kept area that preserves the architectural styles, scale, and landscape features of Memphis's early automobile suburbs. The buildings within the district are a catalog of the popular styles of the period from circa 1910 to World War II. They exemplify the creation of the suburban ideal in American culture: the comfortable house, located in a natural setting with other similar houses nearby, with space enough to meet the needs of the middle-class nuclear family intent on raising their children in a healthy environment. Glenview's history also shows how social conflict arose when African-Americans increasingly began to participate in the suburban ideal during the post-war period. The arrival of black property owners in the Glenview Historic District did not result in the integration of the neighborhood. Rather, whites fled to the outer suburbs, leaving those closer in to the city as almost entirely black communities. This pattern was repeated in other parts of Memphis as well as around the country, but in Glenview the questions of race relations and civil rights were primary and significant. The neat and modest houses of the Glenview Historic District describe a comfortable life for the prospering middle classes. However, the suburban ideal took on new meaning when challenged by the prosperity and progress of the black community.
† Adapted from: Blythe Semmer, Earlice C. Taylor and Carroll Van West, Center for Historic Preservation, Glenview Historic District, Shelby County, TN, nomination document, 1998, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Barksdale Street South • Burris Street • Castalia Street • Foster Avenue • Glenview Avenue • Kendale Avenue • Kyle Street • Lapaloma Circle • McLemore Avenue East • Melrose Street • Netherwood Avenue • Oaklawn Street • Rayner Street • Rozelle Street • Shady Lane • South Parkway East • Southern Avenue • Waverly Avenue • Willett Street South • Worthington Street