We want to share our journey with the J.W. Houston House with all of you. As we were trying to figure out actually where to begin, we decided that the best place to start is the very beginning. And, of course, this will be an ongoing update, blog, etc. as we preserve this beautiful old house! We have tried very hard to get the facts straight about this house and it has not been easy. It has had multiple addresses and we have found different dates relating to some of the changing of hands of this property. Here is our best version of how things went.
Mr. J.W. Houston operated plantation farming enterprises in numerous areas. He was a major property owner in Collierville and the surrounding area. He was also a respected alderman for the Town of Collierville between the years of 1870 and his death in 1888.
In November 21, 1883, Mr. Houston purchased an 8-acre lot that included the property that is now listed as 269 S. Center St. The development of this property soon followed. In ca. 1884, Mr. Houston built the house that is now known as the J.W. Houston House. Now, for a little bit of information about the house itself.
Not only is this two-story house an unusual variation in the traditional L-plan form, the use of board finishes along with plaster finishes for the interior is unusual as well. It was not unusual during this time to find board wall finishes, however; what was unusual is that this type of finish was seen in rural properties and not among the town properties of Collierville. The interior was complete with fine four-panel doors and trim, Italianate fireplace mantels and well-proportioned turned newel and complex railing for the staircase.
In 1888, J.W. Houston passed away and the property was turned over to M.V. Hamner by the Probate Court of Shelby County. We could not find out why this happened. There was some speculation that Mr. Houston might have been indebted to Mr. Hamner. In whatever manner that this happened, in October of 1889, the property was sold by Mr. Hamner to J.T. Cox. At this point we have to assume that the property remained in the hands of Mr. Cox.
In April of 1909, the Probate Court of Shelby Court sold the property to John Carson Fleming. According to the deed, the property contained “8 acres, more or less, upon which there is a two-story residence and out houses. Mr. Fleming was 45 when he moved from Mississippi for Collierville and he opened up a livery business on the site that is now McGinnis Service Station. Mr. Fleming was also Deputy Sheriff of Shelby County in 1913 and he also had an undertaking business that he sold in cs. 1925.
In ca. 1910, Mr. Fleming built a shotgun-style house on the property and in 1933, Mr. Fleming dies and the property was now in the hands of his daughter, Mary Fleming. Miss Fleming made many alternations to the original structure while she occupied the house. She enclosed the rear porch and she had the addition to the ell constructed. And between 1933 & 1974, the property was subdivided to its current size of just less than four acres. In 1964, Miss Fleming has another house built on the property as an income property. On July 29, 1974, Mary Fleming dies and according to her Last Will and Testament, left the property to Willie Erving.
This is all we known until we come to January 8, 1991, where we find that John Fleming, the nephew of Mary Fleming, now owns the property. On February 14, 1991, The United States Department of the Interior National Park Services received the National Register of Historic Place Registration From for the property. On March 24, 1991, the property was accepted to be placed on the National Register of Historic Place Registration. And on March 29, 1991, the J.W. Houston House was placed on the National Register.
Once again, we have gaps in the house’s story. We know that there was a barn on the property for in 1991, but it’s no longer there. There was also a brick house that was built on the property that no longer exists as well. So, let’s get on with what we know.
Charles Eugene Hodum owned the property (at least as far as we can tell) from 1999 to 2016. His law office was located on the property. On January 16, 2016, we find that the next owner of the property is The Bank of Fayette County. According to the Commercial Appeal, the bank put in a request to tear down the J.W. Houston and the shotgun-style house in order to develop the property. Thank goodness that this request was rejected.
On October 26, 2016, both the Houston House and the shotgun-style house were placed on the Tennessee Preservation Trust list of the 10 most endangered properties across the state as reported by The Commercial Appeal newspaper. On March 25, 2021, the current owner of the property bought the property from the Bank of Fayette County.
In November of 2022, we embarked on our journey to find a new location. We were looking at the old house that Gus’s Chicken use to be in and we turned around and saw the Houston House. We got in the car and drove over to the property. This short journey from one house to the other sparked great dreams. Dreams that are not only for Midnight Star Collierville, but for the Town of Collierville as well.