The James Lee House stands as one of the city’s most important residences and is a vibrant example of Memphis’ early grandeur and opulence.
About the House
The home at 690 Adams Avenue stands as one of the city’s most important residences and is a vibrant example of Memphis’ early prominence and opulence—a testament to its key location on the Mississippi River and the visionary, hard-working families who devoted their lives to its flourishing.
For over 160 years, the families who have called this house home were deeply engaged in the development of every aspect of community life—from commerce and banking to benevolence and the arts. It is hard to find another place in Memphis that so powerfully embodies all these forces for good!
The preservation of The James Lee House as a home and a boutique bed and breakfast affords you the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a bygone era while enjoying the ultimate in luxury and modern comfort.
HISTORY OF THE JAMES LEE HOUSE
Located at 690 Adams Avenue, the James Lee House was originally a two-story farm house built by William Harsson in 1848. In 1852, Charles Wesley Goyer bought the house from his father-in-law and the Goyer family, numbering 10 children, lived there until 1890.
When it became necessary to expand, Goyer made one addition in 1853, later added a tower and a third floor, and eventually unified the appearance of the rest of the house in 1873. In 1890, the house was sold to James Lee, Jr. The house ultimately became the property of his daughter Rosa, who donated it to the city to be used as the James Lee Arts Academy (later to become the Memphis College of Arts).
The home was vacant for decades beginning in 1959, when the college moved to Overton Park. Although the house is composed of three different sections, it is a good representation of the late mid-19th century mansions built by well-to-do families in the area. The most elaborate interior is found in the front and most recent section of the house, which includes plaster trim, plaster ceiling medallions, shaped moldings, and marble mantels.
BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO THE JAMES LEE HOUSE
José Velázquez and his wife, Jennifer, had always dreamed of owning and operating a bed and breakfast together. In 2013, in partnership with J.W. Gibson and his wife, Kathy Buckman Gibson, they purchased The James Lee House to restore it to its former grandeur. After a year of painstaking renovations to the abandoned property, The James Lee House opened as a boutique bed and breakfast on May 1, 2014. For half a decade, the home has offered guests from around the world luxurious accommodations, exceptional cuisine, unsurpassed southern hospitality, and a tangible connection to Memphis’ Victorian era.
The James Lee House has been overwhelmingly successful in Victorian Village, encouraging exciting new growth and redevelopment of the area. It has received numerous awards for excellence in historic preservation and has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Garden & Gun, Travel and Leisure, and Southern Living. Below is a collection of photos taken during the meticulous restoration process that transformed this once neglected building into the stunning home and boutique bed and breakfast that you see today.