Sunlight filters softly through lush layers of leaves, as canopy after canopy of gorgeous trees tower above the sidewalks and historic homes below. Runners and bikers cross paths with families walking their dogs, and neighbors meet on their front porches to share a sip and a chat.

Nestled in the heart of Midtown, Central Gardens is steeped in Memphis history. Originally part of the Solomon Rozelle estate, which was established in 1815 and among the first Memphis settlements, this urban neighborhood’s first home was built circa 1853. This charming enclave soon became the hottest place to build a home in Memphis, and some of the most creative and forward-thinking architects of the time made their mark here. From elegant mansions with soaring ceilings to cozy 1920s bungalows, this prestigious neighborhood attracted titans of industry and captains of commerce, as well as artists and writers, and experienced a boom in growth until around 1930.

Today, the neighborhood is composed of approximately 1,540 structures and 511 acres and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Plus, all of those breathtaking trees have won their own accolades, as the community’s maintenance of its more than 90 healthy tree species has earned it an Arboretum Level III designation. Characterized by its eclectic architectural style‚ rich history and gorgeous certified arboretum, the neighborhood’s true character emanates from its diverse residents and strong sense of community.

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This handsome Central Gardens home has undeniable curb appeal. Image: Central Gardens Association

Central Gardens

This unique Italian Renaissance-styled three-story house was built in 1918. The hipped green ceramic tile roof, detailed first-floor windows and symmetrical façade are hallmarks of this Italian Renaissance-style home, which will be open to tour on this year’s 42nd Annual Central Gardens Home & Garden Tour. Image: Central Gardens Association

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The amazing Central High School band marches through the Central Gardens neighborhood for homecoming on a gorgeous fall day. Look at those beautiful trees! Image: Central Gardens Association

“The neighborhood embraces its residents, giving them a sense of belonging, a sense of place and a sense of roots,” says Central Gardens resident Anne McCarthy. “Some streets in Central Gardens have little traffic, so children can learn to ride their bikes on those streets. Mornings or late afternoons, you’ll see people walking their dogs. Early mornings, runners are out in full force. Weekends, bikers enjoy biking through the neighborhood. Each Fourth of July there is a children’s parade with floats made by the children and parents.”

When asked what she loves most about Central Gardens, Anne, who also serves as Chair of the 2018 Central Gardens 42nd Annual Home & Garden Tour, has a hard time choosing which aspect she loves most. “The sense of community,” she says, quickly adding, “and the architecture. It’s a visually lovely neighborhood.”

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This cast stone-clad, Colonial Revival house was built in 1904 and will be featured in the Central Gardens Home & Garden Tour. Image: Central Gardens Association

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Central Gardens

Built in 1911, this residence is a great example of the popular Colonial Revival subtype known as the “Classic Box,” which is characterized by a hipped roof, a full porch and Colonial Revival influences, including a dentilated frieze decorating the eaves and multi-light windows. This home will also be on the Central Gardens Home & Garden Tour. Image: Central Gardens Association

If all of this makes you want to step into the shade of this walkable arboretum and peek inside the homes and gardens of this dreamy world, you’re in luck! You can do that at the upcoming 42nd Annual Central Gardens Home & Garden Tour. But, in the meantime, we’re here to give you a sneak peek of the historic homes on this year’s tour.

3 Historic Central Gardens Homes

Italian Renaissance Home

This Italian Renaissance-style home was completed in 1918. The original homeowner, James Canale, was the son of Domenico “Dominic” Canale, the Italian immigrant who founded the D. Canale & Co. distributorship, which made a fine bourbon whiskey called “Old Dominick.” And, as most Memphians know, the iconic local company inspired a new generation of Canales — Dominic’s great-great-grandsons Chris and Alex Canale — to open the Old Dominick Distillery, which also houses the hip new Gray Canary restaurant. The current homeowners, who purchased the home in 2012, have made extensive renovations, including an incredible master suite that includes a large walk-in closet, a master bath with refrigerator and a separate living area that was formerly a porch.

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Italianate columns in a rich wood tone anchor this arched entryway leading into the large, open foyer. An antique pew sits below a modern painting for a striking mix of old and new.

Central Gardens

Curved stairs, arched doorways and an eye-catching gilded orb chandelier are juxtaposed with clean angles for a look that is simple and elegant.

Central Gardens

The kitchen skews more toward the modern, as demonstrated in this chic breakfast nook.

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This stylish reading nook makes us want to cozy up with a thrilling book and a glass of wine.

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Thoughtfully displayed and highlighted with handsome picture lights, modern art is a signature of this historic home’s current interiors.

Colonial Revival Home

Built in 1904, this stately cast-stone-clad Colonial Revival home features doors that are 10 feet tall. The current homeowners purchased the home in 2002 and set about modernizing it in 2009, renovating the kitchen and adding a great room, as well as a downstairs hallway leading to a new master bedroom and large master bath. All the while, the homeowners honored the 1904 style and integrity of the home. The home also features an L-shaped screened porch, which overlooks a beautifully landscaped yard with a fountain and vintage greenhouse.

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An exquisite antique table topped with eye-popping peonies adds interest to this light-filled foyer.

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The 114-year-old dining room exudes the Old World charm of a time when families dressed for dinner. The vibrant tangerine walls add a celebratory air.

Central Gardens

Look at the stunning details of this ornate antique chandelier.

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It seems only natural that the homeowners of a historic home such as this would frame a family christening gown, a treasured heirloom.

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This unique green room has personality in spades. From the well-loved antique furniture and ornate organ piano to the animal print ottoman and statement-making art, this room is decidedly one-of-a-kind.

‘Classic Box’ Home

This circa-1911 home is a sub-type of the popular Colonial Revival subtype known as the “Classic Box.” In 2017, the current homeowners made extensive renovations, while respecting the home’s historic footprint. The exquisite modern kitchen was designed by architect David Schuermann of Architecture, Incorporated, who removed a wall to enlarge the kitchen. There is a screened porch in the back of the home, which looks into the beautiful courtyard, featuring a babbling fountain, next to the guesthouse.

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A sweeping stairway, flanked by modern black-and-white art and a gorgeous rail, stands stately beside the hallway leading into the renovated kitchen.

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Gleaming white marble countertops and backsplash complement the muted grey cabinetry. Smart lighting in cabinets, ceiling and sleek pendant provide a warmth that beautifully intermingles with rays of natural light.

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The breakfast room has a contemporary ceiling fixture from Graham’s Lighting that works beautifully with the original leaded glass cupboard.

Central Gardens

A collection of antique frames featuring various silhouettes is thoughtfully arranged and artistically juxtaposed against a printed wallpaper in this charming nook.

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This simple yet stately scene is the very embodiment of subdued elegance.

A beautiful historic neighborhood, indeed!

Thank you to Reid Mitchell for the stunning photography of these Central Gardens homes.

Themed “Everything Old is New Again,” the 42nd Annual Central Gardens Home & Garden Tour features homes that epitomize the stunning beauty of century-old architecture, but all have been lovingly renovated to include stunning modern additions and conveniences. This year’s walkable tour is set for Sunday, September 9, 2018, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and will be located on Belvedere, Central, Peabody and Glenwood Place. The Hospitality Center, where you can get a snack or grab a cold drink, returns this year to the corner of Peabody and Belvedere. A portion of the tour proceeds will benefit the Dorothy Day House.

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