The Germantown Museum

A project in the making

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In Times Past………..
By Andy Pouncey

A house is a house, is a home, is someone else’s home, is a business and finally a home.  Ms. Maude Cawthorne built a house in the 1920’s with a commanding view of its 15 wooded acres at 7691 Poplar, east of Germantown Road (location of Methodist Hospital Germantown – see photo).

Ms. Cawthorne was renowned for her restoration of the Fontaine House on Adams and was one of the founders of the Architectural Preservation Society of Memphis.  While the estate was no antique, many of its components were.  The hand-made bricks on the exterior of the manor house, carriage house and outbuilding were believed to have been

transported from Jefferson Davis’ plantation in Mississippi.  Ms. Cawthorne lived in the main house, using the log cabin (site of The Tea Room) as an antique shop.  The rough-hewn logs in the cabin were also attributed to the Davis plantation. 

Mr. William F. Bowld (as in Bowld Hospital) purchased the property in 1942 and his family lived on the estate until 1967.  Bowld sold the land to Pat and Vernon Kerns with the stipulation that his caretaker, Walter Williams, could remain in his small house behind the log cabin for as long as he wished.

Williams had been the groundskeeper for the Bowld family and was responsible for planting the row of pines along Poplar that now tower over the road and screen the hospital from traffic. 

Williams became a trusted employee for the family until his death in the early 70’s.  To many, he became affectionately known as the “Mayor of Germantown”. 

After a renovation in 1977 by the Kerns it became known as “The Pines”, a family-owned community shopping center with a group of unusual shops including the Book Cottage (later the Unicorn Restaurant) and a gift shop called “Yesteryear” which had its grand opening during the 4th Annual Germantown Festival.   Ms. Kay Kerns was proprietress.  The festival began in this area continuing south along Germantown Road and eastward on Poplar Pike to the area around the Pickering Center.

The Tea Room in a nearby log cabin offered a relaxed charming atmosphere serving a Bar-B-Que plate with baked beans, slaw and dessert with tea or coffee.  “For those in a hurry we will be serving pronto pups and cold drinks on the lawn”.  While at The Tea Room you were invited to see their antiques, crafts and paintings for sale.   

The property was later purchased by Methodist Hospital Germantown and the home was sold to Barry Sterling.  The home was then dismantled and rebuilt, with some revisions as a residence, at its new and current location along Forest Hill-Irene Road, north of Poplar Avenue.

If those walls could talk………