Love them, hate them, you can’t ignore them: 5 completely compelling West U homes

December 12, 2016

Story and photos by George Boehme

In 1910, the former governor of Tennessee, Ben Hooper, formed the West End Realty Company to build “country homes” on property now known as West University Place.

These new homes were three miles out in the country. In the early 1920s, a 100’ x 200’ lot sold for $1,000. The homes were marketed to middle-class homebuyers and were mostly one-story, two-bedroom bungalows with one bathroom.

How things have changed.

Heidi Dugan, a realtor with Greenwood-King Properties who specializes in West University Place real estate, says that same 100’ x 200’ lot would sell for about $2.5 million in today’s market.

Each year, the supply of those original homes dwindles, with most being replaced by a combination of comfortingly traditional and an eclectic architectural mix of large residential boxes.

Here are — arguably — five of the most interesting.

The selection process was not flawless, but I did drive down every street in West U. That took about six hours. I learned a lot. (And don’t cluck about it, but we do have some chickens in West University Place. Sssh.)

I photographed 69 homes, and asked six people to pick the five they thought were most interesting. Four of the selectors live in West U, one in Boston, the other in Houston.

Some are old, others new. All five venture outside the norm.


Hunting season

This 1,252 square foot cabin looks like the functional cabin at a deer lease, complete with the deer rack. This rustic 1940s home, located in the 4100 block of Milton Street is a perfectly delightful addition to West U’s architectural diversity.






Beach front house — but no beach

This beautiful 4,148 square foot. home is located in the 6300 block of Vanderbilt Street. The second floor entrance is more often associated with beachfront architecture with an eye toward protection from high water. Constructed in 1984, this lovely home makes you want to relax. Put on your bathing suit and sip on a mai tai.




Where did this come from?

The most controversial of our selections — you either love it or hate it. Is it from Sun City, Arizona? Or is it a new Jiffy Lube? Our selectors were divided on this question. This streamlined 1,849 square foot. home was constructed in 2008 and offers visitors an eclectic vision while driving down the otherwise mostly traditional 4000 block of Swarthmore Street.




New Orleans menagerie

How else can we say it? This home does not fit in West U. But we absolutely love it. This 7,516 square foot house was built in 1984 and is located in the 3200 block of Pittsburg Street. (And yes, that’s the way West U spells Pittsburg.) This home is downright quirky. You expect to see a toucan in one tree, and a bald eagle in the other while you are shaking your leg to some Louis Armstrong.



A classic blast from the past

Nothing short of classic beauty here. Built in 1940 on a gracefully treed site in the 5400 block of Fairmont, this 1,733 square foot farmhouse really was a farmhouse. There were chickens, pigs, and probably a few horses back in the day. In 2016, 76 years later, it retains all of its 1940s charm — without the livestock.