Within These Walls - A Home's History

A new series exploring the early stories behind our historic homes

                                                   By Kathy Ferguson, Communications Committee Chair


This month’s “Within These Walls–A Home’s History” focuses on a home that will be included in the Film & TV Walking Tour launching April 11. This home at 1380 Carr was in episode nine of Bluff City Law, “Ave Maria,” and is also featured in local 911 PSA commercials.

About a year or so after my family moved into our home on Carr Avenue, my husband and I were having a “discussion” about furniture placement; specifically we were trying to remember where the previous owners had placed the sofa in the living room. Not being one to back down from an argument, I decided I’d try to google my address to see if any of the MLS photos from when we purchased the home were still peppered about the Internet. While I did not find the MLS photos, I found something else. A little nugget of information, one small detail, which would take me on a journey through time.

What I uncovered was a PDF of a magazine called the “Weekly Artisan” that was published in Grand Rapids, MI Jan. 29, 1910. Tucked away on page 20 was a title that read “Buildings That Will Need Furniture,” and our home address was listed, with the name Tom Turpin and a home value of $6,500. I forgot about furniture placement and went on to find out as much as I could about Mr. Turpin.

Turpin was a prolific builder and contractor in Midtown during the early 20th Century. I learned, after reaching out to his great nephew, Steve Turpin, that Tom built and brokered both commercial and residential real estate in and around Central Gardens. Turpin and his colleagues also built the commercial property that now houses Café 1912. Steve Turpin went on to tell me that, as the story goes, the real-estate business was taking a toll on Tom’s health. A physician recommended that he take a break from his contracting business and to do something he enjoyed, something with his hands. Turpin, an avid hunter, started making his own turkey calls, and thus was the birth of one of the most famous and well respected names in turkey hunting, the Turpin Turkey call. 

While I was thrilled to learn so much about our home’s builder, I also discovered that Turpin never resided in our house and I was curious who actually first lived in, and loved, our home. A quick check of the 1912 Polk City Directory (which can be found on the Shelby County Register of Deeds website) led me to Charles Q. Harris. 

Again, leaning on Google as my steward, I found that Harris was a cashier at First National Bank (what is now First Horizon) around 1878, during the time of the second yellow fever epidemic. First National survived in spite of bank failures across the country, largely due to the fact that Harris helped keep the bank open and continued to remain at his post, handling cash while others could not or would not. These days, First Horizon gives exceptional employees the “Charles Q. Harris Leadership Award” for outstanding service. Harris died in 1928, leaving the home on Carr to his sister, Katie H. Paoli, and her two daughters. The home stayed in the family well into the 1940s.