Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Hunt-Phelan Home

Peace Bee Farm maintains a small bee yard on the grounds of the Hunt-Phelan Home on historic Beale Street in Downtown Memphis. Honey bees foraging the grounds of the anti-bellum home collect pollen and nectar from perennial flowers that have not been cultivated in over a hundred years. I want to thank the staff of the Inn at Hunt-Phelan for sharing some of the home’s rich history: This antebellum home was built by George Wyatt between 1828 and 1832. The home was designed by Robert Mills, the architect of the Washington monument, US Treasury building, and parts of the White House. The original design was a two-story Federalist style home. In 1851, a grand two-story Greek revival portico was added facing Beale Street. The home has remained in the same family since it was built. The Hunt-Phelan home has hosted several US presidents including Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, and Martin Van Buren. Confederate president Jefferson Davis, a close friend of the family, was a frequent guest in the home.

In the early months of the Civil War, the home served as the headquarters of Confederate General Leonidas K. Polk. After the Battle of Shiloh, General Ulysses S. Grant occupied the home as his headquarters. He planned the siege of Vicksburg from the library of the Hunt-Phelan home. Grant respected the home and insisted the Union soldiers remove their shoes when entering. Because of this, the library still has the original floor from 1828. Peace Bee Farm’s bee yard sits behind the home, adjacent to the rubble of a schoolhouse. This was the first school to educate African Americans in Memphis. Following the Civil War, its owner, Colonel William Richardson Hunt, successfully petitioned the US government to have the home returned to him. The home now serves as a small hotel, restaurant, and special events venue. It was an honor to be invited to pollinate the gardens of this historic site.

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