Building Description Hilderbrand-McTighe House, Memphis Tennessee

The Hilderbrand House was originally built in ca. 1850-55 as a two-story, five-bay wide, frame I-house with Greek Revival influence. The structure had two rooms on each floor, placed on either side of a central stair hall. The structure is covered with a side gable roof with box cornice; its walls are clad with weatherboard siding; its windows originally were six-over-six light, double hung sash; and the house was raised on a brick pier foundation. Exterior end wall chimney stacks provide a fireplace in each of the four original rooms of the house. There is no physical evidence visible to identify the configuration of the original porch which has been subsequently altered; however, a one-bay wide, two-story portico would have been commonly built in this period, often with a second floor balcony. Structural evidence suggests that a one-bay wide porch or ell may have once extended from the rear of the building.

The core of the rear ell for the Hilderbrand House appears to have been constructed after the death of George W. Ham in 1893, but before the death of Mary Ham in 1914. The characteristics of the materials used and the design elements introduced appear consistent with the period of 1900-1905. During this period or perhaps in an earlier one, an original porch or other structure appended to the rear of the house was removed, as evidenced by joist pockets remaining in the rear sill of the main house. During the Ham's ownership, a one-story, two-room gable-roofed ell was built to the rear, with a shed-roofed gallery developed along its north side. The ell was constructed to provide a dining room and kitchen for the house, probably replacing an earlier detached kitchen. The materials used in the construction of the ell are consistent with the period of ca. 1900-1910. The foundation piers are hard-fired, machine-made bricks laid up with a commercial lime and white sand mortar. The framing is fastened with wire nails. The flooring has been recycled from another building, but its lower surface has been ''backed off," or planed with a center recess to minimize warpage, a millwork treatment not common in the Memphis area before ca. 1900.

Of substantial interest is the discovery that the sills and floor joists of the rear ell were also recycled from an earlier building. The sills are 3" x 8" beams that were finish-planed by hand and bear traces of paint layers of white and robin's egg blue. One old joist pocket was discovered during the examination of this framing. It is not clear whether these beams were hand-hewn or circular sawn before planing. It cannot be determined whether the salvaged timbers and flooring were removed from a previous addition to this house or another building nearby. The blue paint color is regionally characteristic of the color used on exterior porch ceilings, but it was rarely applied as a general exterior paint color.

Other changes to the property at this time include the alteration of windows on the north and south facades of the original house block from their original six-over-six double-hung sashes, to two-over-two double-hung sashes. The doorway leading from the front stair hall to the south east room and the doorway leading from the north east room to the north (dining) room in the rear ell were both enlarged as double-doors; there is a shadow of a taller original window or door opening above these doors. Both sets of doors were trimmed with a simple, 5-inch wide, radiusedged architrave; it is believed that both doorways were outfitted with multi-light double-doors.

Another period of significant alterations and additions to the Hilderbrand House was ca. 1915-20, when the property was owned by Charles B. Hilderbrand. The changes made by the grandson of the original owner were by far the most extensive of any of the alteration periods.

The most evident changes made in this period were the alteration of the roof of the main house and the construction of the existing three-bay wide, shed roof porch with its second floor balcony. The roof peak of the house was raised three feet above its original height, as evidenced by the original roof rafters that remain in place.

The height of the original end wall chimneys was extended by approximately three feet to correspond with the new roof. The alteration of the roof was necessary to accommodate the monumental new porch across the front; even with the roof alterations, the height and depth of the porch only allowed the construction of a shallow shed roof to cover it. Matching box pilasters were installed on the facade following the removal and replacement of areas of its original siding beneath the porch.

On the first floor, there is evidence of extensive repair of the lath and plaster work at this time, resulting in major areas on both floors of the original house which had new plaster spread on circular sawn lathing. The rear ell was nearly doubled in width on its south side by addition of a bathroom and another porch, all under a shed roof.

The twentieth century Hilderbrand alterations also resulted in addition of a second floor bathroom with a low-pitched shed dormer built into the roof of the ell at its eastern end. Closets added at this time made each of the upstairs bedrooms smaller; the southern bedroom was provided with two closets, while portions of the northern bedroom were taken for a single closet and a hallway that connected with the upstairs bath. The construction work on the upstairs bath also appears to have resulted in the demolition of the north (dining) room ceiling and its replacement with bead board.

William and Jane McTighe instigated the last significant period of alterations and additions to the Hilderbrand House between 1950 and 1955. The major work of the McTighes was a series of changes intended to "restore" the property by unifying its original Greek Revival elements with those incompatible changes accomplished earlier in the century.

The McTighes most significant change was the rebuilding of the front stair, which was designed in a diluted interpretation of the Craftsman style. The rise and run of the stair was adjusted to accommodate the reflooring of the rooms of the original house on both floors with wide, "pegged" oak flooring laid on 2" x 4" screeds. The new flooring required that doors be shortened, baseboards and the hearths on the first floor to raised match the new floor level. The original firebox openings in the chimneys on the first floor were rebuilt and enlarged. Doorways on the first floor that were altered by the Ham and Hilderbrand families earlier in the century were re-trimmed with peaked lintels and back bands to match the original Greek Revival details. In all cases, the new trim work was applied directly over the earlier, radiusedge trim, leaving the radius curve exposed on the outside edge. Some salvaged four- or six-panel doors were also installed in an attempt to match the impression of the original doors; the only extant doors which appear to be original to the house are the front double-leaf door and the door leading from the hall to the south east room of the first floor.

In the rear ell, the McTighes expanded the north (dining) room of the house to the north, taking in a part of a porch; a portion of the western end of this porch was also enclosed for a laundry room, and the remaining center portion of the porch was enclosed with windows and a doorway for use as a utility room. Wall and ceiling surfaces in the ell were refinished either with new drywall to cover bead board surfaces, or with a new coat of plaster. The porch on the southwestern corner of the ell was enclosed at this time and the walls covered with knotty pine paneling.

Apparently at this time a crude basement was excavated beneath the eastern third of the ell, where a gas hot water and oil-fired steam boiler were installed. The steam boiler provided radiator heat for the major rooms in the house; the radiators remain in place in most rooms. Gas lines were run in the house for gas fireplace logs and small heaters. Access to the basement area is through a trap door cut into the southern porch floor; this trap door was covered at a later time with another layer of flooring.