Our History

A Hidden Victorian Gem in Memphis since 1871…

Amos Woodruff came to Memphis in 1845 to expand his carriage-making business. He bought the property and began construction in 1870. Completed in 1871, the first event held at the mansion was the wedding of Amos’ daughter, Mollie Woodruff. This is significant in that the mansion has a tradition of weddings from 1871 right up to the present! Amos Woodruff was a very successful carriage maker, and not only became very wealthy, but became one of Memphis’ most distinguished builders and supporters during a 25 year period. He was president of the city council, was a mayoral candidate twice, organized and presided over two banks and the Memphis & Ohio Railroad. He also presided over the Overton Hotel, the Southern Life Insurance Company, and was in the cotton and lumber business!

Noland Fontaine, was the second owner of the mansion. The Fontaines of Kentucky and Memphis are descendents of the Huguenots who fled from France to England after the 1685 edict of Nantes, immigrating to Virginia in 1716. Mr. Fontaine was a Cotton Factor of the very prominent company of Hill, Fontaine & Co. He died in 1912 and his wife died in 1928. In 1929, the estate was sold for $25,000.00 with the intention of becoming an antique shop; however, that venture was never realized. The house was subsequently sold to Rosa Lee for the purpose of expanding her Free Art School. The art school moved to Overton Park in 1959, and the house remained vacant until 1961, when the Association for Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities saved the mansion through a public fund.