The Whitlow Home
By Jackie Clift
The Whitlow Home at 7642 Old Poplar Pike is one of the oldest houses in historic Germantown. The property was part of an eight-hundred-acre grant belonging to Charles McClung. Dr. M. M. Cornelius bought one hundred eight acres of that grant on June 21, 1838, from F. Siedakum through his attorney James Titus. The Cornelius family owned the property for about fifty years but sold a small portion of the land to Mrs. Florida C. Thompson in 1884 for two hundred and eighty dollars.
Whether the Cornelius or Thompson families built the house is unknown, but the original home was built of logs in the 1840s. An addition to the front of the house was built around 1900. The home has three parlors and an entrance hall with 12-foot ceilings. There are fireplaces in each of the three parlors. The home has the original cooking fireplace and the original kettle hook.
The kitchen and south entry room have plank walls with chinking between the planks. The ceiling and walls are original, painted beadboard, and match the original pine floors and exposed beams. The home has tall, impressive windows and detailed trim work. There are transoms above the doors to adjust the airflow. Original features include Ripley windows, pecky cypress walls, and wide plank hardwood floors. Round holes in the kitchen walls were supposedly made by bullets during the Civil War.
The site includes a 1200 square foot garage with a second story which is heated and cooled. A log cabin that served as an antebellum smokehouse is also on approximately one acre of land. Near the home’s rear garden area there remains a part of the old plank road which had served the town as its main road.
The property was passed to members of the Thompson family on his parents’ passing, and then to a son Marvin Thompson who married Deborah Drambaugh. Marvin survived his wife and willed the house to Hazel Drambaugh, who sold it to Mammie Thomas. Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Whitlow bought the property through the estate of Mammie Thomas.
The Whitlows were living in a newly constructed home in an East Memphis subdivision but dreamed of having an older home with charm and character. Mrs. Whitlow found the house by accident as she was driving along Poplar Pike and spied the gingerbread trim of the Victorian-style home through a tall hedge. When they viewed the charming older home, they were shocked by its rundown condition. However, the history and dream of what the house could be convinced the couple to purchase the home in 1967.
The Whitlows rebuilt the house without modernizing it. Since the kitchen existed as a lean-to building on the back of the original log cabin, Mrs. Whitlow used the wood from the original kitchen and moved the kitchen with its fireplace and stove to the area behind one of three parlors added on the west side of the structure. The couple was able to find wood pieces in other older homes and churches that blended well with the wood in the original structure. They worked diligently to add two bathrooms and a utility room to the space in the dog trot hall which ran through the center of the house. The result was a modernized home with character and charm with a beautiful yard beside an old, abandoned plank road known as the “Old Stagecoach” Road.
The Whitlows enjoyed living there for several decades. The couple successfully fought “City Hall” when some wanted to build a water plant near their property, and when some wanted to widen Poplar Pike on the north side of the street. As a result, the house with the gingerbread trim still sits across the street from the campus of Germantown High School. It is ironic that a Miss Thompson reportedly taught school in a room in the eastern part of the house in the early 1900s, across the street from the high school. The historic house has been home to an antique business and a law firm in recent decades.