In The Beginning
One good thing about continuity here at Memphis magazine — we celebrated our 36th anniversary last month — is that we’ve been able to track our readers’ likes and dislikes over a very long period of time. And while times have changed considerably since that long-ago day in 1976 that City of Memphis first hit the newsstands, our loyal subscribers’ tastes haven’t changed all that much. Surprisingly, they remain infatuated with the same subject that’s been their favorite since way back, since before Elvis even left the building.
Whenever we’ve asked readers what they want to see more of in Memphis magazine, the answer back has always been the same: more history, more history, and then more history. For reasons I’ve never completely understood, Memphians seem to have a greater zeal for exploring their city’s past than residents of most other American cities.
Back in 1995, in direct response to the results of yet another one of those surveys, we decided to launch a monthly local-history column, written by a sometimes-charming local eccentric named Vance Lauderdale, doing our best to satisfy our readers’ crying need for more history within our pages.
In fact, that need seems to be insatiable. Over the past 17 years, our “Ask Vance” column truly has become a Memphis institution. Vance himself has won a host of national awards, published two books and three calendars, and made innumerable local appearances. He hosts a wildly popular blog that thrives at memphismagazine.com, and holds court before an equally large audience of Facebook admirers, many of whom tune in daily to see what great Memphis mystery the sage is pondering at any particular moment. Ironically, the city’s most famous historian has now himself become an integral part of the city’s history.
And, of course, Vance Lauderdale still graces these pages every issue. But our local-history focus has long since expanded beyond the confines of the “Ask Vance” column. And nowhere is this link-with-our-collective-past more obvious than with the magazine’s monthly “Fine Memphis Homes” feature series.
Under the capable direction of our splendid Arts and Lifestyle Editor, Anne Cunningham O’Neill, we launched this series in January 2011, and I’m happy to report that the new emphasis that Memphis has been giving to architecture, interior design, and the decorative arts has been wildly popular with both readers and advertisers. All of us love to dream about living in very special places, and, over the past 18 months, we’ve made the discovery of such interesting and unique places on behalf of our readers one of our major editorial missions. We hope you have been enjoying the opportunity we present every month for you to step inside some of Memphis’ most elegant residences.
Not all of our “Fine Memphis Homes” have been historic, of course — some of the houses we’ve featured have in fact been brand new. But the spectacular mansion featured on this month’s cover certainly is among the most historic we’ve so far featured in our series. If Memphis can be said to have architectural crown jewels, Beverly Hall is certainly among them.
Built in the first decade of the last century, and impeccably restored by its current owners, Dr. Benton Wheeler and his wife, Denise, Beverly Hall is arguably the most historically important grand residence in Memphis. What’s more, the Wheelers' magnificent home is a living treasure that is a joy to view, both inside and out. This month’s Memphis coverage gives all our readers a rare opportunity to do both. Enjoy!