History of The James Lee House
Located at 690 Adams Avenue, this house was originally a two-story farm house built by William Harsson in 1848. In 1852 Charles Wesley Goyer bought the house from his father-in-law and the Goyer family, numbering 10 children, lived here until 1890. It became necessary to expand, and Goyer made one addition in 1853 and later added a tower, and a third floor, as well as unifying the appearance of the rest of the house in 1873. In 1890 the house was sold to James Lee, Jr. and the house ultimately became the property of his daughter Rosa who donated it to the city to be used as the James Lee Arts Academy (later to become the Memphis College of Arts). The home has been vacant since 1959 when the college moved to Overton Park.
Although the house is composed of three different sections, it is a good example of a late mid-19th century mansion built by a well-to-do family. The most elaborate interior is found in the front and last section of the house, and includes plaster trim, plaster ceiling medallions, shaped moldings and marble mantels.