1085 Poplar Avenue
October 18, 2013
If only homes could talk. Over a span of 136 years and three different centuries, 1085 Poplar has seen it all. It has been known as the Patton home, the Bejach home, the Patton-Bejach House, the Coach House, The Four Flames, and today, the Memphis Child Advocacy Center. 1085 Poplar has seen more than its share of Memphis history. It watched the 1878 Yellow Fever epidemic play out at its front door, the rise, fall and resurrection of downtown Memphis, Elvis, murder, and the comings and goings of Memphis high society.
The year the house was built depends on who you are talking to, but 1877 is most likely accurate. Thomas Newton Patton built the home as a wedding present for his second wife, Helen Amanda Coulter. At the time it was built the home was out in the county well away from the center of downtown Memphis. A fire badly damaged the house in 1883. Mr. Patton rebuilt it the next year using the original bricks. The Pattons lived in the home until 1900 when they sold it to Samuel Bejach, a Russian immigrant and downtown merchant.
The Bejachs lived in the home until around 1914. Samuel Bejach’s son Lois Dillard BeJach became a prominent local attorney, judge and state politician. In 1913 he sponsored a bill known today as BeJach’s Law, which gave married Tennessee women property rights years before they had a right to vote.
The home was later bought by Mrs. Walter L Cawthorn. She restored the home to its antebellum appearance. She ran an antique store called the Heirloom Shoppe in the home.
In the late 1950s Mrs. Lessie Gates moved in and transformed 1085 Poplar into the Coach House Restaurant. The Coach House was known as one of the finer dining establishments in Memphis. At its opening Mrs. Gates was quoted as saying, “For a long time I have felt there was a definite need in Memphis for a restaurant of this kind. One that would combine an exclusive dining service, deluxe-course dinners, and an appropriate setting.”
The establishment offered private dining rooms, floors of brick, huge mirrors, and treasures from this country and abroad. The courtyard in the rear was turned into a French-style open-air care.
In 1964 it became a private club. On March 31, 1965 the home made local headlines when Mrs. Gates was mysteriously murdered in the rear of the house.
The home then became The Four Flames Restaurant and the iconic four flames were placed in front of the house along Poplar. Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s the home continued its reputation as one of city’s premier dining establishments. The restaurant closed in the late 1980s and the building sat empty for a few years until it became the headquarters for one of Memphis’s social-service agencies, the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.
The Pattons, the Bejachs, Mrs. Gates and their accumulated stories have all come to rest within Elmwood Cemetery.