South Main was actually a suburb of Memphis in the mid-1800s through the turn of the century. This special structure is South Main's only remaining single-family Victorian-era residence built in the late 1800's and prior to the neighborhood's transition from a residential into a commercial transit hub.
The John Alexander Austin house was built as a private residence in 1873. At the time it was built, the house was located on riverfront property, and Front Street was actually called Shelby Street. John Alexander Austin was a confederate soldier who apprenticed in New York men's stores and later opened clothing stores in Memphis.
By 1907 the house became a boarding house. It is interesting to note that this house has always been occupied, even during South Main's distressed times in the 70s and 80s.
But when Hank and Barbara Cowles, who now reside in the home, bought it in 1989, the house had nonetheless had seen better days. Mushrooms were growing out of the walls. The Cowles' poured their heart and soul into renovating the home. Several years later in 1993 they moved into the home and today it serves as a wonderful monument to days gone by.