As a real estate agent, you show a lot of property. Lauren Cansler wasn’t banking on falling in love with Maley Manor, but she did. “When I came here, it was so cool,” Cansler just glows when she talks about Maley Manor. “I love the feel, the age, the history - it’s a beautiful house.”
Maley Manor was built in 1923 by Robert Sanford Maley. It was a very grand place and the family evidently liked it so much, they built a ‘twin house’ across the street and down a block. That home was torn down some time ago, but Maley Manor survived as an elegant reminder of times gone by.
In 1924, the Manor opened as a funeral home. It has four floors - a basement, an attic and two floors with living quarters - and quite impressively now has the oldest working elevator in the State of Tennessee, if not the oldest in the entire country. As you enter the home from the front door, you see a massive stairway that leads to the second floor. The woodwork is quite spectacular. On the second floor, most of the woodwork in the front area is red gum. Cansler was looking at replacing a piece of woodwork, but found out ‘you can’t get that anymore’ and if you could, a single door would be around $1000.
The rooms to the right and left of the downstairs front hall were viewing rooms. They have since been converted into an area that will be a piano bar [to the left] and a bedroom suite [to the right] now called the Veranda Room, in homage to the restuarant that occupied the home between 1978-1986, owned by the Erwin’s.
Behind the stairs is a large kitchen, now complete with a huge farm table, cozy chairs and an inviting warmth. To the right of the kitchen are the stairs leading to the basement, and to the far right is the elevator. In the basement, Cansler has a pool table with plans to make it a rec room for guests, when she opens the home as a B&B.
The elevator is now only used, now, for moving furniture up and down the floors. At one time, this was the place that the bodies were moved up and down from the embalming area to the preparation rooms, prior to placing them in the viewing rooms. All of the artifacts that have been found in the home have been placed in a glass cabinet display case upstairs. “It’s only fair that the historic pieces that we find are displayed; they are a part of the history of the community,” Chris Holley said. Holley is helping with the restoration of the building and has found old ledgers, a Maley family Bible, and other historic treasures in the attic.
The bedrooms upstairs are absolutely wonderful. Each has its own style and is in keeping with the historic time period that the house was born. Cansler loves the 1920’s and had a ‘Gatsby Party’ last year. “We drove around town with invitations in a Model T, one like the Maley family might have had to hand out invitations for the party.” Cansler added, “Everyone came in costume, it was a great party.”
As you walk up the stairs, there are two beautiful stained glass inserts that were made for the home. The upstairs landing leads to an open area with period furnishings that Cansler and Holley found in Memphis. The landing area opens into two hallways and into the first bedroom that you see. The Tea Rose room is decorated in pink in honor of the youngest Maley daughter who passed away as a child. [Remember, none of the Maley’s lived in this house.] Down the hallway, there is a room on the left that is a bit unusual. It’s called the ‘Maley Room’ and is the one room where ‘weird’ things continually happen. This room isn’t completed at this time. Straight ahead is the Coco Chanel room, a bright and airy room over the Veranda Room that is a delight. Decorated in homage to Coco, it leaves you with a smile.
Walking back down the hallway and to the other side of the stairs, you pass the Christopher Robin room. “You can’t have a little girl’s room without having a little boy’s room,” Cansler explained. Going down that hallway, you pass the display cabinet with the artifacts from the attic that have been found, then to the right, it’s fabulous!
The upstairs has been turned into a beautiful tribute to the 1920’s. The chandelier that is the centerpiece of the upstairs gathering room was rescued from a home in midtown. “It took us four hours to get this thing upstairs and hung in its current position,” Holley explained. “We wanted to take extra care to make sure that all of the crystal pieces made it in one piece.” Holley is also restoring the period light fixtures downstairs; one is finished and two remain.
The rooms upstairs include the Sherlock Holmes, Hemingway, Agatha Christie and the Edgar Allan Poe rooms. Each room is decorated in a style to match the author. Fittingly, the Edgar Allan Poe room was actually the embalming room. In this room, the floor was built up to cover up the stained tile floor. Each room has unique antiques that fit the genre: bricks for Sherlock, antique typewriter and portrait for Agatha, nautical lore for Hemingway and New Orleans antiques, complete with a bronze raven mirror in the Poe room.
When Cansler purchased the home, 40% of the current furnishings were already there. Another 30% came from her passion for antiques and collecting over the years and the rest, well, they have been great finds.
As for the local legends, they are true. “I didn’t know any of the history, the stories or anything else about the house,” Cansler smiled. “I didn’t believe it when I heard it and still ‘don’t want to know’ about anything that happens when people do the investigations that they are currently doing. I’m a Christian, and everything here has been friendly - I just want to keep it that way.” Cansler and her son Blake live in the house and take care of it. They live in the back portion that has been converted into living quarters. “It used to be where the carriages came through - there aren’t any weird things that happen there, and I’m good with that.” Cansler drives back and forth to Memphis to work. “I work for Crye-Leike and I love my job, but this area is so wonderful that I can’t wait to get home at night.”
“Large, old houses are noisy at night - there are four levels and weird things happen. The front door gets unlocked by itself, chairs move, and there are noises. The police know us - and thankfully they don’t mind to search all four levels when called. As a single mom, I can’t afford to be wrong about noises or unlocked doors,” Cansler explained. Stories about the home, the ghosts, and the sightings can be found at HistoricalHauntsMemphis.com. You can buy tickets to take part in a paranormal/historical investigation which is the only way you can really see the home during the witching hour. They were open for about a month as a B&B, but the state fire marshall has decided that they need a sprinkler system to have overnight guests. “It will completely destroy the beauty of the home, tearing through plaster, going over the top of priceless woodwork, to put a modern sprinkler system in. Unbelieveable that this kind of thing happens - waivers are granted in Memphis, Nashville, and other cities, but because we are not in a city, priceless antiquities can be destroyed,” Holley groaned at the thought and the price tag of trying to do it the ‘right way.’
The Manor can be rented for weddings, parties and other gatherings, but can’t be put to the use that Cansler originally thought she would. “I’ve put my life savings into this. I just hope that we can make it happen - it’s such a grand home and so full of history that I want to see it kept in one piece,” Cansler explained,”but I don’t know what will happen if we can’t open as a B&B.” She hopes that something will change. They have started the paperwork to be listed on the National Historic Register - but it takes time. “At this point, time is all we have a lot of,” Cansler laughed, “I was starting a new chapter in my life with this home after a bad divorce, but if we can’t open, we will have to start another chapter.”