A historic venue. A statement piece. A timeless threshold. The Boyce-Gregg Mansion, otherwise known as the Junior League of Memphis (JLM) Community Resource Center (CRC), is not only a beautiful wedding and special events venue, but it has a few stories of its own to tell. The home, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed by the architectural firm of Walk C. Jones Sr. and Max Furbringer for Memphis cotton pundit C.R. Boyce in the early 1900s. The stucco structure, which took from 1919 to 1921 to complete, sits on a lush, rolling, manicured lawn on the southwest corner of Central and Highland near The University of Memphis. In fact, according to Pat Pope, office manager for JLM, the Day family, who owned the home in the 1970s, changed the original address on Highland to a Central Avenue address, which was perhaps a more “dignified” address at that time.
The delicately southern landscape is graced with a plentitude of crepe myrtles, stately oak trees, dogwood trees and a huge magnolia tree in the side yard. Also on the property is a large, stately fountain, along with two gazebos, which have proven to be great spots for taking photos or just kicking back for a lazy afternoon conversation. One of the gazebos is original to the home and was once used for wood storage—many say you can still smell the wood as you walk in, even though it has been decades since it was used for that purpose. The home remained a residence until 1979 and was purchased by JLM in 1991. JLM, which is a charitable, non-profit women’s volunteer organization that began in Memphis in 1922, now uses the home as its headquarters and provides meeting space in the building for local nonprofits to use at no charge.
Nicole Manley Erwin, who is a member of JLM, had always dreamed of having her wedding at the CRC. But when she met and became engaged to her beau William Clarke Erwin in 2012, it seemed the CRC wasn’t going to be available. For various reasons, JLM had ceased renting out the home for weddings and special events for a few years. So, Nicole reluctantly booked another venue. “I wasn’t crazy about the venue we had settled on but it would do,” explained Nicole, recalling the day she found out the CRC might be available. “Then, out of nowhere, I saw a note on Facebook alluding to the CRC being available for special events again. I immediately sent a long note to the ladies in charge inquiring … really begging … for the CRC on the date Clarke and I had selected. I’ll never forget receiving the reply in the middle of the night—I was screaming at the top of my lungs with excitement!” Nicole was ecstatic to switch her venue to the CRC immediately. She always thought it would be a great place to have a wedding. “The grounds are so beautiful and the home has such history. All of the delicate little touches make it so interesting.”
The home is filled with materials and décor inspirations from all over the world. Boyce was quite the traveler, and he would send back materials and ideas from various locales. A lot of the home’s unique charm comes from the fact that it isn’t typical 20th Century American style. There are grand Grecian columns, old English Tiger’s Eye wood paneling, immaculate Italian marble and stonework, and ornate French fleur-de-lis designs in the ceiling plasterwork. “One of the best things about the house is that it feels like a home,” said Pope. “I’ve seen more than 300 couples get married here over the 24 years I’ve worked here, and every time, the bride comments on the homey ambience of the CRC. It’s not some huge, overused public building that shuffles events in and out, one after another. It’s a home—their home—to do with almost whatever they wish, from an extremely elegant and formal affair to walking down the aisle barefoot to someone belting out ‘Johnny B. Goode’!”
It was exactly that intimate, homey feel that drew Nicole to the CRC. She knew she wanted a smaller and cozy wedding ceremony that would incorporate family traditions from the past and build on new traditions that she and Clarke had begun to create. One such tradition allowed Nicole and Clarke to have a treasured moment together just before their ceremony. “I always would tie Clarke’s tie before we went somewhere, and we decided our wedding day should be no different,” Nicole said. “His groomsmen blindfolded him and led him out onto the staircase landing so I could fix his bowtie. We got to say a quick hello and continue our tradition, but he still didn’t get to see me.”
And as the sun began to set, Nicole walked down Central (to many cheering passers-by) to the front of the house. The CRC’s grand cobblestone walkway was her aisle, and she strolled with her dad to meet Clarke on the steps. Nicole and Clarke exchanged vows surrounded by friends and loved ones, and the area was decorated with several ferns, just like Nicole remembered from childhood days at her grandmother’s house.
When it came to finding an enchanting yet comfortable venue for their wedding, the Erwins were sure they knew which threshold would mark the beginning of their life together.
Story by Cara Sievers
Photography by Will H. Jacks