August 03, 2015

Century Later, Belvedere Still Inspires Boyles

By Amos Maki
– Commercial Appeal –

Edward Boyle, Charles Boyle and Harry Brennan bought what was considered an unsightly tract of land on the eastern edge of Memphis for $100,000 in 1906.

At the time, Union Avenue was nothing more than a muddy road with a pond near the intersection of what is now Belvedere Boulevard.

The investors’ goal was pretty simple: They wanted to build the city’s premier street.

They had their doubters. A 1906 Commercial Appeal story said their plans were “too visionary to ever be realized.”

But in March 1906, the Memphis Legislative Council approved their plan to create a grand boulevard.

Fast forward 100 years and Belvedere – which means “beautiful view” in Italian – is still considered one of the city’s gems and Boyle Investment Co. is till building landmark projects.

The Boyles were responsible for the creation, financing and development of Belvedere.

Russell E. Bloodworth, Jr., executive vice president, said Belvedere shows that good thoughtful design is lasting.

“I think it says a lot about good design,” Bloodworth said. “I think the challenge for us as we enter the century we’re now in is to find ways to build enduring value into the built environment.

“We’re in a throw-away culture and we build throw-away neighborhoods, and we can’t continue to do that because resources are scarce,” he said. “We’ve got to rethink the way we’re doing things to make sure we build things that endure.”Frank Ricks, founding member of Memphis-based Looney Ricks Kiss Architects, said when he asks people to name a great residential street, Belvedere is often the first one they mention.

“If it is well designed, it tends to last because it stands the test of time,” said Ricks. “It tends to retain its value longer and through different cycles.

“That intrinsic value is what makes it last,” he said.

Paul Boyle, Edward Boyle’s great grandson, said he is still impressed by the tree-lined boulevard and its beautiful mansions.

“It’s really amazing that it has held its value for 100 years,” said Paul Boyle, vice president of Boyle Investment Co.

But Boyle’s attention to detail and design didn’t stop with the development of Belvedere. It lives on today in some of the company’s other developments.

Elements of Belvedere can be found today in the Sherwood Forest and The Cloisters of River Oaks neighborhoods in East Memphis and Schilling Farms in Collierville.

“We used the same general proportions,” Bloodworth said.

The main boulevard at Schilling Farms, the master planned, mixed-use community in Collierville, was patterned after Belvedere, which was designed to be 3,300 feet long and 100 feet wide in five sections of 20 feet each. A landscaped median runs the length of the boulevard from Central to Union.

Although the trees arent’ as mature, the same design is evident at the Cloisters and at Schilling Farms.

Bloodworth, the meticulous planner behind the creation of Schilling Farms and other Boyle projects, actually got down on his hands and knees to measure Belvedere’s dimensions.

“That’s one of the things I think folks around here have always tried to do, and that is develop high-quality projects that have lasting aesthetic and economic value,” said Paul Boyle.