Where to Stay in Memphis, TN: The James Lee House Historic Bed & Breakfast

Imagine waking up in a luxurious Tempur-pedic king bed in a suite that has been standing since 1848. Experience over 175 years of history in this lovingly restored bed and breakfast in Victorian Village. Read on to discover where to stay in Memphis Tennessee- The James Lee House!

I am not typically a hotel gal. I prefer to feel like I’m experiencing local accommodations when I travel. Finding somewhere unique to the town I’m staying in makes my heart happy. Sometimes, that means an Airbnb. But preferably, that means a historic bed & breakfast! Discover more about my favorite accommodations in Memphis, TN: The James Lee House. 

You’ve heard of the Peabody Hotel, but have you heard of the James Lee House? Situated in Victorian Village, this national historic landmark boasts 5 unique rooms to accommodate your next visit. I stayed in the Lee suite for an opulent staycation, and want to make sure this grand home is on your radar the next time you are planning a visit! 

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Where to Stay in Memphis

I have lived in Memphis for 7 years now. I wrote a guide to share the best things to do from a locals perspective outlining all the must see history, entertainment and eating establishments. But I’m hesitant to admit I didn’t know much about Memphis’ history beyond the Civil Rights movement.

During the Gilded Age you’ll find that Memphis housed its wealthiest elite in what was known as the first suburb, now referred to as Victorian Village. Nestled in part of today’s medical district is a street with 6 historic mansions (including the James Lee House). Each house tells a story and displays impeccable architecture that deserves to be enjoyed. 

The Woodruff Fontaine house and Mallory Neely house are next door, and open for tours. I have spent time in each, appreciating the history preserved for over a century. 

But the James Lee House is perhaps the most special on the block because it is open as a bed & breakfast. You can stay overnight and enjoy a firsthand experience in this Gilded Age mansion. 

Did you Know? The Gilded Age is a show on HBO that follows New York City’s elite in 1882 from their mansions in Manhattan to their vacation cottages in Newport, Rhode Island. This show inspired me to take a long weekend trip to Newport to see these cottages myself. Situated on cliffs with views of the coast, they are divine. They are the best example of mansions from this era (except maybe The Biltmore in North Carolina- another one of the Vanderbilt’s many residences). Read more about taking a trip to Rhode Island here. 

Where to Stay in Memphis, TN: Victorian Village Bed & Breakfast James Lee House

I arrived for check in at 4 o’clock to give myself plenty of time to enjoy the property before dinner. The common areas include a gourmet kitchen with Viking appliances and a stocked fridge, the breakfast parlor, sitting room, large dining room and foyer. In these areas, the crown molding, fireplaces, flooring and gorgeous gilded mirrors are all original.

I stayed in the Lee Suite, and cannot recommend it enough. The suite combined three rooms to create the bed, seating and dining area in addition to a full ensuite bathroom, complete with a soaking tub. This room is not even in the same league as a room you’d find in a hotel. Treat yourself, and choose a bed & breakfast!

The James Lee House is a traditional bed and breakfast. The innkeeper, C.C., will confirm breakfast plans with you, and prepare a full breakfast spread for you in the morning! This is such a fun bonus. Breakfast is always better when someone else cooks it for you.

Beyond staying at the James Lee House, I want to share a few other things I did in the area to enjoy my 24 hour staycation. The bed & breakfast is in Victorian Village, also known as Millionaires row. There are two other mansions on the street open to tour- the Mallory Neely house and the Woodruff Fontaine house. I recommend taking time to tour them both! Here’s a few photos of the interior. 

After you have become familiar with the street and seen all the architecture, it’s probably time to eat. We chose Tonica for dinner, but Ecco is just down the street and an excellent option too. Both are located in the historic Evergreen district, about a 5 minute drive away from the James Lee House. We almost bought a home in this neighborhood, so it always feels nostalgic for us! Both are European inspired upscale cafes, perfect for tapas, small plates and cocktails.

The beauty of staying at a bed and breakfast is, obviously, the breakfast. So you will enjoy a great spread at the James Lee House. However, if you are looking for more breakfast ( or lunch), head around the corner to Sunrise. They have one of my favorite breakfasts in town! They have great food and a full bar. 

Down the street a bit further you can find Sun Studios, the famous recording studio that opened in 1950. Artists who recorded music at Sun include 18 1/2 year old Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. This is a fun tour for both locals and visitors alike!

I hope I have convinced you to look into staying at Bed & Breakfasts for your next vacation (or staycation)! I love the care that goes into making each room unique. It’s truly an experience and always feels more homey to me than a hotel. Some of my favorite B&Bs I have stayed at over the years include:

The Sailmakers House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Randy Pike in the Lake District, England

Castle Hill in Oxford, Mississippi

The Magical Tree House in Birmingham, Alabama

Each of these has their own vibe and price point, but have been thoroughly enjoyable stays. I hope you experience the history and opulence of the James Lee House in Memphis!

Where to Stay in Memphis

Enjoy the journey,