Prince Mongo of Memphis is considering releasing the keys to his castle in order to have peace with his fair city.
You couldn't blame Shelby County Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter for salivating at the prospect. It's been the patient Judge Potter who has gone toe to toe over the years with Prince Mongo Hodges on various occasions involving his most infamous property, "The Castle" on Central Avenue.
But, a deal is in the works that could find Judge Potter on the road to saying goodbye to the self titled "King of Zambodia" one last time.
A rusting chain intertwined with dying foliage wrapped around the front gate reflects an almost Orson Wells-Citizen Kane aura of glory days now gone. It's been years since any kind of life pulsed inside the infamous Prince Mongo's Castle in Midtown.
Closed as a public nuisance by the Shelby County District Attorney's Office when it was a wild and unbridled nightspot, the former regal Ashlar Hall has deteriorated into a decaying mess. It's owner, the flamboyant Mongo Hodges once taunted his outraged neighbors by telling them in no uncertain terms there was only one way he'd ever surrender the property.
"If they want 'The Castle' so much and they're so damn rich those phoney (explicative) people," he said in 2006. "Why don't they buy 'The Castle?' It's for sale. Buy it. Close it down."
As we said, the DA's office would eventually oblige him. But, prompted by the historic building's blighted condition, the city administration is stepping in to broker a deal to wrest the house from Mongo's grip of bad taste.
"It has been the subject of review through our e-team, which is a team composed of city, county and environmental court, around environmental issues," said George Little, Memphis Chief Administrative Officer. "It is my understanding there's been at least some informal offer of surrendering the property as one of the ways to resolve the matter."
Seven years ago, when the house was still on the market to buy, then the realtor assigned to it, Sam Bond, gave FOX13 News a tour of what was once a magnificent mansion. He even had suggested what a new owner might be able to do with the place.
"The building is somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000-square feet, single family residence, which is kind of large for that," Bond said in 2006. "But, that's what it was built for - sorority, fraternity, country club, lounge. My opinion is that the neighbors will probably welcome something that was tastefully done."
"The property has historical value, however, and we certainly would not want to pursue demolition as an option," Little said Thursday. "So, I'm sure there's a shared interest in coming up with a resolution that gets rid of the eyesore, but retains the historical value."
Yes, "Rosebud", there could still be plenty of life left in the old girl.
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