Did you know from 1959 thru 1970 Mud Island was a one runway airport?? Mud Island as we know it today opened in 1982. The River Museum was closed this summer as they plan for the next phase of the park’s history, but the scaled replica of The Mississippi River is still rolling right along!! If you have never seen this model, you need to go! This hydrologic model shows the river from Cairo Missouri and empties into one acre ”Gulf of Mexico ” that holds a whopping 1.3 million gallons of water(Bud Boogie Beach to old-time Memphians😊). Plus, as an added bonus, has some of the best views of the city’s skyline..one might say a bird’s eye view 😊
Mention the MidSouth Coliseum to any longtime Memphian, and they will immediately have a story for you. Either a concert they saw there, a graduation they attended, or my personal favorite, Monday Night Wrestling(but it is pronounced Rasslin😊). Built in 1963 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in December 2000. The 10,085 seat arena was also used as the home for the original Central Hockey League team the Memphis Wings from 1964-1969. When the league reformed in the early ’90s, it was the home of the Memphis Riverkings. The Memphis Rogues indoor soccer league also played their 1979-1980 season there. And let’s not forget all the Tiger basketball that was played there. And there are so many concert memories. One of the few stops on the Beatles’ final American tour, the band played 2 concerts there on August 19,1966. Elvis recorded Live on Stage in Memphis March 20th, 1974. The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Carpenters, Alice Cooper, Ozzie, John Denver, Shaun Cassidy, Prince, Tina Turner, Journey, Waylon, Willie, Merle, The Gap Band, The Boss, Bob Dylan…they all played at the Coliseum at one time or another. If you lived in Memphis as a child/teen, it’s probably the place where you saw your first concert. Mine was Shaun Cassidy in 1976. So many great concert memories, from Barry Manilow riding an elephant in on “Copacabana,” to AC DC firing a real cannon during “For Those About to Rock,” my best concert memories took place at 996 Early Maxwell Blvd. The Coliseum closed in 2006 but has remained a subject near and dear to many people’s heart.
Did you know the Orpheum theater was almost demolished in 1976?? The original structure, called The Grand Opera House, was built in 1890. It became known as the Orpheum in 1907 and was home of some of the finest Vaudeville acts in the south. This building burned to the ground in the famous fire of 1923. In 1928 it was rebuilt and reopened with much fanfare. The new building was twice the size of the original and built to show both live performances and silent movies. The building was purchased by M. A. Lightman for only $75,000 in 1940 and begin its run as a first-run movie theater. After over 30 years as a theater, the Orpheum showed its final film in 1976. Malco sold the building and plans were made to demolish it in favor of office space. Luckily, a group of concerned Memphis citizens formed the Memphis Development Foundation and purchased this treasure off the courthouse steps a year later. It was one of the first buildings in Memphis to be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The grand theater reopen in January 1984 and in the last 34 years has presented more Broadway touring productions on average than any other theater in the United States. Another good Memphis save!
Julien de Casabianca has given Memphis something to talk about, and thankfully in a good way! Known as the “Robin Hood of Street Art” he has taken his Outings Project to over 50 cities worldwide. With filmmaker and artist in his title, Mr. de Casabianca has brought the community together with his beautiful wheat paste murals found in various sizes and locations around town. The purpose of the project is simple, take these classic works of art off of museum walls and into the community where they will reach a wider audience and spark conversations that will last long after the murals are gone.
Pellegrino di Mariano Rossini’s Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint.
The Outings Project is truly a community program. The artist visited Memphis earlier in the year and met with people in the community from all walks of life to chose the 21 characters to “free” from the paintings and bring to life on buildings, signpost, and doorways around the city. The result has been spectacular!
La Femme en very (The Woman in Green)by Leon Bonhomme
From beautiful Renaissance works such as this 6 story beauty located on E. H Crump Blvd:
Painted by William-Adolphe Bouguereau in 1886, At the Foot of the Cliff.
To Memphis’ own Carroll Cloar;
And everything in between!
Wilford Conrow Maser-El-Din Hoja
Reading by the Brook by Winslow Homer
Gladys by Abbott H Thayer
Cori With Cat painted by Robert Henri
Portrait of Bessie Vance by Katherine Augusta Carl
There are 21 of these beauties located all around town. And all of them are in the permanent collection at Brooks Art Gallery in Memphis, so you can see the mural and then go see the original work of art! Thank you Julien de Casabianca for bringing this amazing opportunity to Memphis!
The word repurpose and renovate have become buzz words in our community. After years of operating under the philosophy of new and modern is the only way to go, builders and developers are finally starting to see that repurposing and re-imagining a space has its place in growth as well. We have seen this play out several times in recent years around our city. Sears Crosstown being one of the best examples, a crowing jewel in Memphis architecture and real estate. We have another chance to save a beautiful building with a rich history.
The William C. Ellis & Sons Ironworks and Machine Shop located at 241-245 S. Front opened in 1862. When it closed in December of 2016, it had earned a place in Memphis history as the longest running family owned business in a single location. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Before closing it’s doors in 2016, a deal was brokered with the Carlisle Group who purchased the 137 year old property with plans to move forward on it’s “One Beale” development. It was rumored the building was to be demolished to make room for new luxury high-rises and a parking garage. But Chase Carlisle listened to the pleas from Memphis Heritage, a non-profit that works to maintain architecturally and historically significant buildings in the Mid-South area.
Last Thursday night, Memphis Heritage hosted a tour and informative meeting inside the beautiful William C. Ellis & Sons Ironwork and Machine Shop. After touring the three buildings, those in attendance heard Chance Carlisle share his vision for this historic property. The building above with its gorgeous view of the Mississippi River and the iconic Hernando Desoto Bridge is slated to become a ballroom and event venue. With its high ceilings and beautiful brick archway, this will be an excellent addition to the Memphis downtown. ThIs building is the original foundry storage building and is being discussed as being used for an upscale tavern/ whiskey tasking. The largest of the buildings, the machine shop, and garage that face Front Street(the first picture in this post) is being discussed for an open and airy conference room. By re-imagining this property and listening to suggestions from Memphians who loved this building and desired to see its rich history preserved, Carlisle LLC has joined the Memphis renovation revolution.
Did you know that over the past 4 years Memphis has completed over 250 revitalization projects?? Just in the last few years we have seen The 19th Century Club, The Tennessee Brewery, The Chisca Hotel and Clayborn Temple all saved from demolition and repurposed. But my personal favorite revitalization and repurposing story happened just last year. Crosstown Concourse,or what we lifelong Memphians will always call it, Sears Crosstown. Built in only 180 days, Sears Crosstown opened August 27, 1927. At over 650,000 square feet this building was the largest building in Memphis to date. More than 1,000 people were employed to staff the retail store and process the 45,000 orders that came into the catalog center every day! At its peak it had an in-house hospital! As times changed,however, the way people shopped also changed. The retail store closed in 1983 and the catalog distribution center closed in 1993. After sitting vacant for more than 20 years, work began in 2014 to give this beautiful building a new lease on life. In 2017 the building reopened and has since won numerous architectural awards. There are restaurants, retail, businesses, a brewery, movie theater, soon to be high school, apartments…you get the picture…there is A LOT to do within these walls!! Scattered throughout the building are historical pictures and items salvaged during the renovations. It is a beautiful story of a city loving a building back to life…read more in the link below and put it on your list of things to explore in Memphis!!
Hebe Fountain in court square was funded through donations from several of the cities most prominent citizens and was dedicated on May 27, 1876, in observance of the nations Centennial. The sculpture weighs in at 7,000 pounds and stands approximately 20 feet high. It is named after the Greek mythological figure Hebe who was a cupbearer to the gods. It was toppled during strong winds in 1942 and due to the expense and rigors of World War II was placed in storage until it could be repaired and reerected in 1949. It still stands proudly in court square and is a beautiful part of downtown history.