Landmark and Legend
Memphis, TN
Here we note legends-in-their-own-time and landmarks as they transition into history

Threatened Landmarks
Some people hate it, some like it, regardless of opinion the Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue & Graves in what was once known as Forrest Park, now designated as Health Science Park by the Memphis City Council (and a challenge of the renaming is before the Tennessee Court of Appeals) is a major topic of controversy in Memphis and Shelby County. Located in the public park  along Union Avenue in the medical center area of the city,  long simmering objections to the statue have become red hot in June/July, 2015, as part of the national discussions regarding symbols of the Confederacy in public locations. Those discussions, in turn, were largely caused by the shooting deaths of nine African Americans in a Bible study group by a young white man who apparently embraced the Battle Flag of Northern Virgina (the "Rebel flag") as a statement on his viewpoint on the racial situation in the USA. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton has called for the removal of the statue and the graves of Forrest and his wife which are in the park. The Memphis City Council has voted to adopt a resolution endorsing the moving of the graves. According to legal counsel, the graves can only be moved by order of Chancery Court, the statue only by agreement of the Tennessee Historical Commission. It appears the city is preparing to pursue those avenues. As such, this obvious landmark is categorized as being threatened at least in so far as its public display on public property.

Allen Steam Plant - Now officially known as the Allen Fossil Plant is the TVA owned, coal-fired, electric power generationg plant was completed in 1959 by the city owned Memphis Light, Gas, and Water Division. It was purchased by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1984. Now the TVA, as part of an agreement to reduce air polution, is proposing buiding a natural gas fired generating plan nearby. TVA's plans have not been finalized but the gas fired plant is its choice among the alternatives, although one alternative is to add additional scrubbers to the emission system of the existing plant. While this proposal does not address the fate of the "steam plant" as it was commonly known, it does threaten the landmark's future. Should the TVA plan go forward, the existing Allen plant would be retired from service by December, 2018.

The Heartbreak Hotel, a 128 room facility located across the street from Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion, is planned to be demolished after Elvis Presley Enterprises builds a new $70-million, 450-room hotel adjacent to the late rock 'n' role idol's property. The Heartbreak Hotel will close and be demolished, according to the plans, after the new hotel opens. The new hotel, named The Guesthouse at Graceland, is designed as a six story building located on property just north of the Graceland estate. The new hotel is tentatively scheduled to open in 2015, rumor is that the developers wish to open in time for "Elvis Week" in August, 2015. Given the approval process is just underway by June 2014, that would be a very aggressive construction schedule. Regardless, if the project goes forward, the Heartbreak Hotel's demolition would likely occur late in 2015 or in 2016 if the plan goes forward as announced.

Update: January 13, 2015 - The Tennessee Brewery at 495 Tennessee Street has been bought and adaptive redevelopment primarily into apartments is in planning. Plans are to create about 148 units, most one bedroom, in the historic building and in a new building across the street where the bottling plant once stood. The project is expected to cost about $27.5-million, including a 349 space parking garage adjacent/attached to the Wash House, which is what the developers are calling the structure to built across the street from the brewery building. An office space in the brewery building already has an occupant lined up, according to developers. Estimate annual economic impact of the project once finished is preliminarily estimated at $5-million. Planning is expected to continue until the fourth quarter of 2015, construction projected to take one year. About 2017 units may become available for rental. Financing arrangements will continue to develop in the coming months.
In January, 2014, the owners of the Tennessee Brewery property at 477 Tennessee Street in Memphis, began to publicly discuss a demolition contract on the vacant building, which was built in 1890. The commercial real estate broker who represents the brewery’s owners said any plan would include the caveat that demolition would not be immediate in hopes that someone would step forward to save the building. During the spring, a brief use of part of the property included a variety of community events, primarily a beer garden with food trucks, and live music. As of early June, an August 1, 2014, demolition date still remained in the plans of the building's owners. Architectural historian Judith Johnson has said that the Tennessee Brewery is “most spectacular 19th century building in Memphis.”

In September, 2013, it was learned that the University of Memphis has approached the City of Memphis about the possibility of acquiring Audubon Park. According to published reports, the talks are in the initial stages but the city mayor has said that if the park should be transferred to the University it would remain open to the public and that the University would not put an athletic facility, like a University owned football stadium, there. Interim university president Brad Martin is also on record as saying the park would continue to function as a public park. Audubon Park is 373 acres with an 18 hole golf course, tennis center,  a forested walking trail, pavilion, and picnic tables. The Memphis Botanic Garden is also inside the park boundaries. Audubon Park was established in the late 1940s and early 1950s when the city and county each acquired land for it.

Update: October, 2015: Belz Enterprises is proposing to demolish the existing building(s) and erect a $43 million mixed-use development. It would have a grocery store on the ground floor taking the majority of 451,000 square feet of commercial space, 188 apartments, and 513 parking spaces.
The properties once and perhaps best known as the Towery Building and a Holiday Inn, Union Avenue, both brands having left long ago, are under tentative contract for sale and the city is being asked to demolish the structures for the new development, according to an article in The Commercial Appeal, December 18, 2012. The three story office building fronts Union Avenue at McLean Boulevard and the eight story hotel behind it are currently empty. Towery Publishing once used the office space as its headquarters, the hotel was originally a Holiday Inn, though it had changed brands several times since then. Those involved with the proposed project are not saying what it is, but one advocate says he is a midtown supporter and believes the community will appreciate the plans. Neither those associated with the developer nor officials with the city would disclose the nature of the proposed redevelopment project for the southwest corner of that midtown intersection.

Raleigh Springs Mall, in May, 2015, became the subject of lawsuits by the City of Memphis which is attempting to use eminent domain to take posession and then to demolish the once popular and bustling magnet for retail in the northern sections of Memphis. For years the mall hosted major national retailers as anchor stores. The mall has been struggling to continue in business after a decade or more of declining occupancy. In the June, 2012, Tennessee State Representative Antonio Parkinson said the mall should be torn down if efforts to revive it are not successful. "Would I be opposed to the mall being torn down?  Absolutely not," Parkinson told WMC-TV news. In early December, 2012, one section on the north end of the mall which used to house a J.C. Penny's store was demolished. Mall management said it had been vandalized and had become a safety issue. In the spring of 2014, the City of Memphis administration proposed demolition of much of the mall, replacing it with city offices, including a police precinct, and space for commercial establishments.

Highland Street branch, Memphis Public LibraryUpdate: October, 2013 - The University of Memphis says it plans to purchase the building that housed the Highland Street Branch of the Memphis Public Library,  which opened in 1951 at Highland Street and Midland Avenue. The library was closed for repairs after storms in April, 2011, due to flooding. In mid November, 2011, the City announced it would not reopen the facility. Staff were reassigned to other libraries after the storms and now the materials will also be similarly disbursed. The library had been expanded in 1959 and had a capacity of 60,000 volumes and had also undergone renovation in 1999. A city efficiency study recommended the branch for closing in 2007 since the new main library located at 3030 Poplar Avenue is less than two miles away. It's closing was proposed in 2008 during budget cutbacks but avoided the ax. The property may be declared surplus and sold. Major mixed commercial development is underway crosswise at the intersection (see the Highland Street Church of Christ page) and the University of Memphis plans to purchase property on the opposite side of Midland Avenue for a new "front door" to the university.

Prospect Elementary School (also MCS South Area Office)Update: On July 31, 2012, the Shelby County Board of Education voted to sell the property formerly used as Prospect Elementary School and the Memphis City Schools South Area Office to D Mae International Corporation, doing business as Young Man University, for $210,000. The selling price is $1.14-million less than what the property was appraised at in March, 2011. Memphis City School officials say vandals had stolen or damaged everything inside, including all plumbing and electrical fixtures, leaving the building with little or no value. The sale includes about 6.83 acres of land. Dr. Jeffrey R. Futtrell is listed as president of D Mae International Corporation. It is anticipated the building will be demolished by the new owner.
Prospect Elementary School, 2300 Hernando Road, opened in 1952 and closed as a school in 1981. In 1982, Memphis City Schools made it the South Area Office and it housed administrative offices, including those for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC) and the Memphis Interscholastic Athletic Association. The building has been unoccupied since the 2005-2006 school year. Memphis City Schools proposes to sell the building and the 6.83 acre campus. Since the building's future is somewhat unknown, it is being listed here as threatened, however, it is very likely the building will be preserved and used by the future owners. Several organizations have expressed interest in the property, including charter schools, private schools, faith-based groups, community organizations, real estate investors, reading and literacy advocacy programs. The property has been appraised at a value of $1,135,000.

Longview Middle School (also Longview Junior High School)Longview Middle School,  1895 South Orleans Street, opened in 1955 as a junior high school with grades 7 through 9. In 1981, it was converted to a middle school with grades 5-8. It closed in 2007. Memphis City School proposes selling the building and 5 acres of land around it. The campus originally was 22.8 acres and also is the site of Alton Elementary School, which continues to operate. The school system plans to subdivide the lot to provide the 5 acres as part of the sale of the Longview structure. The Longview school consisted of 2 buildings. The primary classroom building is 3 stories and has 28 classrooms, a library, and administrative offices. An auxiliary building contains a gymnasium with locker rooms on the top floor and a cafeteria with one large classroom or storage area on the bottom floor. The city school system says there has been some community interest in purchasing the buildings. The two buildings and 5 acre lot are appraised at $2,015,000.

UTCHS: Randolph Hall, Feurt Building, Beale BuildingAs of summer, 2015, all three of these buildings have been demolished.
While many Memphians may not recognize these specific buildings, thousands of former students at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will. This web site gives more "landmark" weight to such buildings because so many people spent so much time in them, even if the broader community may not have any particular association with the buildings. More generally, people recognize the UT Memphis campus and its many buildings and may take note when there are changes but not particularly notice the individual structures. The campus is undergoing changes, with a new College of Pharmacy building, a soon-to-be-built cardiovascular research facility, and renovations to existing buildings. Three buildings have been targeted to be torn down as soon as funds become available. In fact, demolition of Randolph Hall, 790 Madison Avenue, the Feurt Building, 26 South Dunlap Street, and the Beale Building, 822 Beale Street, were already planned but have been postponed due to budget cuts. University officials say the old buildings are not worth any additional investment and need to be removed. The Beale Building, located on Beale Street behind the Scottish-Rite Building and next to the Office Depot store, originally was a bus barn but later was converted to offices for the University, including the College of Social Work. The Feurt Building originally housed the pharmacy and dentistry academic and laboratory areas. Randolph Hall served as a residence for students and should not be confused with the adjacent and not-as-tall Wassell Randolph Student Alumni Center (SAC) building.
You may find a reference to UTCHS in our notes. Over the past 40-years not only have new buildings risen and old ones been removed, but the name of the institution has changed. Now known as the University of Tennessee Heath Sciences Center (UTHSC), it was known for many years as the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences (UTCHS), and at one time simply as University of Tennessee - Memphis (UTM).  See also the page for Randolph Hall as it is now history.

Mid-South ColiseumThe Coliseum Coaltion will hold a public meeting August 3, 2015, 6pm,  at the Orange Mound Community Center in Memphis to discuss the future of the building. The Coalition claims the building has been "saved" but efforts to put it to its best use are still needed. Landmark and Legend still classifies the building as threatened and beleives that is still its status.
The Mid-South Coliseum, opened in 1963, was last used for public events in 2006. The 11,00 seat facility is located on what is known as the Fairgrounds, though the Mid-South Fair is no longer held there and the property itself is undergoing major changes as the city of Memphis redevelops it. During its active period, the "round house" as MSU fans often called it, the Mid-South Coliseum was home of the Memphis State University Tigers basketball team, concerts, including one of the last performed by The Beatles, public ice skating, professional ice hockey teams (Memphis Wings and Memphis South Stars (1964-1969) and  in the 1990s, the Memphis RiverKings ice hockey team, professional basketball teams the Memphis Pros (1971–1972), the Memphis Tams (1972–1974) and the Memphis Sounds (1974–1975), boat shows, tractor pulls, and professional wrestling, among many other events. The future of the Coliseum has been in doubt since even before its closing, as event bookings dwindled after the opening of the 20-thousand seat Pyramid Arena downtown  in 1991 and even more after the 18-thousand seat FedEx Forum, also downtown, opened in 2004. In January, 2011, the Memphis Housing and Community Development director said the coliseum "has numerous safety and code issues, and it has asbestos throughout... It cannot compete with more modern facilities." Update: in March, 2011, the City administration proposed spending $25-million for improvements to nearby Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and demolition of the Coliseum. The matter appears yet to be resolved but  as late as April, 2012, Memphis mayor A C Wharton said, "I just don't see it fitting in." August 28, 2012, excerpt from The Commercial Appeal, "The plan now under study... would raze the Mid-South Coliseum and replace it with "tournament level" baseball diamonds and a new multipurpose indoor facility in a parklike setting."

The Plaza Theater / BookstarUpdate: The Osaka Japanese Fusion Bistro restaurant has opened in the space. This writer has not been inside to see what historic elements may or may not remain.
The Plaza Theater is being listed as threatened because the lease for the Bookstar store that has occupied the space since 1992 is being discontinued. While the building itself is not believed to be at risk, the elements of the movie theater that Bookstar preserved may be. As Bookstar renovated the space when moving in, several vestiges of the old movie house were preserved. The leasing agent says whether those details remain depends on the future tenant. "Except for the leveled floor, the main room has the shape and feel of a large theater.
A movie screen hangs over the magazine racks on one end of the room, and small projection windows overlook the room from the opposite wall. The men's bathroom has its own swerving sitting room with upholstered seating. Outside, the Bookstar sign is structured like a marquee, and underneath stands a glass-encased ticket booth." (The Commercial Appeal).

The Rowland J. Darnell HouseUpdate:  June, 2015 - The owners of the
Rowland J. Darnell House, aka the Nineteenth Century Club building say they closed on $2-million in financing to turn the 1907 home into a French and Japanese cusine upscale restaurant.
In August, 2014 preservationists withdrew a lawsuit, saying they were unable to find a viable buyer for the building so there would be no value in winning the court case. A few days later, however, there were reports the owners planed to let the structure remain and open a restaurant inside the historic home. Although the preservationists contested the legality of the
sale, the new owners planned demolition of the building.
A winning bidder was selected in a January 24, 2013, auction of the historic Rowland J. Darnell House, aka the Nineteenth Century Club. June West, Executive Director of Memphis Heritage, tells the Commercial Appeal, "... the winning bidder does not intend to preserve the historic building. 'It's very devastating to the community'" 
The house was built in the first decade of the 20th century at 1433 Union Avenue in Memphis.  According to the Shelby County General Sessions Environmental Court, the house must undergo substantial repairs to meet current fire and construction codes.

The Scottish Rite building site is desired by the University of Tennessee for a medical clinic.The University of Tennessee Health Services Center is proceeding to prepare a formal offer to buy the Scottish Rite Building at 825 Union Avenue in Memphis despite the organization's statement that it  has "no real desire to sell our building." The university wants to demolish the 101 year old building and put up a multi-story Clinical Services facility. A University spokesperson says if the offer is refused, "then we would have to assess what our next step would be.” In an earlier Commercial Appeal article (July 1, 2010), the executive vice chancellor and chief of staff of the university is reported to have said that using eminent domain to take the building is not being considered. According to newspaper, a decade of discussions between the University and the Memphis Consistory of the Ancient of the Accepted Scottish Rite resulted in an appraisal of the property which came in at $2-million, but that price did not interest the Scottish Rite.

Sterick Building, MemphisThe Sterick Building, 8 South Third Street, in downtown Memphis was put on the "Ten in Tennessee" of endangered historic structures in May, 2010. The Tennessee Preservation Trust calls the 29 story building a "unique example of a Gothic Style office building with attendant interior and exterior period architectural detailing..." At its construction in 1930 it was the tallest building in the South. until 1965, the tallest in Memphis. It has been closed since 1986. The building remains boarded up, with various owners over the years finding it uneconomical to renovate. It is said to contain environmentally hazardous materials such as asbestos. The Tennessee Preservation Trust says it is endangered by "inappropriate renovations, redevelopment challenges, and a looming land lease expiration." The least for the land upon which the building sits expires in 2025. As a major office building for decades in Memphis and the tallest skyscraper for many of those years, the Sterick Building was and is truly a landmark. Even today, it remains the fifth tallest building in the city. Update: According to a May 5, 2012, article in The Commercial Appeal, the Downtown  Memphis Commission is "pressing for a feasibility study of mixed-use development of the Sterick Building and national marketing of the empty landmark once the study is completed."

Cobblestone landing at Memphis RiverfrontRiverfront cobblestone landing - Many say plans of the Riverfront Development Corporation would seriously devalue the historic cobblestone landing in Memphis. For more information, see the websites of Memphis Cobblestones, Friends For Our Riverfront, and the Memphis Riverfront Development Corporation.

Anderson-Coward House (Justine's)The Tennessee Preservation Trust has listed the Anderson-Coward House, 919 Coward Place, Memphis, which was the location of what was then considered the city's finest restaurant for many years, Justine’s, as an endangered historic property due to vandalism and neglect. The is believed to have been built in the 1840s and remodeled and expanded in the 1850s. See the Tennessee Preservation Trust website.

The Public Promenade, Memphis, TNThe Public Promenade on the river bluff at Memphis.  The Tennessee Preservation Trust says this property is in danger of being "leased to developers, and 400 foot high office buildings and a mall would be constructed that would change the entire character of the riverfront area--- and separate a significant portion of the city center from its long-standing relationship with the Mississippi River." See the websites of  The Tennessee Preservation Trust and the Memphis Riverfront Development Corporation.
Update: The Tennessee Preservation Trust lists this historic property now as having been saved. While the original development plan seem to have been withdrawn, Landmark and Legend is not at all confident the Public Promenade is safe from historically