Recently, Susie and I went on a date…..we traveled to downtown Memphis to spend the night at the Madison Hotel and go to the Joe Walsh concert. Since we intend to write about our destinations, real estate offices, and different markets I thought I should include downtown Memphis. I grew up here so will share my memories of downtown through the years.
Riverside drive, the old bridge, and the new bridge shaped like an “m” seems to be a good place to start. In high school we went to the old bridge and walked out over the river on the railroad tracks. You can climb down a ladder and hang out on top of the huge concrete posts that support the bridge. Why? Because we could. A very interesting view at night of the Mississippi river rushing below. And then they lit the new bridge. What a sight. I still enjoy the feeling of coming back from any trip west of Memphis, driving across that bridge, seeing the Memphis skyline, and knowing I’ll be back home soon.
Lots of festivals through the years. Fireworks on the 4th, Memphis in May – with the Beale Street Music Festival, International BBQ contest (it would take hours to tell all about that), and the sunset symphony with James Hyter singing Ole Man River. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d9IcV9scUk
I worked downtown at the Commercial Appeal for 15 years on Union Avenue, a 2 minute walk to the Sun Café for lunch which was right next door to Sun records where Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, Rufus Thomas, and others recorded. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Salq2Xl5YrI
The Peabody Hotel renovation in the 80’s was a milestone in the revitalization of downtown Memphis. A grand place then and now. Roof top parties, the march of the Peabody ducks, Chez Phillip restaurant and 2 story suites. Then the Pyramid arena was built, Peabody place, AutoZone Park. The FedEx Forum eventually replaces the pyramid for basketball and concerts leaving it useless. It was purchased last year and turned into one of the largest Bass Pro shops with indoor lake and an observation deck offering an entirely new view of the bridge.
Mud island. a great name for a peninsula separating the Mississippi River and the mouth of the Wolf River. Too much sand and not safe to build on they said until developers decided to do it anyway some 30 + years ago. High end homes with river views, the monorail from downtown to the amphitheater for outdoor concerts, and the river walk. a duplicate of the river done on a small scale in the sidewalk that the kids can follow all the way to the swimming pool made to look like the gulf of Mexico.
Beale street, slow to develop over the years but still growing. A. Schwab’s department store where you can find everything from magic potions to size 50 overalls. Miss Polly’s Chicken and Waffles, Rum Boogie Café, and Doe’s Eat Place. Wednesday night bike night. Silky Sullivan’s where you can enjoy a “diver” with half a dozen friends with straws, and a live goat.
BB King’s place where he played a couple of times a year. I was able to take my son and a black Gibson Lucille guitar to a show one night and put it in Mr King’s lap for a signature. Outdoor bands and street acrobats doing stunts for tips keep it interesting.
1990s and 2000 brings development including condos, renovation of the old Holiday Inn Riverfront, and new retail and dining. The “Mid America Mall” added cobblestones and a trolley to main street many years ago and now serves as a path to restaurants, Beale Street, condos, and South Main art galleries, and the Loraine Motel and Civil Rights Museum.
And then there’s Raiford’s with a dancing pole, open drum set, lighted dance floor, and fog machine. I’ll let you just look that one up for yourself….