299 South Main, Longinotti Hotel (Pearl's Oyster House)

The 24-room Longinotti Hotel was built here in 1895 by a Genoa, Italy immigrant brothers August and James Longinotti. Apparently, the Longinotti's also tried their hand at making and distributing "fine whiskey" from the hotel. The hotel became the Manhattan Hotel in 1948 with the Manhattan Cafe on the ground floor, until the hotel closed in 1954.

This is now the site of Pearl's Oyster House.

Source: Historic-Memphis.com

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299 South Main, Longinotti Hotel (Pearl's Oyster House)

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300 South Main, Main Street Fruit Stand

The Digital Archive of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center

The Digital Archive of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center

This row of buildings date back to 1920.  300 South Main was, during its early years, the Main Fruit Company.  Their ads boasted  "We are Dealers in all kinds of Fruit, Cigars, Tobacco.  Try our Home-made Italian Spaghetti, Chili Mack and Chili Con Carne!"  

Notice the mural on the Pontotoc side of the building.  This mural called "Taking Care of Business," was created by a group of students under the supervision of celebrated local artist George Hunt. It was one in a series of murals created around the city during 1983, and one of only two murals remaining from this project.

302 South Main was a former barber college.

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300 South Main, Main Street Fruit Stand

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508 South Main

Photo courtesy of Bert Sharpe

Photo courtesy of Bert Sharpe

Many South Main hotel owners like Lewis Koleas, whose name is inlaid in the tile below the door, had arrangements with the railroads to house their employees for free.  This building was the first of many on South Main to be renovated by Phil Woodard.

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508 South Main

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44 Huling, Jack Robinson Gallery

In the 1970s, Jack Robinson came to work as a stained glass designer at Rainbow Studios, which is still in operation today at 44 Huling.  Jack was intensely private about his life, as worked there for 20 years until his death in 1997.

After he passed, the owner of Rainbow Studios, Dan Oppenheimer, went to his apartment to settle his affairs.  What he found shocked him ... hundreds of thousands of high end photographs of major celebrities and rock stars, fashion and pop icons, and more.  

Unbeknownst to anyone in Memphis, Jack had been one of America's most prominent photographers, working for Vogue, Life Magazine and the New York Times during the 50s and 60s.  He lived a glamorous life in New York and Paris, which also included drugs and alcohol - all of which he left behind when he moved to Memphis.

His incredible collection of photography is now on display at this gallery. 

Watch a video with Dan Oppenheimer about Jack Robinson

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44 Huling, Jack Robinson Gallery

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335 South Main, Chapman Furniture

Southern Comfort Liquor, though most associated with New Orleans, was distilled by Martin Wilkes Heron at this location from 1891 to 1911.  It was originally called "Cuffs and Buttons" with the slogan "Two per customer.  No gentleman would ask for more."

Chapman Furniture has been owned and operated by the Chapman family since the mid-1980s.

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335 South Main, Chapman Furniture

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203 South Main, The Orpheum Theatre

The Grand Opera House was built here in 1890 and was billed as the classiest theatre outside of New York City.  The Grand became part of the Orpheum Circuit of vaudeville shows in 1907, thus the theatre became known as The Orpheum.  

In 1923 a fired burned the theatre to the ground, and the structure you see today was erected in 1928 at a cost of $1.6 million.  This theatre was twice as large and far more opulent than its predecessor with lavish tasseled brocade draperies, enormous crystal chandeliers, gilded moldings, and the Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ.

As vaudeville's popularity waned, the Orpheum was purchased by the Malco movie theater chain in 1940 and presented first run movies until 1976 when Malco decided to sell the building. There was even talk of demolishing the old theater to build an office complex. However, in 1977 the Memphis Development Foundation purchased the Orpheum and began bringing Broadway productions and concerts back to the Theatre.

Fifty-four years had taken a toll on the “South's Finest Theatre.” The Orpheum was closed on Christmas in 1982 to begin a $5 million renovation to restore its 1928 opulence. A grand reopening celebration was held in January of 1984, and it signaled the rebirth of entertainment in downtown Memphis.

Throughout the next 20 years, the Orpheum brought in large-scale Broadway shows, like Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Les Miserables, while continuing to offer performances from great entertainers like Jerry Seinfeld, Dorothy Hamill, Tony Bennet, the Goo Goo Dolls, and many more.  The Orpheum brings in 10-12 Broadway performances a year and more than 350,000 guests.

Legend has it that two ghosts reside in The Orpheum.  One is sweet little Mary and she's 9 years old, she wears a white dress and has pigtails.  Some say the real Mary ran out of the theatre and was killed by a trolley car.  Mary likes to sit in seat C-5 and often causes a raucus by slamming doors and flickering lights.   The second ghost is that of a masked figure that resides in the air ducts above the house. The nameless ghost is known to stretch its brown arm out of the molding that covers the opening in the air duct, and wave at audience members during performances. 

What's next for The Orpheum?  Just south of the theatre in the parking lot, work will soon begin on a $11 million Orpheum Performing Arts and Leadership Centre that will offer education and community outreach programs to more than 60,000 children and their families each year.
 

Source:  Orpheum-Memphis.com

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203 South Main, The Orpheum Theatre

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241 South Main, Currently MLGW Parking Garage

On May 31, 1940, Joe Foppiano's Grill was the scene of one of the city's most famous crimes. A local gambler and shady businessman named Bob Berryman cornered a nightclub bouncer named John Phillips inside the restaurant and killed him with a sawed-off shotgun.  

When the cops hauled him off to jail, Berryman told the police, "There has been a grudge for some time."  Berryman claimed his motive was self-defense. The sensational courtroom drama that ensued lasted for weeks, with many witnesses claiming that John Phillips had beaten them senseless without provocation. Nonetheless, Berryman was found guilty.

A couple of years later, Foppiano's closed and a furniture store opened in its place.

The entire block that contained this building and others was torn down in the 1960s and today it's an annex building for Memphis, Light Gas and Water.

SOURCE:  Ask Vance Blog, Memphis Magazine

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241 South Main, Currently MLGW Parking Garage

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272 South Main Street, The Chisca Hotel

The Hotel Chisca was the largest hotel in Memphis at the time it opened in 1913, a year after Union Station was completed.  The hotel was seen as less of luxury hotel than an accommodation for the middle class but did uniquely boast of its Chisca Treatment Rooms with Turkish baths and Battle Creek Methods to cure rheumatism.

On January 1, 1913, the Commercial Appeal stated, "The new Chisca Hotel at the corner of Linden and Main Street  ... will be one of the finest in the South and with the site will cost when completed one million dollars."

A historic event occurred in The Chisca that quite literally changed the world forever. From 1949-1956, WHBQ radio's Dewey Phillips broadcast his popular show "Red, Hot and Blue". On July 7, 1954, Dewey played Elvis Presley for the first time on radio with Elvis's first recording of "That's All Right, Mama." Indeed the world has never been the same. 

Through the 50s and 60s, The Chisca served as an important meeting place for civic organizations and later served as the headquarters for the Church of God in Christ.   The hotel was completely abandoned in the 1980s and fell into major disrepair.

Today, a development team is in the process of a $20+ million historic renovation of the building to convert the hotel  into 149-apartments with ground floor retail and restaurant space.  Talks of a Dewey Phillips memorial booth are in the works.

Hold on to your cotton-pickin' hat and listen to DJ Dewey Phillips, live from The Chisca Hotel:

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272 South Main Street, The Chisca Hotel

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263 - 269 South Main, The Adler Hotel

A two-story Hoadley's Ice Cream was first built on this corner in 1904.  In 1908 a third floor was added to the building when it  became The Adler Hotel.  The south wing was built in 1912.  In 1913, the Commercial Appeal ran an ad for the Adler Hotel that claimed "We cater to couples and gentlemen / Strictly moral and modern ... Call bells in every room / Rates $1.00 per day, $1.50 with private bath."  

The strictly moral hotel (which wasn't the case with many hotels in South Main) remained open until 1974 and was then renovated and reopened in 1994 as the 22-unit Adler Apartments.   The units have their original window and door molding, along with original tiling in most bathrooms. Some of the windows also have original blown glass.  Note the  decorative arches on the north exterior of the north wing.  

The ground floor at this key gateway intersection is available for lease.

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263 - 269 South Main, The Adler Hotel

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290 South Front, The John Alexander Austin House

South Main was actually a suburb of Memphis in the mid-1800s through the turn of the century. This special structure is South Main's only remaining single-family Victorian-era residence built in the late 1800's and prior to the neighborhood's transition from a residential into a commercial transit hub.  

The John Alexander Austin house was built as a private residence in 1873. At the time it was built, the house was located on riverfront property, and Front Street was actually called Shelby Street. John Alexander Austin was a confederate soldier who apprenticed in New York men's stores and later opened clothing stores in Memphis.

By 1907 the house became a boarding house. It is interesting to note that this house has always been occupied, even during South Main's distressed times in the 70s and 80s.

But when Hank and Barbara Cowles, who now reside in the home, bought it in 1989, the house had nonetheless had seen better days.  Mushrooms were growing out of the walls.   The Cowles' poured their heart and soul into renovating the home.  Several years later in 1993 they moved into the home and today it serves as a wonderful monument to days gone by.    

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290 South Front, The John Alexander Austin House

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69 Pontotoc, The Pontotoc Hotel

This handsomely dignified, unembellished building was constructed in 1906 of rusticated concrete block.  The Pontotoc Hotel flourished as a fine European-style establishment, complete with Turkish baths.  Originally servicing railroad and riverboat travelers, by 1920 this hotel had become one of the area's better-known bordellos.  

In 1929, George Touliatas, Sr., founder of the Front Street Theatre, purchased the Pontotoc.  Vaudeville-era actors and actresses from this theatre and others, including The Orpheum, took rest here. 

The hotel is now a private residence.

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69 Pontotoc, The Pontotoc Hotel

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