Viewing entries tagged
BLOCK 5: HULING TO BUTLER

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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409 South Main, Puck and Lucky Heart

Built in 1912 and designed by Jones and Furbringer, this genuine loft warehouse originally housed the White Wilson Drew company, a wholesale grocery firm that marketed "Puck Brand Goods". Look up and you'll see Puck, from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night Dream". This incredibly well-preserved ceramic panel atop this building depicts the company logo which could be found on all of the tins of spices and packaging.

Starting in the 1930s, this was the home for Lucky Heart Cosmetics, one of the first companies to cater to the African-American women market. Note the thankful mural on the side of the building. Paul Shapiro, the son of the founder of Lucky Heart, was one of the original advocates for establishing the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. When it appeared that the Lorraine Motel would be auctioned and demolished, Paul stepped in and donated $10,000 to stop the wrecking ball.

Want to count your blessings? Legend has it if you put your hand on the Lucky Heart shamrock luck shall come your way!

Woody Harrelson and Courtney Love spent quite a bit of time in this building in the mid-90s when "The People vs. Larry Flynt" was filmed here. 

Today the building is home to Memphis' first food hall, The South Main Market, and hosts parties and wedding receptions on the immaculately restored third floor.

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410 South Main, Art Village Gallery

For a brief stint in the mid-1980's this was the home of Theatre Works and Blues City Cultural Center.  In 1998, artist Ephriam Urevbu stumbled upon this abandoned warehouse which provided enough space for him to create 60' x 90' mural for Wolf Chase Mall.  What was going to be his space for one project, turned into his permanent residence and successful gallery, Art Village Gallery, for 15 years.

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413-415 South Main, William Farrington Condos

William Farrington, Source: Historic-Memphis.com

William Farrington, Source: Historic-Memphis.com

This building was built in the early 1900s and once housed the Sleep Tite Bedding Company. Henry Turley renovated the building in 1986 into 17 apartments, marking one of the first renovation projects of South Main's rebirth. The apartments were turned into the William Farrington Condos in 2003, named after the first president of Union Planters Corp and the building and president of the Memphis Street Railway.

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416 South Main, Nick's Place

This Georgian Revival Style building was constructed in 1912 and opened as a men's furnishing store.  But who's Nick? Nicholas L. Koleas was the unofficial mayor of South Main through the 1980s.  Born on Pontotoc Street in 1912, Nick spent his entire life associated with South Main. His father, a Greek immigrant, built a hotel at 508 S South Main Street when he was a child. Growing up Nick remembered women with buckets of fried chicken they took onto waiting trains to sell to passengers, the South Main restaurants that sold bootleg whiskey during Prohibition and "ladies of ill repute" who beckoned from upstairs windows on Mulberry Street.  

After serving in WWII, Nick returned to South Main in 1958. He found success in 1970 with Nick's China, which supplied china to area restaurants to many well-known restaurants at the time like Jim's Place East, Pete & Sam's and the North End. 

After Koleas retired in 1988, the building at 416 S. Main became the Memphis Center for Contemporary Art for several years where Nick was a volunteer at the center. He was also an avid booster of the struggle to bring new life to South Main. Nick died in 2004 but his name will always hold a special place right here in South Main.

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418 South Main, Home of the Pioneers

Fifteen years after Dr. King's assassination, when South Main had declined into a haven for criminals, artists Robert McGowan and his wife Annie bought this building in 1983 and renovated it as their home and work space.  

The reclusive artist and his wife are credited as the earliest pioneers of the area's urban renaissance. 

The Georgian revival building was built in 1915 as a soda fixture company with a soda fountain and rooms to rent upstairs.  In the 1960s it was Jim's Grill.

Click here to learn more about Robert McGowan.

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422-424 South Main, National Civil Rights Museum

This elaborately ornamented Beaux Arts style building opened in 1910 as the Tri-Tone Drug Company and Jopling Perfumery with residences above.  

In the 1960's Bessie Brewer used the top floor as a rooming house. On April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray fired the shot that killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from a bathroom in room 5B that he rented in this building. During his getaway, Ray ditched a bag of his belongings, which included his rifle, in a green bag in front of Canipe Amusement Company at 424 South Main. The contents of the bag ultimately led the authorities to Ray.  

Ray, who denied his involvement in the murder for 30 years, died in 1998 while serving a 99-year prison term. 

Today the building serves as the gift shop and annex building for the National Civil Rights Museum.

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406 Mulberry, The Lorraine Hotel

Originally built for white railroad passengers in 1920, the 16-room Windsor Lorraine Hotel was built on the northern side of this site. Local African American Walter Bailey purchased the hotel in 1945, renamed it for his wife Loree, and expanded it to include the second floor. 

The Lorraine ultimately became an African American establishment during the days of segregation, catering to music legends such as Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Nat King Cole, Otis Redding, The Staple Singers and Aretha Franklin.  

While in Memphis for the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike, Dr. Martin Luther King was fatally shot on the balcony outside room 306 at the Lorraine. The wreath marks the place where Dr. King drew his last breath. Bailey's wife Loree suffered a stroke just hours after the assassination and died 5 days later.

Following the hotel's foreclosure in 1982, an effort to raise funds called "Save the Lorraine" bought the hotel for $144,000 at auction. Had one of the other 2 bidders won, the hotel would have been razed. The Lorraine closed as a motel in 1988 when sherriff's deputies evicted the last holdout tenant, Jacqueline Smith, to turn the hotel into an $8.8 million National Civil Rights Museum.  (Jackie, who had lived at the hotel since 1973, maintained a vigil outside of the museum for 21 hours a day 25 years.)

The National Civil Rights Museum officially opened in 1991, and expanded the museum in 2002 to include the Young and Morrow building and Founders' Park in front of the Museum.

Today the museum is completing a $25 million renovation and expansion project.

Take a quick video tour of the National Civil Rights Museum

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431 South Main

You'll notice that this building is the exact duplicate of 409 South Main, with the exception of Puck. Similarly, this warehouse which opened in 1913, housed also wholesale grocery company like 409 South Main called Currie McGraw, as did 421 South Main, which housed Bank Grocery.

One block due west at Front and Nettleton was the headquarters for Piggly Wiggly, and at Front and Huling was D. Canale. Malone and Hyde was also in this vicinity, making this group of warehouses the grocery distribution for Memphis and the surrounding area.

This building was renovated by artist and furniture building Don Estes. Today this building is home to the Memphis Music Foundation, Doug Carpenter & Associates, and others.  

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474 South Main, Fire Station #2

Built in 1952 on the site of a former firehouse that used horse-drawn fire equipment, this building is one of the newer structures in South Main.  Influenced by the designs of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Fire Station Number 2 is an example of an ambitious campaign by city planners to introduce modern architecture to Memphis' public buildings.

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477 South Main, Memphis College of Art Nesin Graduate School

Built in 1913, for many years this building served as the Lewis Supply Company, a manufacturer and distributor of industrial supply parts.  

The building has been restored and repurposed in a very special way.  In 2010, a $2.6 million renovation transformed this dormant building into the Memphis College of Art Nesin Graduate School.  Step inside and look at the ongoing art exhibit in the Hyde Gallery that often features the works of students and faculty, or pop into the 477 Gift Shop that offers pieces created by students.

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