Viewing entries tagged
BLOCK 6: BUTLER TO GE PATTERSON

545 South Main, Central Station

Memphis built its first grand train station in 1855 here at the corner of GE Patterson (then called Calhoun) and Main Streets.  

The Calhoun Station was the first depot in Memphis was constructed here by the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad around 1855. A more ornate, two-story station opened in 1888 by the Illinois Central Line. The Calhoun Station was demolished in 1912-13 to make room for the new Central Station. 

Built in 1913, Central Station was the last building designed by the famous architect Daniel Burnham, who was also the architect behind Chicago's 1895 Columbian Exposition. 

Central Station commanded the railroad transportation era for nearly 50 years. By 1935, this depot coordinated the arrival and departure of more than 50 trains a day, helping make Memphis one of the busiest inland railroad transportation centers in the country. It was here that Elvis returned to Memphis after his army stint in Germany.

With railroad traffic in decline in the 1960's, passenger traffic trailed off at Central Station, causing surrounding restaurants, shops, and hotels closed. With AMTRAK left as it's only use, Central Station fell into disrepair.

In 1999, the Memphis Area Transit Authority opened the renovated facility as apartments and event space. The Memphis Farmers Market uses the outdoor pavilion for its Saturday market.

Click here for the complete tour of south Main

Please contact us if you notice something incorrect or missing from this page at getdown@downtownmemphis.com or 901.575.0561

515 South Main, Alonzo School for Waiters

After WWII, Memphis enjoyed an economic surge unseen for generations. Servicemen and women who sustained this country's war effort were in a mood to celebrate - creating a demand for good times, good food and good waiters. The school, owned and operated by the late Robert L. Woodard, not only taught the fine art of waiting tables but also served countless meals to the neighborhood's less fortunate.

Click here for the complete tour of south Main

Please contact us if you notice something incorrect or missing from this page at getdown@downtownmemphis.com or 901.575.0561

520 South Main, Pullman Hotel

The Pullman Hotel was one of several small hotels built around 1910 to service the nearby railroad stations. As a nod to railroad passenger clientele, this hotel was named for the Pullman railroad sleeper cars. By the mid-1920s, the hotel garnered a reputation of catering to ladies of the evening.

Mark Grawemeyer and his childhood friend Leslie Smith bought the Pullman Hotel in 1986 (as pictured), and the adjoining buildings to the south in the 1990s because they were tired of waiting for them to be fixed up. The pair renovated all of the buildings by themselves.

The downstairs is now home to South Main Sushi.


Read more about Mark Grawemeyer's renovation journey.

Click here for the complete tour of south Main

Please contact us if you notice something incorrect or missing from this page at getdown@downtownmemphis.com or 901.575.0561

531 South Main, Earnestine & Hazels

A church, complete with doors, a steeple, and people, once occupied this site in the late 1800s. When it burned down, Pantaze Drugstore was built here. In the late 1950s, Earnestine Mitchell and Hazel Jones opened their sundry store and it was well known that you could buy liquor or go to the upstairs brothel where rooms upstairs rented by the hour.  

After being abandoned for years, in 1992 the late Russell George re-opened Earnestine & Hazel's, this time officially as a juke joint. To George's credit, he left everything exactly as it was - peeling paint and all.

Beware! Ghosts are said to haunt this South Main site. Even creepier, the jukebox will read your mind and play songs to match your thoughts.

Click here to learn more about Russell George.

Click here for the complete tour of south Main

Please contact us if you notice something incorrect or missing from this page at getdown@downtownmemphis.com or 901.575.0561

Corner of GE Patterson and Main

It's called GE Patterson now, but from 1845 - 2000 it was Calhoun Street in honor of Vice President John C. Calhoun who first proposed using Federal funds to improve navigation on the Mississippi in a meeting held here. Incidentally, Calhoun was welcomed by a young lawyer from Memphis named Jefferson Davis.

You'll notice the sidewalks on South Main were built double the normal width to accommodate the extra foot traffic to and from Central Station and Union Station down the street. At the peak of rail service, more than 90 passenger trains pulled into these terminals.

On the northeast corner, where American Apparel sits, Morris Cemetery stood on these grounds in the mid-1800s. As the city grew around it, "most" of the bodies were dug up and moved to Elmwood Cemetery.

Click here for the complete tour of south Main

Please contact us if you notice something incorrect or missing from this page at getdown@downtownmemphis.com or 901.575.0561

540 South Main, The Arcade

The Arcade, Memphis' oldest cafe opened in 1919 by Greek immigrant Speros Zepatos. The original building, a wooden structure with a pot belly stove, burned down in 1924 and the current building dates back 1925 with hopes of later adding a hotel above the restaurant.

Most of Memphis' servicemen in both World Wares ate their last meal at The Arcade before shipping out.  

The Arcade stayed open 24 hours a day from 1919 through 1968 when a city-imposed curfew following MLK's assassination forced it to close its doors after dark. Speros had to buy a lock for the door - it had never been locked in 49 years!

Speros' grandson, Harry, now runs the restaurant as the third generation owner. Because of its authentic decor, the Arcade has been featured in more than 40 movies and films!

Click here to learn more about Harry Zepatos.

Click here to watch a video about The Arcade with Harry Zepatos.

Click here for the complete tour of south Main

Please contact us if you notice something incorrect or missing from this page at getdown@downtownmemphis.com or 901.575.0561

180 GE Patterson, The Old Arcade Hotel

This cute courtyard of Rizzo's Restaurant once housed the Winona Hotel, which was built in 1914. IN 1939 it became The Arcade Hotel and reamined opened until 1969, right around the time Union Station across the street closed.   Each of its 39 rooms had a fireplace but there was a common bathroom for each floor.

The decaying hotel was featured prominently in the 1989 movie "Mystery Train" and was demolished in 1993, shortly after the completion of the film. You can see the hotel in its final days in the background of the movie poster.

Click here for the complete tour of south Main

Please contact us if you notice something incorrect or missing from this page at getdown@downtownmemphis.com or 901.575.0561