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


 
Saved Landmarks
These previously threatened landmarks appear to have been saved!


 
Hotel Chisca! Renovation  of the old Hotel Chisca building is well underway converting it into apartments with some retail on the ground floor. The newer motor inn portion of the hotel is further along and residents may begin moving into it by late summer, 2015.
Hotel Chisca, built  in 1913, sat empty and boarded up at 272 South Main Street. After serving as a hotel, the Church of God  in Christ (COGIC) acquired the building for $10 and located its headquarters there until the late 1990s. Thereafter, the building, still owned by COGIC, remained empty. Fire authorities cited the owners for neglect and fines were ordered. In October, 2012, Main Street Apartment Partners LLC bought the property from COGIC for $900,000 and embarked on the $24-million renovation. Paul Morris, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission says "[t]he Chisca hotel is a very important part of that neighborhood. That space connects the South Main area that is so vibrant to the core of downtown which is so vibrant. So, to have that major block taken up by a vacant blighted building is a real hindrance to the neighborhood." (WHBQ-TV)
There are probably many historic features of the property, but one sure to be  popular is that the hotel was the site of the studios of WHBQ radio in 1954 where for the first time a record by an unknown singer named Elvis Presley was  broadcast.  DJ Dewey Phillips was on to something, as callers demanded he play it again, and again, and again on his "Red, Hot, and Blue" show. Although many others cite "Rocket 88" by Ike Turner and his band, recorded in 1951 also at Sun Studios, Rolling Stone Magazine considers Elvis' version of "That's All Right" to be the first rock-and-roll record. The remnants of the radio studio have been moved to Sun Studios and is included in part of that tour. 
It appears a final decision has been made not dedicate the mezzanine area of the hotel where WHBQ radio's studio were as a publicly accessable historic place.

Harrson-Goyer-Lee House!The Harrson-Goyer-Lee House, 690 Adams Avenue, Memphis, has been converted for adaptive reuse as a bed and breakfast lodging amenity, preserving the structure and its historical significance.  The house, upon which construction begun in 1848, was in jeopardy due to neglect and uncertain control in the future.  In 2013, the City of Memphis and the Downtown Memphis Commission sold the property to private developers for one dollar. A ground breaking was held in June, 2013, as the new ownership group converts the home into a luxury bed-and-breakfast inn in a public-private project in which the private developers say they will spend $2.3-million. The bed-and-breakfast is expected to be open for bueiness by December, 2013. The house was also the original location of the Memphis Academy of Art. The home had been vacant since 1959. A lease to The Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities ran out in 2011. The Tennessee Preservation Trust had listed the house as one of the top ten threatened historic properties in Tennessee in 2006.

Overton Square - SAVED!Overton Square - The one-time center of nightlife in Memphis (~1970-1990), Overton Square, has been saved from wholesale physical destruction and has, by 2014, many new and exciting botiques and restaurants as well as people! Still, this area along Madison Avenue is booming but it is not exactly of the same character it was during its original hayday. Landmark and Legend will keep a page dedicated to that memory, so please visit our Overton Square page. In July, 2012, Loeb Properties Inc. closed the real-estate deal that gave it ownership of eight acres, buying it from Denver, Colo.-based Overton Square Investors LLC for $7-million. A few parcels in the area are not included in the sale. Loeb Properties has restored the area to a theater arts district instead of the 1970-1980's nightclub and bar scene. However, the developer has brought in at least two establishments reminicent of the old days, Local Gastropub and Bar Louie, and reports all of the restaurant space in the Overton Square site is spoken for. A public-private partnership funded a parking garage in what was a surface parking lot south of Trible Place. The garage has a basement designed as a water detention area to reduce troublesome flooding downstream along Lick Creek. The has also purchased property for a six year old black repertory theater, Hattiloo Theatre, which will move to a new building under construction at Cooper Steet and Monroe Avenue.

Some of the details of the Overton Square project are available from the Land Use Control Board's staff final report presented November 10, 2011 and available at the Shelby County government web site.

The status of Overton Square, is a vast improvement over that from a few years earlier. As many of the businesses had moved out of the area over the years, the largely vacant buildings were being considered for demolitition. What was thought the most viable alternative to demolition, an area redevelopment plan with a large grocery to serve midtown in the block south of the stip, where the large parking  was and where the parking garage is now, fell through, putting the area in jeoprady a second time. Loeb Properties came up with another vision, the one that appears to be taking hold now.
With its initial success, it is an all-to-rare victory to preserve historic Memphis.
For those who particpated in the festivities of the old Overton Square, it should help reinforce fond memories.