Beale Street Historic District

Status: Preserved

Location: Beale Street between Second and Fourth Streets, Memphis

Built: 1870-1920

Architectural Style: Various

Original Function/Purpose: Commercial

The Beale Street Historic District was placed on the National Register on Oct. 15, 1966.

History: In the early 1900s, Beale Street was the thoroughfare that divided South Memphis from Memphis. A diverse mix of black-owned businesses developed, and by the 1920s Beale Street had reached a level of high prominence. Beale Street flourished musically and commercially especially from 1900 to 1949, and again beginning in 2000. Today Beale Street stands as one of Memphis’s biggest cultural and tourist attractions. The street is lined with, or next door to, an eclectic mix of commercial businesses, bars, churches and music venues, including the Orpheum Theatre, Clayborn Temple, and the FedEx Forum. Even before it was listed on the National Register, Beale Street Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 23, 1966. In 2018 a number of properties in the district were designated by the City of Memphis as sites on the Memphis Heritage Trail.

Boundary Decrease

Date: April 11, 1989

Location: Beale Street between Main and Second Streets

Built: 1870-1920

Architectural Style: Various

History: The updated listing or Supplementary Listing Record of Beale Street Historic District submitted in 1989 explained the reason for this boundary decrease. “When the Beale Street Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark [and was listed on the National Register] in 1966, the district boundaries were established along Beale Street between Main and Fourth Streets. . . . The Memphis Housing Authority initiated a redevelopment project at Beale Street in the mid-1960s, and . . . all historic buildings between Main and Second Streets, with the exception of Lansky Men’s Fashions, were demolished and new construction completed in this area.”

Boundary Increase: Robert Church Park

Location: Junction of Beale and Fourth Streets

Built: 1899, with later additions

Architectural Style: Park

Original Function/Purpose: Park

The addition of Robert Church Park to the original Beale Street Historic District took place on July 29, 1993.

History: The original boundary of Beale Street Historic District is increased by the addition of Church Park, once the center of cultural activities for African-Americans in Memphis. Founded in 1899 by Robert R. Church, Sr., the park had an auditorium, picnic grounds, bandstand and playground. The first NAACP branch in Tennessee was organized here in 1917 and W.C. Handy directed an orchestra here. After Church’s death in 1912 the park was managed by his son Robert Church, Jr., an influential leader in the Republican party. In 1941 the Walter Chandler administration changed the park’s name to Beale Avenue Park, but the original name was rightly restored in 1956 and the park has since been extensively refurbished. It contains a number of historical markers commemorating the significance of this site. Further renovation of the park is planned in 2019, intended to “elevate” the site and make it more welcoming, as well as serve as a community gathering place. In 2018 the City of Memphis designated this property as a site on the Memphis Heritage Trail.

Maps:

Outline of the Beale Street Historic District downtown, including the boundary increase of 1993.

Map of the district used in its National Register nomination.

Map of the boundary increase of 1993 used in its National Register nomination.

City Council District: 6

Super District: 8

County Commission District: 8

DON NEWMAN