Memphis Street Railway Company Office and Streetcar Complex

Status: Demolished; delisted Nov. 9, 2007

Location: 821 Beale Street (bounded by Beale Street on the north, Walnut and Dunlap Streets on the west and east, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue (formerly part of Linden Avenue) to the south, in Memphis

Built: ca. 1897-1906

Architectural Style: Industrial vernacular streetcar barn and repair complex

The Memphis Street Railway Office and Streetcar Complex was placed on the National Register on Sept. 9, 1982.

Interior of North Barn.

History: The Memphis Street Railway Company was chartered in 1895 and consolidated all of Memphis’s then-existing transit companies, which operated about 70 miles of track. Construction of the new company’s streetcar barns and office building began almost immediately. The barns were built in two sections, the northern portion holding offices and eight bays of streetcar service and repair facilities, and the southern intended primarily for housing of trolleys and later buses. The buildings were vacated in 1981 when the company’s successor, Memphis Area Transit Authority, moved to a new location. The new owner, the University of Tennessee, bought the 7.3-acre site to provide parking lots and other development, but Memphis Heritage Inc. and the city’s Landmarks Commission mounted efforts against the University’s plan to demolish the buildings. A compromise was reached in which the Victorian Romanesque office building would be spared (top photo) but the barns demolished (lower photo); and a group of residence halls and parking areas were built in the place of the barns, opening in 1988. However, a year later U.T. officials claimed that the office building “has become hazardous to our students, staff and faculty as a result of falling glass, roof materials and debris” and that the University would demolish the building and use the land for more parking. Two facades of the office building were reprieved, though, and placed in storage to be added onto the Cotton Carnival warehouse at N. Main Street and Mill Avenue when it was transformed into the new trolley maintenance barn. That transformation came and went decades ago, but the historic ornamental facades have never been added.

Map:

Map of the property used in its National Register nomination.

City Council District: 6

Super District: 8 

County Commission District: 8

DON NEWMAN