Tri-State Bank

Status: Preserved

Address: 386 Beale Street (formerly 390 Beale Street), Memphis

Built: Early 1900s

Architectural Style: Vernacular business

Original Function/Purpose: Bank

The Tri-State Bank was placed on the National Register on Feb. 11, 1971.

History: The Tri-State Bank building was constructed in the early 1900s in the Beale Street business district. Robert R. Church Sr.’s notable Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Co. was established in 1906 in an adjoining building (392 Beale) on the eastern side of what would become the Tri-State Bank building, or east of where it would soon be built. However, there is reason to think that Solvent, along with W.C. Handy’s music publishing house, may have moved into what is now the Tri-State building in the mid-1910s. (One way to reconcile diverse archival and photographic evidence, and peoples’ memoirs and memories, is to suggest that this new building, constructed for double occupancy on the ground floor, was numbered 392 Beale on its eastern half and 390 on its western half.) What is certain is that the Tri-State Bank, recently organized by Dr. Joseph E. Walker and his son A. Maceo Walker, purchased this building (half or all of which was by then numbered 386 Beale) in December 1946. Their bank grew into one of the most significant black financial institutions in Tennessee, while the building itself hosted political campaign planning sessions for many black candidates and was the origination point of many civil rights marches and demonstrations. It was one of the few office buildings to survive the urban renewal purge of this portion of Beale Street during the 1970s and ’80s. After it was damaged by fire, the building was purchased and renovated by attorney Charles Carpenter, whose firm has occupied it since 1992. The firm announced plans in October 2018 to invest about $61,000 to improve the façade of their building, a figure that will be matched by the local Center City Development Corporation. The improvements, by architect Arch Inc., will provide “a more modern look and new identity” and should be completed by April 2019. In 2018 the City of Memphis designated this property (as the “Solvent Savings Bank”) as a site on the Memphis Heritage Trail.

City Council District: 6

Super District: 8

County Commission District: 8

DON NEWMAN