Address: 46 Keel Avenue, 700 North Front Street, and 701 North Main Street, Memphis
Built: 1912 to 1952
Architectural Style: Late 19th and early 20th century American Movement Commercial and Modernist styles
Original Function/Purpose: Manufacturing
History: The American Snuff Company Historic District consists of a nine-building complex near the former Illinois Central Railroad tracks. The complex includes seven structures making up the factory facing east along Front Street; prominent in the photos above is the so-called “Tin Can Factory” section on the corner of Keel and Front (top, 2018; bottom, 1950 showing pickets during a labor strike). In addition, a warehouse and an executive office building fill in the block between Front and Main Streets. The architect is unknown. Spur tracks once connected factory and warehouse to the railroad. The interior of the factory “has never been altered significantly, retaining its distinctive factory appearance with large expanses of open factory concrete or wood floors, the exposed structural members, freight elevator, wooden and steel stairways . . . and continues to provide direct association, feeling, and even smell of an early snuff factory.” The company was started by a Knoxville grocer, Martin J. Condon, Sr., who relocated to Memphis and built the factory. By 1955 the company was the second largest snuff manufacturer in the U.S., employing 500 workers at the Memphis plant. It diversified into other areas of agribusiness in the 1950s and ‘60s, but continued to use the buildings until 2012. In 2019, development partner Billy Orgel announced plans for a 55-acre mixed-use development in this district and along Wolf River Harbor’s east bank, with the renovation of the American Snuff Company building (sometimes called the Conwood Building) as its centerpiece. The overall development would include about 600 apartments, 43 homes, 80,000 square feet of office space, up to 12,000 square feet of retail, and a harbor-side park and river walk. Further plans include adapting a nearly-century-old snuff warehouse for indoor parking. Developer Billy Orgel has been honored by Memphis Heritage with its Kay B. Newman Award for his role in redevelopment of this site and other historic properties in Memphis. In early 2022 an industrial building at 61 Keel Avenue, built in 1883 and called The Kent, became the first building of the redevelopment ready to take on new life, as an event venue. In late 2022 the Varsity Spirit organization moved into “Building A” of the Conwood development, and this was followed in early 2023 by the opening of the 136-unit residential Conwood Flats development.
City Council District: 7
Super District: 8
County Commission District: 8