Status: Preserved

Location: Overton Park, Memphis

Built: 1901

Architectural Style: Park

Original Function/Purpose: Park

The Overton Park Historic District was placed on the National Register on Oct. 25, 1979.

History: Overton Park was designed by landscape architect George Kessler in 1901-02 and named for John Overton. The 342-acre district includes the Memphis Zoo (established 1906, top photo), the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (1916, second photo), the Levitt Shell (third photo, formerly known as the Overton Park Shell (1936) or Memphis Open Air Theatre, and the Raoul Wallenberg Shell (1982)), and the Memphis College of Art (1956, bottom photo showing the College’s Rust Hall). Overton Park contains a wealth of art, memorials and other historic or recreational structures. In his first paid concert appearance, Elvis Presley (called Ellis Presley in one newspaper ad) performed at the Shell in 1954. Changes are in store for two of the major institutions located in the park. Memphis College of Art closed in May 2020, while the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art plans to relocate downtown on a redeveloped riverfront by 2024. By July 2019, ten candidates interested in occupying the two properties had been accepted by the City of Memphis for further consideration. These included the Memphis Metal Museum (Rust Hall, for expansion and relocation) and Hattiloo Theatre and Shelby County Schools (Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, for “a public high school dedicated to and focused on the arts”). In July 2020 a search committee recommended that the Metal Museum, one of 10 finalists, be the next user of Rust Hall. The museum had already begun raising funds for the property’s expected $3.5 million renovation and conversion into an expanded Metal Museum.

Maps:

Outline of the Overton Park Historic District.
Map of the district used in its National Register nomination.

City Council District: 5

Super District: 9

County Commission District: 7