Status: Endangered

Location: Bounded by Commerce and Jackson Avenues on the south, Front Street on the west, North Second and Main Streets on the east, and A.W. Willis Avenue (formerly Auction Avenue) on the north, in Memphis

Built: Late 1800s to early 1900s

Architectural Style: Eclectic commercial

Original Function/Purpose: Commercial

The Pinch-North Main Commercial District was placed on the National Register on Oct. 18, 1979.


History: Pinch-North Main Commercial District once held much of the city’s first settlement and later became its earliest commercial district; in the early nineteenth century, this area was very near the then-location of the Memphis landing. Irish arriving here in those early years dismantled their flatboats and houseboats in order to construct shanties. It is said that the “pinch-gut” appearance of the poor and hungry residents was later applied to their “Pinch” neighborhood. A few early residences still survive, but most buildings are commercial establishments from 1880 to 1910 whose architecture is utilitarian and unpretentious. The district also includes a portion of Auction Square, one of the city’s four squares shown in the original town plan. The Pinch district as a whole is currently enjoying a new vitality, with the Great American Pyramid again in use and a number of rehabilitation projects under way. There are fears, however, that some of those very projects will demolish enough historic buildings to cause removal of the district from the National Register. This delisting would in turn eliminate a potential source of financing – historic preservation tax credits – for the historic buildings that remain. One of those few remaining historic properties, already flanked on both sides by surface parking lots, burned in January 2021.

Boundary Increase

Status: Demolished recently

Address: 122 Jackson Avenue, Memphis

Built: ca. 1892

Architectural Style: Vernacular

The boundary increase was added to the National Register on Oct. 25, 1990.

History: The original boundary of Pinch-North Main Commercial District was increased by the addition of the inadvertently omitted 122 Jackson Avenue building, a ca. 1892 two-story vernacular brick building with a two-story Craftsman-detailed porch added about 1920. This building (at right in photo) was unfortunately demolished fairly recently.


Outline of the Pinch-North Main Commercial District, including the boundary increase of 1990.
Map of the district used in its National Register nomination.
Map of the district showing the boundary increase of 1990 (bold outline).

City Council District: 7

Super District: 8

County Commission District: 8