Giving Memphis’ Past a Future
“What we do is the Memphis Style of historic preservation,” says June West, Executive Director of Memphis Heritage. “Memphians are proud of who we are. Our stories are characterized by where they took place. If we erase those structures, then we erase our stories, our memories. We say that our history doesn’t matter.”
The Memphis Style of preservation is pragmatic. “Memphis has over 11,500 buildings listed on the National Register. We know we can’t always find useful purposes for them all,” says West. “What we can do is find the ones that really contribute to the fabric of our collective soul and adapt them into places people want to be.”
Our mission is to educate and coordinate individuals and groups to save, improve, reuse, and maintain architecturally and historically significant buildings, neighborhoods, parks, and cultural artifacts of Shelby County, Tennessee.
History plays a profound role in the city’s appeal. What would Memphis be without Graceland, The Magevny House, Victorian Village, The Pink Palace, Beale Street, and The Civil Rights Museum? These cultural and historic attractions not only give the city its own distinct flavor, but they also draw a swarm of visitors from around the globe. Heritage tourism accounts for 24% of all visits to Memphis.
Historic preservation helps the environment by curbing urban sprawl and encouraging smart development. Historic preservation fosters education by providing the atmosphere and the structures that teach us about the past. Historic preservation is patriotic as it preserves and teaches respect for the legacy of our nation and the built environment of our forefathers. Historic preservation builds community awareness. Historic preservation beautifies our neighborhoods as places where people want to live. With all these virtues and this evidence revealing powerful economic benefits, historic preservation quite simply makes Memphis a better place to live, work, or visit. (Information taken from “Preservation Makes Dollars and Sense” Memphis Landmarks Commission study 2003)