As you know I started outlining a great walking tour (especially with children) of downtown Memphis yesterday (see Part 1 here). I divided the walk into two parts in the event you had children younger than mine (ages 8 & 11). Here is how we spent the remainder of our afternoon:
– Head south on Main St towards Beale St. On the way you’ll pass the following sites:
– The building that was once (5) W. T. Grant’s 5 & Dime (113 S. Main St.) where Dewey Phillips worked in the record department before becoming the DJ at WHBQ and being the first to play Elvis’ first record “That’s All Right Mama” on the radio.
-The former (6) Goldsmith’s Department Store building (123 S. Main St.) where some of Elvis’ early girlfriends worked and he and Priscilla later shopped after hours to avoid fans.
– The former site of (7) Loew’s State Theater (100 Peabody Pl.), now Peabody Tower. Elvis worked as an usher here before becoming an overnight singing sensation.
-Turn left on Beale St. at the (8) Orpheum Theatre (203 S. Main St.), which coincidentally was once owned by Malco Theatres, who rented movies to Elvis for private screenings in the 60’s and 70’s, and is a historic landmark on its own. If you don’t have time to see a show there at least take the time to take a look inside (tours are available). The current building was erected in 1928 with enormous crystal chandeliers, gilded moldings, and a Wurlitzer pipe organ. It was restored in 1984 and renovated again in 1996 and hosts a variety of events including the Nutcracker ballet every Christmas and the Elvis Tribute Artist competition during Elvis Week.
-Don’t forget to stop for photos in front of the Elvis statue at (9) Elvis Presley Plaza (107 Beale St.). The original statue was placed here in 1980, but weather quickly took its toll and the statue was replaced with the one you see today. The restored original statue can be found at the Tennessee Welcome Center (119 N. Riverside Dr.).
-Cross the street and read the historical marker in front of the site of the original (10) Lansky Brothers Men’s Store at 126 Beale St. (now the site of Hard Rock Café).
-Walk along Beale St. and look for the brass music notes on the sidewalk. The Beale Street Brass Note Walk of Fame started in 1986 and is dedicated to notable people from Memphis’ music industry (there are now over 100 notes). Bealestreet.com offers biographies of the honorees brass notes as well as a concise history of Beale St. itself. I failed to find a map showing where each note is located, but Elvis’ was pretty east to find. Historic-memphis.com is another great site for Memphis history.
-Pop into (11) A. Schwab Dry Goods Store at 163 Beale St. (a-schwab.com) for some old-fashioned ice cream sodas or a Moon Pie (my girls discovered this delicious treat on our recent trip) and salt-water taffy. The store is the only original business remaining on Beale St. and it literally has a little bit if everything, including a small museum on the 2nd floor.
-Continue down Beale St., there are plenty of historic markers to read and brass music notes to find.
-If you’re interested, you can turn right on 3rd street and walk a block past the FedEx Forum to the (12) Gibson Guitar Factory (145 George W. Lee Ave.) for a tour (takes about a hour). Even if you don’t want a tour, they have a great gift shop in the factory lobby. Visit Gibson.com for more details.
-Back to Beale St. and turn right. Your destination is across the street from W. C. Handy Park, (13) Dyers Burgers (205 Beale St.) for a great hamburger fried in 100 year-old grease. Don’t cringe, the oil is filtered and the burgers and fries are delicious!
-After your meal, continue down Beale St. stopping to read the Rufus Thomas historical marker. In addition to having hit records of his own, he was the first DJ to play Elvis Presley on an all black radio station.
-The (14) Old Daisy Theatre at 327 Beale St. opened in 1913 and is an excellent example of nickelodeon architecture of early cinemas. See historic-memphis.com for more information. Although the building is now used as a banquet facility, tours are available (I think they are through the Center for Southern Folklore at 119 S. Main St.)
-Cross the street to see the New Daisy Theatre (330 Beale St.). It was built in 1942 as a movie theatre but is now a concert venue.
-Continue down Beale St. to the (15) W. C. Handy House Museum and take a tour of the 2-room shotgun shack belonging to the “Father of the Blues”.
-By this time you should be exhausted, so cut through the parking lot to the left of the Handy House, turn left on Peabody Place, and return to the Peabody Hotel to retrieve your vehicle.