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Beale Street, Memphis

3.3
#3 of 101 in Historic Sites in Tennessee
Historic Walking Area Landmark
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Beale Street was created in 1841 by entrepreneur and developer Robertson Topp (1807–1876), who named it for a forgotten military hero.

The original name was Beale Avenue.

Its western end primarily housed shops of trade merchants, who traded goods with ships along the Mississippi River, while the eastern part developed as an affluent suburb.

In the 1860s, many black traveling musicians began performing on Beale. The first of these to call Beale Street home were the Young Men's Brass Band, who were formed by Sam Thomas in 1867.

In the 1870s, the population of Memphis was rocked by a series of yellow fever epidemics, leading the city to forfeit its charter in 1879. During this time Robert Church purchased land around Beale Street that would eventually lead to his becoming the first black millionaire from the south. In 1890, Beale Street underwent renovation with the addition of the Grand Opera House, later known as the Orpheum. In 1899, Robert Church paid the city to create Church Park at the corner of 4th and Beale. It became a recreational and cultural center, where blues musicians could gather. A major attraction of the park was an auditorium that could seat 2,000 people. Some of the famous speakers in the Church Park Auditorium were Woodrow Wilson, Booker T. Washington, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In the early 1900s, Beale Street was filled with clubs, restaurants and shops, many of them owned by African-Americans. In 1889, NAACP co-founder Ida B. Wells was a co-owner and editor of an anti-segregationist paper called Free Speech based on Beale. Beale Street Baptist Church, Tennessee's oldest surviving African American Church edifice built in 1864, was also important in the early civil rights movement in Memphis.
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Where to stay in Memphis

From budget to luxury, Memphis offers accommodations suitable for every traveler. If you're planning just a short visit, consider staying at an inexpensive inn near the airport. For easy access to the city's shopping, dining, and nightlife, book a room at a downtown hotel, offering complimentary parking, free Wi-Fi, and a convenient shuttle service to and from the airport. If you come to Memphis in order to splurge, stay at one of the city's luxury hotels overlooking the Mississippi River, featuring stylish rooftop gardens.
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  • For the most part, we always enjoy being on Beale Street. The music was average this day. We attended the concert @ The New Daisy and wanted to eat afterwards but there was very little available.  more »
  • on the way to BB King Music Club we found out he is on Beale St Corner.. Walked up and down it part way. lots of history and live music going on.. Need to put this on your Bucket list.  more »
  • To be honest it was a bit of a disappointment. A rather small area dedicated to bars with music, some of which sounded quite good but overall there was an air of general lack of care about the place, ...  more »
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  • Beale Street Performa Entertainment Real Estate is no longer in business on Beale Street in Memphis. Been gone from the management of Beale Street since Jan 1 2014.