Architect's Bike Tour: Midtown Memphis Guide

AIA Memphis offers architectural tours of the city throughout the year.

Midtown Bike Route

Route begins at Haizlip Studio | 2125 Central Avenue . Total Route Length: 7.7 miles


Leg > Turn > Notes  > Total Distance
→ Right Turn right on S Belvedere Blvd, 0.8
0.2 → Right Turn right on Harbert Ave, 1.0
0.3 ← Left Turn left on S McLean Blvd, 1.3
0.9 → Right Turn right on Poplar Avenue, 2.2
0.2 ← Left Turn left on Morrie Moss Ln; continue on to Prentiss Place, 2.4
0.1 → Right Turn right on Golf Dr, 2.4
0.2 ← Left Turn left on Veterans Plaza Dr, 2.6
0.7 → Right Turn right on Morrie Moss, 3.4
0.2 → Right Turn right onto N McLean Blvd, 3.5
0.3 → Right Turn right onto Snowden Ave, 3.9
0.3 → Right Turn right onto University St, 4.2
0.2 → Right Turn right onto North Pkwy, 4.3
0.3 ← Left Turn left onto N McLean Blvd, 4.6
0.2 → Right Turn right onto Galloway Ave, 4.8
0.3 ← Left Turn left onto N Evergreen St, 5.0
0.2 ← Left Turn left onto Overton Park, 5.2
0.3 → Right Turn right onto N McLean Blvd, 5.5
0.7 ← Left Turn left onto Madison Ave, 6.2
0.5 → Right Turn right onto S Cooper St, 6.7
0.3 → Right Turn right onto Courtland Pl, 7.0
0.1 ← Left Turn left onto Florence St, 7.1
0.0 ← Left Turn left onto Peabody Ave, 7.2
0.1 → Right Turn right onto S Cooper St, 7.3
0.4 → Right Turn right onto Central Ave, 7.7

Route available online at

Midtown Bike Tour Key

1 · Immaculate Conception High School & Addition
2 · Central Gardens
3 · 1749 Harbert Avenue
4 · Catholic Boys High School & Gymnasium
· Overton Park
6 · Memphis College of Art
7 · The Levitt Shell
8 · Rhodes College
9 · Hein Park
10 · Parkway House
11 · Snowden School
12 · Evergreen Historic District
13 · Overton Square
14 · 2080 Peabody Avenue
15 · Cooper-Young Neighborhood

Architect's Bike Tour: Midtown

Sponsored by Clear Advantage Lighting . Fleming Architects . Haizlip Studio . Looney Ricks Kiss . Memphis Millwork 

1. Immaculate Conception High School & Addition

1756 Central Avenue
Modern addition by A.L. Aydelott & Associates | 1952-1956

Immaculate Conception school is an early example of modern school design in Memphis. A self-supporting curtain-wall stands in front of the building’s supporting frame, which both maximizes light and hides the structural system from the exterior, was a radical design departure for a Memphis school. The architectural concept is based on Miesian-Minimalism, and is a successful expression of site plan and architectural simplicity.

2. Central Gardens

Central Gardens was originally part of the Solomon Rozelle estate. Rozelle was among the first permanent settlers in the area, and the built by C.W. Rozelle stands to this day. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the most prominent architects of the day made Central Gardens a showcase, and the city’s most prominent citizens made it the address of choice. The range of architectural styles in the neighborhood reflect the involvement of notable Memphis architects including Walk Jones, Sr., George Mahan, Jr., J. Frazer Smith, Neander M. Woods, Jr., Max Furbringer, and Francis Gassner. In 1982, Central Gardens was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It comprises approximately 83 blocks, 1540 structures and 511 acres. Central Gardens was also designated a Level III Accredited Arboretum by the State of Tennessee on May 31, 2008. One of only two in the state, it is the only arboretum in West Tennessee and is home to more than ninety species of trees, many over eighty years old.

3. Gassner Residence

1749 Harbert Avenue
Architect: Francis Gassner | 1967

Built in 1967 by its namesake architect, Francis Gassner, this residence reflects the International Style that flourished in the mid- 20th century. It shares the block with a Colonial Revival home, an 1850s ‘plantation house’ and is “the closest thing Memphis has to a house by Frank Lloyd Wright,” according to a history of the homes compiled by Central Gardens resident Marsha Hayes. Francis Gassner was among the foremost Memphis architects of the 1960s and 1970s, contributing a substantial design legacy to the city.

4. Catholic Boys High School & Gymnasium

61 North McLean Boulevard
Architect: Office of Walk C. Jones, Jr.
School | 1949, Gymnasium | 1956

Though built by the same architect, the Catholic High School and Gymnasium are stylistically in conflict with one another. The school, is based on Art Moderne, yet is an example of the transition to a focus on mass rather than decoration to produce monumental buildings. The design intent was to produce an asymmetrical scheme anchored by the school entrance at one end and the
gymnasium at the other. The gym design is based on the principles of structural expressionism, an example of early designers’ focus on form
following function.

5. Overton Park

On November 14, 1901, the City of Memphis purchased a 342- acre tract of land from Nashville residents Ella and Overton Lea for $110,000. ‘Lea’s Woods’, as it was known, became Overton Park. Landscape architect George Kessler designed the park as part of a comprehensive plan that also included what is now Martin Luther King-Riverside Park and the Memphis Parkway System. The park was named after John Overton, a co-founder of Memphis, on July 25, 1902. In the late 1950s Overton Park became the subject of controversy when 26 of its 342 acres were condemned by the State of Tennessee for a planned right-of-way for Interstate 40. Residents of Midtown
formed an advocacy group called Citizens to Preserve Overton Park and challenged the plan in court. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in CPOP’s favor in the landmark case. The 26 acres were deeded back to the City of
Memphis in 1987.

6. Memphis College of Art Rust Hall

Architect: Mann and Harrover, architects
Phase One | 1956, Phase Two | 1970

The firm of Mann and Harrover secured the Rust Hall project by winning a juried competition. It serves as one of the best and most enduring examples of early modern architecture in Memphis. The distinctive screen walls have inspired the Memphis College of Art logo, and the design ties together a complex, multi-function program. Rust Hall was named the 1950s ‘Building of the Decade’ by the American Institute of Architects.

7. The Levitt Shell

Architect: Max H. Furbringer & Merrill Ehrman | 1936
Renovation: ANF Architects | 2007

Originally constructed in 1936 and modeled on a series of outdoor amphitheaters around the country at the time, the structure was built for $11,935 as part of a New Deal Works Progress Administration initiative. The Shell, as it is affectionately known by locals, was the site of Elvis Presley’s first professional rock ‘n’ roll concert. The building faced demolition many times and in 2007 the dilapidated structure underwent a complete renovation. The Shell currently hosts free outdoor concerts and events throughout the summer months.

8. Rhodes College Campus

2000 North Parkway
Master Planner: Henry C. Hibbs | 1924

Rhodes College was founded in 1848 in Clarksville, TN, as the Masonic University of Tennessee. In 1925, school president Charles Diehl moved the school to Memphis and began construction on the new campus. Later buildings were designed by H. Clinton Parrent, an associate of Henry Hibbs. He purchased a stone quarry in Bald Knob, AR to ensure consistency of materials for the Gothic Revival school buildings. The school’s name changed to Southwestern at Memphis in 1945 until the name changed to Rhodes College, honoring former president Peyton Nalle Rhodes, in 1984.

9. Hein Park

Hein Park was established as a classic 1920s 110-acre subdivision in 1924 on the eastern boundary of Memphis by W. A. Hein. The neighborhood has fewer than 200 homes, with original brick and limestone columns at the parkway entrances.

10. Parkway House

1960 North Parkway 

Originally built as one of the first luxury apartment complexes in Memphis the 1920s, the Parkway House’s plans to become a resident-owned cooperative fell victim to the Great Depression. The building, like the nearby, now-demolished Forrest Park Apartments, instead became an apartment and hotel. The success of the Parkway House building model became the blueprint for a series of apartment towers built in the 1960s and 1970s in East Memphis, near the Memphis and Chickasaw Country Clubs.

11. Snowden School

1870 North Parkway
Architect: Jones & Furbringer | 1909

Snowden school was originally built at the eastern edge of Memphis to address the area’s growing population. Built in the Beaux Arts style, the building was constructed primarily of reinforced concrete as a fireproofing measure. The original plan included space for eight classrooms, each designed to hold fifty students,and an assembly hall. Separate entrances were created for male and female students; the stonework ‘Boys’ entrance is still visible on the western side of the
building. The original building cost $50,000 to construct and included
options for substantial expansion due to the predicted growth of the area.

12. Evergreen Historic District

The Evergreen Historic District was established in 1985 in north Midtown. The district has a unique mix of old and new homes, due to the demolition of many homes to make way for an Interstate 40 overpass, a project which was abandoned in 1971 after strenuous opposition. Homes in the area are an eclectic mix of Craftsman cottages with late 19th and 20th century Revival styles.

13. Overton Square

In 1969, a group of four men- all under the age of 26- successfully petitioned the City of Memphis to license the Overton Square area to sell liquor by the glass. Their T. G. I. Friday’s- the first of that franchise outside of New York, located in what is now Babalou Tapas & Tacos- was the first restaurant to benefit from the license. Its success encouraged the men to build space for additional shops and restaurants on the square. During its heyday, Overton Square hosted 40,000 people per evening during pub crawls and Christmas celebrations. The area fell into disrepair by the mid-1980s, and many of the buildings sat empty. In 2009, an out-of-town developer revealed plans to demolish the historic, curved building on the southwest corner of Madison and Cooper. The move brought renewed attention and activism to the area. The large-scale renovation of Overton Square by Loeb Properties began in 2010 with master planning by LRK Architects, Inc., has been buoyed by the presence of a movie theater and construction of the live-action Playhouse Theater and Hattiloo Theater.

14. Aydelott Office - Private Residence

2080 Peabody Avenue
Architect: Dent & Aydelott | 1952

Built as the office of A. L. Aydelott and Associates, this building is now a private residence. It serves as one of the earliest and best examples of Modern Architecture in Memphis. The architectural concept of the structure is based on a steel frame structural grid within which the exterior walls move freely to accommodate changing functions. The design concept is rational that is, based on functional and environmental needs rather than style or formalism. The serpentine wall along the west side of the building provides an informal counterpoint to the rectilinear form of the building. The wall turns at the south corner and defines the building entrance. The space between the wall and building is a linear courtyard which accommodates circulation to what was the north-facing drafting room. The distinctive exterior sculpture was created by world renowned Memphis sculptor Ted Rust.

15. Cooper-Young Neighborhood

The Cooper-Young neighborhood is composed primarily of homes built in the early 1900s with a central commercial district at the intersection of Cooper Street and Young Avenue. The area experienced urban decay in the 1970s, with an owner occupancy rate of only 47%. By 1989, businesses began to move back into the area, home occupancy increased, and the community association established the Cooper-Young Festival. Today, the area is a thriving mix of historic homes with eclectic shops, bars, and restaurants.