The South Parkway Viaduct

In 1977, this building on the south side of the South Parkway Viaduct, at Rayburn Street, was cited for conducting a business not permitted in its zoning district. This post will not only take a look at this building and its zoning issue but also the neighborhood surrounding the South Parkway Viaduct.Here is the site today; not only has the classic corner building been removed, but also the corner itself. The old ramp roads that once ran along both sides of the South Parkway Viaduct were removed when the overpass was rebuilt in 2006. In this image, Rayburn Street is in the center; Third Street is in the background just on the other side of the gas station.Here's the zoning citation from June 20, 1977, from the City of Memphis Bureau of Construction Code Enforcement (which merged with the Shelby County Building Department in 1983 to become the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Construction Code Enforcement "OCCE")). Note the citing officer: Allen Medlock, the recently retired Building Official and Administrator of OCCE who worked for more than 50 years at the City and/or County. Although not spelled out on this form, the citation was for the operation of a scrap metal business.

When one is cited for a zoning violation, he or she has three avenues to ameliorate the situation: 1) fix it, 2) argue your case in General Sessions Court or 3) file a variance or appeal with the Board of Adjustment. As this letter from attorney Ray Bratcher shows, the proprietor Jimmie Richards chose Option 3. Mr. Bratcher indicates that the scrap metal business in question began as accessory and merely incidental to the principal, and permitted, business of refrigeration repair.This survey was filed in conjunction with the application to the Board of Adjustment; it shows the building at the northeast corner of the site. This structure was likely built as a corner store in the early part of the 20th century with retail on the first floor and an apartment above.Here is the floor plan in 1977, which reflects a conversion of the building to light industrial uses. The likely original retail portion of the building had been changed to "storage."

This petition indicates that the neighborhood was not enthused about Mr. Richards engaging in the scrap metal business.This letter from Mr. Richards indicates he was willing to perform any conditions of approval set out by the City Engineer.
The application contained some great images of the area around Mr. Richards' establishment. This view is looking north up Rayburn Street with the South Parkway viaduct in the background. The subject site is on the left.
Same view today. The subject site is now the rear portion of a gas station.This is a view looking southeast from the site to the adjacent property on the east side of Rayburn, addressed at 245 South Parkway E. It was in fact operating as a scrap metal yard as Pat Patrick and Co. Scrap Metal and Batteries. This was likely the result of action taken by the Board in 1941 (more on that below).
View towards the northeast towards the rear of the property. Note the billboards atop the building; one advertises Benson and Hedges back when cigarette ad were legal.
One of the supporting players in this drama is the old South Parkway Viaduct, which had concrete railings (see this earlier post for a look at the remaining concrete-railed bridges and viaducts in Memphis). Constructed in 1937, it was noteworthy for its narrow lanes and decorative street lights.Same view today. The new 2006 viaduct is now 13 years old.View of the new viaduct from the east. Latham is the street with the traffic signal.
View from the mid-1970s on the other side of the viaduct. While the 1974 Cadillac was not my favorite growing up (especially compared to the 75/76 Cadillacs), I have to say now it's quite a beaut!
This view shows the old Illinois Central (now CN) tracks, over which the South Parkway Viaducts were built. 




PREVIOUS ZONING CASES
The following images are from various historic zoning cases that precede Mr. Richards' 1977 citation. They are ordered chronologically and cover properties on the north and south sides of South Parkway west of the railroad tracks.

Back in 1926, a Thomas E. Acklen applied to locate a gas station two blocks east of the subject site. This vicinity map filed with that request shows that the Pat Patrick property at 245 S. Pkwy. E. was used as an "auto grave yard" at the time.The gas station would be located behind the lunch stand on the right. This is one of the few historic photographs that I have come across that shows racially-specific store entrances in Memphis, although I have heard and read about their wide prevalence in the city during the first half of the twentieth century. This photograph, and the two others below it, are dated September 21, 1926.Here's the view of the rear of the lunch stand.
Here's the view from the same time looking southeast towards the railroad tracks.In 1928, the Oliver-Finnie Co. requested that Board approve the construction of a warehouse for a lumber yard on the property across the street from the subject site. This map filed with that request shows that an S. Rosenthal owned the subject site.This letter was filed by C.O. Finnie, Secretary of the Oliver-Finnie Co. In it, he outlines the history of the site and the neighborhood, including that on the south side of South Parkway (which he also refers to in his second paragraph as its old name, the "Speedway") there was a factory "of some sort" and a coal yard.
Site plan of proposed Oliver-Finnie warehouse and yard.


This photograph, dated May 29, 1928, shows the Oliver-Finnie site in the foreground looking northeast.
This map from 1931 shows the subject site still owned by Sam Rosenthal, improved with a store, the Oliver-Finne lumber yard across the street and a coal yard near the railroad (north is down on this map).This aerial photograph from 1940 is centered along the South Parkway Viaduct with S. Third on the left and the Illinois Central tracks on the right. The Oliver-Finnie Co. is in the center with the Sam Rosenthal store on the subject site one block east of Third casting a shadow over Rayburn Street. Image courtesy of the Shelby County Register of Deeds.
In 1941, an application was filed for the Pat Patrick site to allow a bottle collecting and distribution business, presumably the initial industrial zoning request for the site that may have enabled Pat Patrick's business many years later.
This map from the 1941 request shows Sam Rosenthal still owned the subject site on the west side of Rayburn. Also note something new: reference to the viaduct built in 1937. Prior to its construction, South Parkway traffic yielded to railroad traffic at a grade crossing.
Site plan for the bottle collecting and distribution plant.
Building elevations for the bottle collecting and distribution plant. This was the building photographed above being used by Pat Patrick in 1977 as a scrap metal distributor.
This final historical case is from 1962 and involves not only the subject site, but its 1977 owner: Mr. Richards. The zoning request: to build an additional to Sam Rosenthal's old store.This site plan shows the size of the proposed expansion.
Floor plan reflecting both the original store building and expansion.
Elevation along South Parkway.
This letter from Mr. Richards explains his request. Note he was doing business as J & J Refrigeration Service, the business that slowly evolved into the selling of refrigerators that could not be serviced and then to the selling and buying of all metal-related products.




RAYBURN BOULEVARD
We will conclude this post with a brief history of Rayburn Street. Today, as in 1977, Rayburn is a small neighborhood street. But at one time it was a boulevard, a suffix that the City bestows on those few north-south roadways that cut across several neighborhoods. This ca. 1914 map by Wilbur C. Paul shows Rayburn Blvd. during its heyday: it was what is now Third Street. What was Third Street in 1911 is now Hernando Street. "Park Drive Way" near the bottom of this map is now South Parkway (because we all know now that one parks on driveways and drive on parkways!).
Here is a ca. 1943 map from CA Davis Printing Co. By this time, most of Rayburn was renamed Third and Third became Fourth just south of Iowa (Crump). Fifth would be renamed Mason in the late 50s.