DIG MEMPHIS MYSTERIES


DIG MEMPHIS MYSTERIES

LOOKING FOR A FUN ACTIVITY TO ENGAGE IN FROM HOME? WANT TO EXPLORE MEMPHIS and still practice social distancing?  WE NEED YOUR HELP! EACH WEEK WE’LL BE POSTING IMAGES FROM DIG MEMPHIS THAT ARE MISSING CRUCIAL DETAILS.  SEE IF YOU CAN HELP US FILL IN SOME OF THE GAPS!

Click here for some resources that may help in your search

City Directories 1849-1943 – Shelby County Registrar (link)

Commercial Appeal Archives 1894-Today – Newsbank (link)

Maps of Memphis (link)

Vehicle Registration Plates of TN – Wikipedia (link)

Recently added images will appear first. To see older posts, scroll to the bottom of the page.

If you suggest an answer, please share with us how you solved the mystery!

5/18/2020:

For this week’s mysteries we’re focusing on a few photographs depicting different areas of Lauderdale Street. Lauderdale and its neighboring streets have undergone many changes over the years, especially with the development of Danny Thomas Boulevard. Can you help us determine the coordinates of the images below?


Lauderdale Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0456)

The current descriptive record on our first image indicates this to be “Lauderdale Street looking towards Madison Avenue in 1938.” It’s not clear what direction photographer was facing. Using the details seen in the photograph, can you confirm that the photographer was indeed facing Madison Avenue? Were they facing north or south? If you can, share the latitude/longitude coordinates with us, which can be determined by using Google Maps.

Lauderdale Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0449)

This photograph shows a sign for Star Coal along “the extension of Lauderdale Street”. We can see some traffic, including what appears to be a transfer/storage truck in the distance. The image below depicts this same area from a different vantage point. Can you determine the geographic coordinates for the spot where this photographer was standing?

Lauderdale Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0450)

The image here appears to be showing the same area as the photograph above. We can see the same Star Coal sign in the background. This photo was taken from an elevated space one block over and shows people, perhaps children, playing in an empty lot. Can you figure out what area we’re looking at here?


5/11/2020:


Businesses Along North Parkway. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0778)

This week’s mysteries are two images with businesses visible in the distance. The first photograph shows stores and businesses along North Parkway. The caption on back of photo indicates it was taken on November 25, 1956, but where? Can you locate any of the businesses and pinpoint where the photographer snapped this shot in 1956?

SOLVED!!

The solution to this mystery was found by locating Scola’s Market, which can be seen on the left side of the image. We received a couple of submissions indicating that Scola’s Market was located on the southeast corner of North Parkway and Thomas St./Danny Thomas Blvd. The Commercial Appeal Archive shows many ads for Scola’s Market at 653 North Pkwy. You can see the Peyton St. sign on the right side of the photograph, and although Peyton no longer reaches North Parkway, Peyton Circle still exits just north of the Parkway. The photographer was facing west around these coordinates: 35.155565, -90.036458.

Bridge on South Third Street, 1951. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0362)

The second image shows patched pavement on South Third Street in April 1951. A bridge with concrete railings is visible. The background shows traffic on South Third, a Texaco gas station, and two billboards. Can you determine the location of this bridge on South Third Street?


5/4/2020:

Jackson Avenue being paved. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0543 )

This photograph shows paving work being done on Jackson Avenue in May of 1938. The woman on the left appears to be standing at a cross street, but there are no visible signs indicating what street is crossing Jackson Avenue here. Can you determine which area of Jackson Avenue is seen in this photograph?

solved!!

We received many suggestions, and this solution required a multi-step approach. It all starts with the business sign that can be seen under the ‘Double Cola’ advertisement on the left: Irene’s Place. The Commercial Appeal Archive has a few articles that mention Irene’s Place, owned by Harvey Graham, located at 332 Jackson Avenue. The 1938 Polk City Directory confirms a ‘Graham Harvey restr’ at 332, between Concord Ave. and N. Seventh St., just west of the where the L&N Railroad crosses Jackson.

This 1925 map shows this particular area of Jackson Avenue and indicates that St. Paul Baptist Church is on the SE corner of Jackson and Concord. Our photo does indeed show a church on that corner, across from Irene’s Place. So what does that location look like today? The area has been completely reformed as part of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus, but you can still see the basic structure of the roads on Google Maps.

Concord Avenue is now Shadyac Avenue. The likely coordinates for this photograph are 35.154274, -90.041788. Thanks to everyone who submitted suggestions!

Jackson Avenue construction in 1938. Memphis Streetscapes Collection. DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0541)

Here’s another Jackson Avenue mystery from May 1938. This
photo shows surfacing work being done as part of a Works Progress Administration project. Without many notable signs, it is difficult to determine where this photographer was standing. Can you locate this stretch of Jackson Avenue?


4/27/2020:

Dirt Road McLean. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0473)

This undated photograph shows a child on an unpaved McLean Blvd. Unlike other images in our Memphis Streetscapes Collection, this item does not have geographic data in its record. Do you recognize any of the structures shown here? Can you determine which stretch of McLean is captured in this photograph?

SOLVED!!

This mystery was solved when a sleuth submitted the coordinates for another photograph depicting the same block of McLean Avenue. That photo, Digital ID Street0474, was taken some years after the one above, but it also shows the home in the background with the turret. That house is still standing!

Using the Street View feature of Google Maps, we can confirm that it is the house seen here. The photographer was likely standing somewhere near the coordinates of 35.132819, -90.000437.

Trolley tracks on Front Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street1030)

This 1938 photograph shows the trolley railways running along North Front Street. A man sits under an awning (left), and the Industrial Supplies Inc. building is in the background (right). The photographer is standing near a particular cross street (on the left), but which one?

*HINT* – This might be another chance to use the Library’s expanded access to the Commercial Appeal Archive or the City Directories on the Shelby County Registrar’s site in order to track down this business location.


Main Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0682)

The caption on back of photo reads, “Oct. 1958…From the Civic Center Advisory Committee.” Although we can’t see many of the signs or tops of buildings, we can see pedestrians walking and cars driving along Main Street. The photographer is standing on street corner or in a crosswalk, but where? Can you determine which corner of Main Street is seen here?


4/20/2020:

Trolley Wire on Mississippi Boulevard. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street1007)

This photograph from 1940 shows workers placing trolley wire along Mississippi Boulevard. The caption on back of the physical photograph reads, “Reeling off trolley wire-11-4-1940 on Mississippi Blvd.” Can you determine where these men were working back in 1940? If so, please share the cross street or latitude/longitude information.

SOLVED!!

We received several solutions. One involved using the online City Directories (in our list of resources at the top of this page) to locate Gas Stations on Mississippi Boulevard in 1940 (see the gas station in the background?). Then, using Google maps, our detective was able to search the gas station’s address and activate the Street View option to see the current street. They then noticed the building on the right was still standing!

Another solution involved searching the Commercial Appeal archives (also in our list of resources at the top of this page), where our second detective found an article from March 1940, detailing the location of the trolley improvements.  They then also used Google maps and saw the same building on the right.

Our third detective suspected it was a church a few blocks down at 974 Mississippi Blvd., but then realized that church didn’t have the little side window that appears in the older image. Using Google Maps to progress down the street, they then realized an old church at 878 Mississippi Blvd. did match the details of the building in the photo, specifically, the little side window!

You can see the comparison below.

Hunt-Berlin Coal Co. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street0781)

The men pictured here are working on the L & N Railroad tracks. The caption on back of photograph reads, “5-27-1940, Orleans Street Crossing at L & N tracks.” Because streets and railways have changed over time, it is not immediately clear where this photograph was taken. Can you locate this spot by providing an address or latitude/longitude data?

SOLVED!!

We received the solution to this mystery in the form of the coordinates: 35°07’31.0″N 90°02’25.2″W. According to the 1940 City Directory, Hunt-Berlin Coal Co. Yard was located on S. Orleans, just north of the railroad crossing. The directory also indicates that E. Cherry ended at this spot, which is evident by the post marked “Cherry” on the right side of the image. Maps from this time indicate that these are the N.C. & St. L. tracks; however, they were used by the L&N Railroad.

Poplar Avenue. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG Memphis. (Digital ID Street0816)

This old image of Poplar Avenue shows men working on a construction project along a dirt-covered road. The caption on sides of photo reads, “The Kodagraph Co. Memphis, Tenn.” The caption on back of photo simple indicates, “Poplar Ave.” But where? Based on some of the signs in the background, can you determine where this is and when this photo was taken?

SOLVED!!

The solution to this mystery came to us via our Instagram page. Our virtual detective honed in on the Kahn Co. sign that is partially visible on one of the buildings in the background, and he noticed that we had another photograph of Kahn Furniture Co. in our archive. The image found in Digital ID Street0815 describes a note on the back of the photograph that reads, “Leo Kahn & Co. 352-354 Poplar Ave. Leo Kahn manager (1912 directory)”.

That location checks out! 352 Poplar Avenue falls between Lauderdale St. and the intersection of Carroll Ave./High St., which is confirmed in the 1912 City Directory. Further confirmation can be found in the depiction of the slightly raised tracks. Around the spot where Poplar crosses the Gayoso Bayou, the streetcar tracks become raised. You can see this in multiple images in DIG Memphis, and as seen in this map from 1925, the Gayoso Bayou crossing was just east of Fourth Street.

This puts our photographer right around the modern-day intersection of Poplar and Danny Thomas Blvd.: 35.148262, -90.043749.


4/13/2020:

Jackson Avenue Viaduct in 1938. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street0538)

The above photograph from 1938 shows the Jackson Avenue Viaduct. Unlike most of the images in our Streetscapes Collection, this one does not have specific geographic data attached to it. Can you determine the exact location this photographer was standing back in 1938? If you can, share the cross street or Latitude/Longitude information, which can be found by using Google Maps.

SOLVED!!

This solution was a joint effort!  We received a couple of answers pointing to different sides of the Jackson Avenue Viaduct. To determine which side the photographer was standing, we must locate Schmidt’s Café. The café seen in the distance is not listed by name in the 1938 City Directory. The only restaurant that is listed in the area of the viaduct is ‘Pryor Wm D restr’ at 2876 Jackson Avenue, which is a possibility! When searching ‘2876 Jackson’ in the Commercial Appeal, we found a small social announcement stating, “Winnifred Smith of Paducah, Ky.is visiting Mr. And Mrs. L.C. Schmidt at their home at 2876 Jackson.” –  therefore tying the Schmidts to the restaurant near the eastern side of the viaduct! 

The photographer appears to be standing on the southeastern side of the viaduct, facing west, near these coordinates: 35.159800, -89.963566.

Lamar Avenue. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street0442)

This photograph captures a pedestrian talking to a man on a bicycle next at the intersection of Lamar Avenue and Woodward Street. Because this area has undergone dramatic changes over the years, we currently do not have Latitude/Longitude data for this spot. We’re also unsure what year the photographer snapped this photo. Can you determine the exact location and time period captured here? If you can, please share!

Madison Avenue. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street1115)

The image above shows Madison Avenue in 1950. A couple of business signs are visible, including Westinghouse Electric Supply Co., but none of the street addresses can be seen. Where was the Westinghouse Electric Supply Co.? Can you locate this block along Madison Avenue?

Florida Street (3). Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street0079)

This undated photo of Florida street shows Herron’s Beauty Shop and School on the left side of the road, but where was Herron’s Beauty Shop located? Do you know which block of Florida Street is depicted in this photo?

*HINT* – This might be another chance to use the Library’s expanded access to the Commercial Appeal Archive in order to track down this business location.

Billboard on Cleveland Street. Memphis Streetscapes Collection, DIG MEMPHIS. (Digital ID Street0026)

The back of this photograph indicates that it was taken along Cleveland Street on an undetermined date.
A Barber Shop to the left of the billboard can be seen, and we can also see a Motor Co. on the right. What area of Cleveland is depicted in this image? Do you know the time period?

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