HISTORIC Oak Hall
                 
...and the Memphis Halle Family

 

Many of the historic businesses in Memphis have changed hands or have come and gone throughout the years.  One giant is left standing, and it remains in the hands of the original family after almost a century and a half:  OAK HALL. 

Their long history is based on personalized and dignified service:   Offer customers the greatest selection, give them the greatest service and exceed their expectations every time they visit. 

 
 

Click on small photo to enlarge the photo



Three Halle brothers arrived in Memphis in the early 1850s.  They had left their home in Altona, a suburb of Hamburg, Germany where their family had lived since the 1680s.  Rough times were ahead for Memphis during this period - the Civil War as well as the devastating effects of all the Yellow Fever epidemics.  Many of these early immigrants would perish or leave Memphis, never to return. But the Halle family remained and continued to establish businesses.  With their success, they became identified with the carriage trade of Memphis and the entire Mid-South.   

 

1800s Hamburg, Germany



Solomon Halle - the youngest of the brothers, opened OAK HALL in downtown Memphis in 1859, during the presidency of James Buchanan.  It was one of the first ready-to-wear menswear stores in the country.  And it's still owned and operated by direct descendants of Solomon and is now one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the United States.  Solomon  is credited with establishing an Oak Hall tradition:  "Always look for something new and don't be afraid of change."

Solomon Halle  

Oak Hall 1898

Oak Hall 1909 Oak Hall 1920s Oak Hall 1920s Oak Hall 1940s

1873 Ad 1884 Ad 1887 Ad 1888 Ad 1888 Billhead

In the 1800s, clothing stores didn't actually have set prices.  People of different social backgrounds would pay entirely different rates.  Oak Halls policy was that everyone pays the same price, regardless of the current balance in their bank account. They were designated as the "One Price Clothing House" and  that statement is "in writing" at the top of their billhead.  And the store was always known for "impeccable customer service"

  1882 "One Price Clothing House"

 

 

In 1876, Solomon Halle built a 3 storey, seventeen room home for his family.  For many years It was a landmark in the 300 block of Poplar, near Main.  Sadly, the home was demolished in the 1960s.

   

William "Buffalo Bill" Cody shopped at Oak Hall, and you can still see his signature in the 1900 Oak Hall registry.  He came to the store at least 3 times at the turn of the century.

Buffalo Bill  

1900 Oak Hall Register

Solomon really cared about his clothing store and to make sure the stock was the best, he made frequent trips to New York to visit the designers and manufacturers.  Oak Hall remained in downtown Memphis at the same location for a record 111 years.  (251 Main Street , which became 55 N. Main when the numbering system changed in 1905).  They did expand into the building next door, which more than doubled the size. 

Solomon died unexpectedly  in 1890 while on a buying trip to New York with two of his sons.  After his death, the Memphis Directories show "Henry & Bro" as being in charge.
 

 

   

 


The Memphis Directories (below), beginning in 1859, show the Halle family as they grow along with the growth of Memphis.  Strangely, even though the sign on the store was "OAK HALL" from the beginning, that name was not used in the directories until 1892.   The directory  listing always read Sol (somtimes Solomon) Halle, 155 Main Street.  For a couple of years after Solomon's death, the listing was for "Henry Halle & Bro" (Henry and David).

 

1892 Oak Hall

1891 H. & Bro

1859 1866 1867-68 1870 1872 1876 1878 1880

1883

 

 


The downtown Oak Hall was located across from the Odd Fellows Hall on Main Street.  The Odd Fellows Hall, dating from 1851, was demolished in 1924 to build the Columbian Mutual Tower.  And the Oak Hall building was demolished around 1996 to build the Sleep In and the more recent Marriott Courtyard.  Of course the area has changed since then:  This section of Main Street is now closed to traffic.  And N. Court Avenue used to continue on to Front Street.

 

Location Map

    

Main 1920s

1924

1924 UCV Sponsor

1930s Hat

Trade Mark 1953

   

      

 

After 111 years of success in downtown Memphis, Oak Hall moved to 555 Perkins in 1970, and then in 1996, made the move further East to Regalia - each time landing in what would soon be the center of the commercial sector of Memphis. This forward thinking trend seems to be apparent in other changes Oak Hall has made throughout the years.

The current guard at Oak Hall consists of Bill Levy and Bob Levy, the great-great grandsons of the original proprietor, and Bill's son Will Levy, the sixth generation in line to run the business.

1966 Ad  
  

Oak Hall Opening 555 Perkins Oak Hall Regalia Center Oak Hall Interior

Oak Hall Run for St. Jude .
I
n 1977 Bill Levy, president of Oak Hall Inc. started the Oak Hall Run for St. Jude. He didn't know it would turn into the biggest road race in Tennessee and a favorite race for many Memphians. Between 1977-2001, the race raised over 2 million for St. Jude. The Oak Hall Run for St. Jude became a community wide event enjoyed by serious athletes, weekend joggers, families, and anyone wanting to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

 

 

In 1979, Oak Hall opened it's Ladies Department, with the opportunity to grow from 25-35% of the total. 

In 2008, the Vineyard Vines Shop opened for "preppy clothing", appealing to the youth.

Ladies

Vineyard Vines

 

 

 

 

The Halle Family .  Oak Hall is the family business and at one time or another, it appears that every Halle spent some time there, possibly "learning the business".  They've not all stayed in the business at Oak Hall, though.  As you will see below, some have worked in different areas, while others have also been involved with clothing stores.  At various times some of the Halle's either worked for or were in business with the Menken Bros and the Goldsmiths.

The Phil A. Halle Clothing Company prominently occupied the first three floors of the Memphis Exchange Building for many years.  It was run almost as an "extenson" of Oak Hall  - same type of merchandise and customer service.

   

1920 ad

1922

1922

 

1952

      

A. Arthur Halle was co-founder of the Memphis Cotton Carnival.   He and a group of businessmen called on theatre manager Herbert Jennings, for a donation. Jennings shared an idea that he believed would help promote business by displaying cotton goods in his theatre. He also encouraged them to use their own store windows to promote cotton clothing.  Halle was intrigued by the idea and envisioned a larger city-wide promotion.  The ideas quickly grew into a plan for a grand celebration with a King, Queen and Royal Court that would involve people from all over the Mid-South. The idea was to promote the use and wearing of cotton which would lead to increased demand and stimulate sales. It worked,  and the rest is history.

 

A. Arthur Halle

Jacob Halle and the Jacob Halle & Co at 339 Main ... and an 1874 fire that puts the store out of business...

                                                  ...but
Louis Halle had a clothing store at 239 Main up to 1905.

 

1874 Fire

1880 Louis

          

Samuel Halle and Henry Halle had a Cigar and Tobacco shop at 235 Main .   Henry also became a buyer for Oak Hall.

  Cigar Store Buyer
 

Meyer Halle Dry Goods was at 122 Beale for years - where the Hard Rock Cafe is now.

 

Meyer Halle Dry Goods

 
 

 

Philip Halle, Jr. a seventh-generation Memphian was involved with the development of more than 1800 lots  primarily in the Collierville area. 

   

The current guard consists of Bill Levy and Bob Levy, the great-great grandsons of the original proprietor, and Bill's son Will Levy, the sixth generation in line to run the business.  They have recently expanded and opened an Oak Hall in Nashville ...

 

 

CREDITS: The "Historic-Memphis" Team would like to acknowledge and thank the following organizations for their contributions which helped make this page possible:  Memphis Oak Hall, Memphis Public Library, University of Memphis Library, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis Press Scimitar, Greater Memphis Chamber, Memphis Flyer, Vance Lauderdale Family Archives, Memphis Heritage, Tom Leatherwood Shelby County Register, Lee Askew, George Whitworth, Joe Spake,  and many other individuals whose assistance is acknowledged on individual photos.

 
 

 Please visit the website that sponsors this page

Historic Memphis Website