Memphis Court Square

Court Square provides the perfect place to sit in peace amid the hustle of Downtown Memphis.  The quiet oasis is surrounded by office buildings and busy streets and offers a shady area with fountains, statues, and a gazebo, and places to relax and enjoy the restored antique trolleys going by on Main Street.  The square is located between Main and Second Streets at Court Avenue.  Of all the 4 original municipal parks laid out by the city planners in 1819, Court Square is the only one left in its original form.  Ironically the land was set aside to build a court house, but no courthouse was ever built on Court Square.  It was however, the site of Memphis' first schoolhouse.  The land for Court Square was donated by John McLemore, one of the founders of Memphis

 

Click on small photos to enlarge them. 

     

   

 

 

 

 

In 1876 the Hebe Fountain, donated to the City by some prominent city leaders, was erected in the center of the park.  In Greek mythology Hebe was the Cupbearer to the Gods.  Memphians have enjoyed the fountain, practically non-stop since it was dedicated.  The light display at night is especially beautiful.  Hard to image but there's one drowning associated with the fountain. 

Originally the basin of the fountain was 6 1/2 feet deep, stocked with cat fish and turtles, and no fence.  In 1884, 10 year old Claude Pugh, sitting on the edge, leaned too far and tumbled in.  The sloped edges were slippery from algae and he couldn't regain his footing.  Incredibly, the park was filled with visitors and no one made an effort to save him.  After struggling for several minutes, he slipped beneath the surface.  The Memphis Daily Appeal reported "Stalwart men stood silently by with staring eyes and gaping mouths.  Their hearts must have been made of stone, and the milk of human kindness in their beasts sour whey.  More consideration would have been given a dumb beast"  

The fountain is made of cast iron and is 20 feet high, with a diameter of 35 feet and weighs 7000 pounds.  It is a copy after the great Italian sculptor Antonio Canova.   In 1932 a movement was started to remove the fountain from Court Square (Hebe is nude from the waist up), but their efforts didn't succeed.  In 1942, the statue was toppled in a wind storm and in 1949 re-erected after restoration.  In 1957, the fish were changed back from goldfish to catfish but so many were stolen that the fish were taken out altogether.  In 1980, the fountain was completely renovated.

       
       

  Fountain

Fountain

Fountain

Fountain

       
    

     Fountain

Fountain

 

Fountain   

 

 

 

 

Court Square appeared in the movie "The Firm" as the backdrop for a meeting between Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman.   Santa Claus used to make annual appearances in the Gazebo during the Christmas season.  A temporary, prototype fallout shelter was erected in 1960 to show Memphians the type of shelter they can build at home to provide protection from a nuclear blast.  Today, Court Square remains one of the symbols of Memphis, and is still surrounded by an intact grouping of architecturally significant buildings.  In 1982 Court Square was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Pavilion

Malone Monument

Plaque

Plaque

 
 

<> Court Square in Vintage Postcards over the years <>

       

 

1915

1906

Winter

       

    

 

 

1940s

1912

       

 

1941

1918

c. 1950s

       
            

Feeding Pigeons 1917      

   1940s                             1904

1906

1908

       

1909... Canon          

1909 ... Canon

1907

1909

       

1905 "Squirrel Pasture"           

1907 "Squirrel Pasture"

1907

1905

       

c.  1909                    

      1905

1910

1905

       

-

1909

-

1910 - Pavilion

 
     

Fountain                      1913 1908 1910

Vintage ... From 2nd St     

 

 1942 ..Opposite Gerbers

1905

1918

Court Sq Skyscrapers 1908    

 

        

   


 

<>  Court Square Vintage Photos  and Memorabilia  <>

Thanks  to the Memphis Public Library and the University of Memphis Library for many of the  photos on this page

       
       

Don't feed the squirrels 1918-20

Wm McKinley-1901

Mckinley-1901

Dish-Ashtray - 1930s

 Photo 1900

       
    

Silver Spoon - 1900-20

Winter - 1950s

1900

 Photo 1900

         

    Santa's House 1940

Santa's House - Rain - Moon

Santa and Regina

1906

Early 1900s

         

1932

1940s

1940s

Confederate Parade 1901     

Confederate Reunion 1924

         

Souvenir Spoons      

CleanUp-PaintUp-FixUp

Jeff Davis House

Watercolor

1908

         

1912

Spoon 1910

Advertising

Malone Monument 

Vintage 

Court Square - Winter

         

1906     

Spoons

1887 Drawing

Pigeons

1891 Benjamin Harrison

Drawing 1862

 

Court-2nd

Pigeons

1909 UCV Reunion

1909 UCV Reunion

Record Snow     

 
     

1967

     

Vintage 1900s

 
     
 
 

Email

   

<>"I lived in the downtown area when I was in high school, and I remember Court Square very well. My mother worked at Gerber's for several years. and many times I would meet her there when her work-day was done. We would walk through Court Square, over to the Sterick Building, and a block or two to our apartment on Madison. I have spent many hours in that park, admiring the fountain, feeding the pigeons and watching people". - Bob Mann

 
<>"...lots of Memories".  - Rex King
 
<>"...sure brings back some good memories.  The pictures are great".  - Ruth Hage St. Peter
 
<>"It's a unique place.  I don't get downtown very often now, but it is always a pleasure to walk through Court Square when I do.  Great photos".  - Glenn Raby
 
<>"Many memories there. I worked within 50 yards of it for several years. I had a few sack lunches there as well".  - Ed Bell.
 

<>"Court Square was a place where all the kids would gather in long lines, waiting for their chance to talk to Santa Claus. Court Square was turned into the North Pole with Santa's house in the middle. People were so happy at that time of year, and Elvis gave money to a organization called The Goodfellows. They had kids come there every year at Christmas time and we saw Santa, and got a toy or two, along with some memories". - Vernon Cullum

 

<>"When I was a child there was only one Santa Claus and he was always in his little house in Court Square during the Christmas season". - Regina Lee Page

 

<>"I also remember feeding the pigeons and squirrels in the summer. You could buy peanuts and popcorn at the little concession stand there".  -Joe Gordon

 
<>"These photos really brought back memories.  I especially perked up at the one that showed Gerber's Department Store across the street from the park.  That was my favorite store.  My sister Aileen, worked in their photography department as a colorist before colored film.  I put an outfit on lay-a-way there one year and paid it off a couple of dollars a week!  They were very nice there.  Deep in my heart, Memphis will always be "home". - Joan Smith Ludwig
 

 

Credits

 

The Historic-Memphis website does not intentionally post copyrighted photos and material without permission or credit.  On occasion a "non-credited" photo might possibly be posted because we were unable to find a name to give credit.  Because of the nature of our non-commercial, non-profit, educational website, we strongly believe that these photos would be considered "Fair Use.  We have certainly made no monetary gain, although those using this website for historic or Genealogy research have certainly profited.  If by chance, we have posted your copyrighted photo, please contact us, and we'll remove it immediately, or we'll add your credit if that's your choice.  In the past, we have found that many photographers volunteer to have their works included on these pages and we'll  also do that if you contact us with a photo that fits a particular page. 

 

The "Historic-Memphis" website would like to acknowledge and thank the following for their contributions which helped make this website possible:  Memphis Public Library, Memphis University Library, Memphis Law Library, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis Press Scimitar, Shelby County Register of Deeds, Memphis City Schools, Memphis Business Men's Club, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Memphis City Park Commission, Memphis Film Commision, Carnival Memphis, Memphis Historical Railroad Page, Memphis Heritage Inc, Beale Street Historic District, Cobblestone Historic District, Memphis Historic Districts, Vance Lauderdale Family Archives, Tennessee State Archives, Library of Congress, Kemmons Wilson Family, Richard S. Brashier, Lee Askew, George Whitworth, Woody Savage and many individuals whose assistance is acknowledged on the pages of their contributions.  Special thanks to Memphis Realtor, Joe Spake, for giving us carte blanche access to his outstanding collection of contemporary Memphis photos.

We do not have high definition  copies of the photos on these pages.  If anyone wishes to secure high definition photos,  you'll have to contact the photographer  or the collector.  (To avoid any possibility of contributing to SPAM, we do not maintain a file of email addresses for anyone who contacts us).

 

 

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