Visit South Main Historic Arts District In Downtown Memphis

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    Introduction to the South Main Street Historic District

    ••• South Main Street Historic District. Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

    Tucked away on the southern end of downtown Memphis is a fun, chill community with a flavor all its own. Recently named one of Thrillist's Most Stylish Streets In America, the South Main Historic Arts District offers plenty to do for both visitors and locals.

    The district started as a bustling train hub in the early 1900s, with at least fifty trains rumbling through Central Station and passengers enjoying the neighborhood's restaurants and numerous hotels. Merchants ran their shops while their families lived upstairs and even manufactures and warehouses had their place in the district.

    The Depression took its toll on the businesses in the area, as it did on businesses around the country. Continual decline in the railroad industry in the 1950s and economic stagnation in the 1960s and 70s meant that the area was virtually abandoned. 

    In the 1980s, however, artists returned to the area because its historic architecture and artistic feel remained well-preserved. Today, dozens of...MORE shops, restaurants, galleries, attractions, residences, and businesses plus a slew of annual events have brought South Main back to life with an energy and vibrancy. On the pages ahead we will take a look at these places which make the South Main District unique.

    Updated October 2017

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  • 02 of 05

    Art Galleries

    ••• Art Village Gallery at 410 South Main, the district's oldest international gallery. Inside, you'll find the colorful and eclectic work of artist Ephraim Urevbu, a long-time resident of Memphis, but originally from Nigeria. Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

    There is a prominent artistic presence in the South Main district that is evidenced by its multiple art galleries. In these galleries you will find a variety of painting styles, photography, sculpture, and other art forms. To showcase the art of the South Main district, as well as art from all over the country, the district is home to the River Arts Fest in late October each year. Below are the galleries of the South Main Historic Arts District.

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    Restaurants

    ••• At 540 South Main, the Arcade has the distinction of being Memphis' oldest restaurant. It was established in 1919. Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

    There is no shortage of places to eat in the South Main Historic Arts District. And just like everything else in the area, the food here is eclectic, too. Sure, you can get a burger and fries. Then again you could try a salmon BLT, artichoke quiche, Spanish tapas, or Jamaican ribeyes. Below are the many restaurants that bring a variety of tastes to the South Main district.

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    Shopping

    ••• Muse Inspired Fashions is a fun and eclectic little boutique with clothing and accessories for the "funky diva" and "metrosexual male." Open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. (c) 2006 Teresa R. Simpson, Licensed to About.com, Inc.

    In addition to art, the South Main Historic District has a variety of other merchandise for sale. In the districts shops and boutiques you can find apparel, jewelry, housewares, and even bikes. Below are the stores in the South Main district. For individual websites, addresses, and information visit South Main website's shopping section

    • 387 Pantry
    • Bathhouse Soapery
    • The Broom Closet
    • Chapman Furniture
    • Downtown Candle Co. 
    • Exercise Unlimited
    • Farrell-Calhoun 
    • Luxe Boutique
    • Live Naturelle Skin Care Products
    • Peddler Bike Shop
    • Red Velvet Vintage
    • Sache
    • South Front Architectural Antiques
    • The Book Juggler
    • Tinder Box
    • Walking Pants Curiosities
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  • 05 of 05

    Special Attractions and Events

    ••• The National Civil Rights Museum is a world-renowned cultural attraction that draws thousands of visitors each year. This institution examines the civil rights struggles faced by both our city and our nation throughout history. Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

    There are several must-visit attractions in the South Main Historic Arts District:

    Although there are all sorts of events going on at any given time in the South Main district, these three are perhaps the most popular.