Lost Memphis: The National Garage



Since the Lauderdales rarely left our estate without the protection of our chauffeur-driven limousines, I paid little attention to public parking garages used by the common folk. But then I turned up this brightly colored old matchbook showing a grand-looking building called the National Garage, and was actually quite jealous of the people who got to use it. It really looks like quite a fine building.

The National Garage, as its name implies, was part of a national chain. This particular building opened downtown in 1927 at the northeast corner of Front and Court, replacing a row of older and smaller buildings that housed various cotton firms and Koehler Brothers Construction Company. It was eight stories tall, steam-heated according to the matchbook (it says that on the other side), and for several years even included a Gulf gas station that provided "complete service for your car." Squint carefully at the image here and you can barely make out the Gulf sign.

In 1962, or thereabouts, the building became All-Right Parking, one of many such places around our city. It remained in business until the early 1980s,when it was demolished to make way for the Morgan Keegan Tower. At one time, as I recall, there were vague plans to construct two matching towers. As a result, the site of the former garage remained empty for years, but it is now occupied by a parking lot. How appropriate.

And one other observation. Look who manufactured the matchbook: the Ohio Match Sales Company, which for some reason is located in St. Louis, and the last time I looked that city wasn't even close to Ohio.

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

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