Lost Memphis: The Hi-Way Tourist Home



Union Avenue, as you may know, was once a fine residential street, lined with grand homes, though it really takes quite an imagination to picture it that way. During the 1940s and 1950s, especially, the street began to evolve into the cluttery commercial artery that it is today, and the private homes along it changed with the times as well.

In 1951, Mr. and Mrs. Chester Beard converted their handsome residence at 1268 Union into the Hi-Way Tourist Home (shown here on an old stained postcard), as a place for weary travelers to rest their heads. Not a bad location, I guess, since it was right across the street from Methodist Hospital.

Why "Hi-Way"? Well, Union Avenue, then and now, carries State Highways 64, 70, and 79 through our city.

Those travelers had a couple of other choices on the same block. McLintock Tourist Home was next door, and the Leahy Tourist Home stood just a few doors away. This was before Holiday Inns and the fancy chain hotels/motels, remember, but the postcard claimed that the Hi-Way Home still offered "modernistic furniture and Beautyrest mattresses throughout." And look, it even had some lawn chairs and striped umbrellas in the front yard, so you could sit and watch the cars go by — maybe an ambulance or two pulling into the hospital! What more could you want?

Developers soon discovered that property along Union was more valuable when it was occupied by something other than a few old tourist homes, and one by one they came tumbling down. By the mid-1950s, Leahy's had relocated to Summer Avenue, where it is still in business today, though beginning to lose some of its funky charm. The Beards closed their place in 1960, and McLintock's was gone by 1962. That whole area is now a parking lot for Methodist Hospital and the Southern College of Optometry.

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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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