Rooms with a View

With historic charm and modern touches, the Parkview gives retirees a taste of both worlds.



The handsome lobby with original walnut paneling and hand-carved ceilings offers a grand welcome as it has for 90 years.

photographs by Andrea Zucker

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When the 10-story Parkview Hotel opened on New Year’s Eve 1923, at 1914 Poplar Avenue, it was located well away from downtown Memphis — just inside the city limits, which were at that time Cooper Street. This was the golden age of grand hotels, and it is said the idea for building the Parkview originated with George D. Barnett, a famous St. Louis architect. History also tells us that it was built on the site of a short-lived amusement park called Fairyland, which closed in 1908.

With its commanding views of Overton Park and its luxurious rooms and common areas, the Parkview was immediately billed as the South’s finest residential hotel and an address of rare distinction. Its fortunes waxed and waned in the Depression years, but in the 1940s the Parkview once again became one of the city’s elegant social hubs. Designed principally as an apartment hotel, it offered rooms to traveling guests, and the popular dining room, known for its good food and musical ensembles, was open to the public.

Several of the hotel’s managers over the years, including first Edward Knoff and later Norman Woodmansee, helped to maintain the hotel’s standing and were well-known figures in the community.

Today, 90 years after its creation, the historic Parkview is alive and well and functioning as a retirement community managed by Brookdale Senior Living. The gorgeous lobby with original walnut paneling and hand-carved ceilings is still impressive, and each of the 129 apartments is unique, with many offering views of the park or downtown Memphis.

Michelle Welling, the Parkview’s sales manager, kindly arranged for my photographer and me to visit three apartment homes to have a look at the various layouts and decorative styles. Already aware that illustrious Memphis photographer William Eggleston (profiled in this magazine in June 2012) has a fabled corner apartment, we were happy for the opportunity to talk to some of the other residents to learn their stories.

We first called on a recent San Francisco transplant, Jeanne Napoli, who moved to Memphis to be near her grandchildren and is a semi-retired tax accountant. She is in the process of painting her two-bedroom apartment overlooking the park, and we were delighted with the “Martha Stewart green” cabinets and sky-blue ceiling in her kitchen. Napoli walks an impressive five miles a day and is enthusiastic about the Parkview’s proximity to midtown highlights such as Maggie’s Pharm in Overton Square, Otherlands Coffee Bar in Cooper-Young, and Evergreen’s Café Eclectic.

History tells us the creamy-colored Parkview was once red brick but no matter the hue it stands tall as an iconic Poplar Avenue landmark.

 

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