photo courtesy Gravure Illustration Company of Chicago, 1926
In 1926, the Gravure Illustration Company of Chicago published an amazing series of nine large-format softcover books, called The Art Work of Memphis, which featured high-quality images of the most distinctive architectural landmarks in Memphis. I assume they prepared books for other cities, but I just don’t know. I only write about Memphis here.
What’s remarkable is not only the sheer amount of work that went into this publication, but the fact that it’s a follow-up to an almost identical series of books published by the same company in 1912, so it’s fun to compare the two to see how various buildings changed over the years.
One of many wonderful buildings from the 1926 edition is the Woman’s Art Building (shown here) which stood on Union for more than half a century. It looks more like an English cottage than a commercial building, and that’s partly because it began life as a small church. In later years, it changed hands and became much better known as Helen of Memphis, perhaps one of the finest shops in our city, or certainly in the top 10.
I’ve written before about Helen of Memphis, and in fact, here’s a photo of the store as it looked in 1960. It doesn’t have all the details of the 1926 building, and later underwent even more drastic changes when the street was widened. But in any shape or form, it stood as a distinctive landmark along Union Avenue, until it was finally demolished and replaced with a Rite Aid.