Looking through an old scrapbook purchased at an estate sale, I noticed a small snapshot of a young man standing in Confederate Park. What’s especially interesting is the building under construction in the background: It is the original Elks Club Building, a 12-story structure that was erected as the national headquarters of the Elks organization.
That distinctive building also operated for years as a high-end downtown hotel, later changing its name to the fancier-sounding DeVoy Hotel, but for years it was better known as the Hotel King Cotton. When that building was demolished in 1984 (by dynamite!), the site became home to the Morgan Keegan Tower. Today it’s known as the Raymond James Tower.
Whew, it’s worn me out just keeping track of all the changing names at this location.
A scribbled note on the back of the photo identifies the handsome young man as Robert Highgate, and a quick search of city directories shows that in 1927 Highgate worked as a “storekeeper,” whatever that means, for the Memphis Power and Light Company, known these days, of course, as Memphis Light, Gas and Water.
One other interesting detail: He is leaning against a nice cast-iron urn, part of two that were once part of the decorative features scattered throughout Confederate Park. Although you can’t clearly read the lettering on the base of the urn in this photo, they were cast by the Livermore Foundry, a longtime Memphis company. I really don’t know what happened to them over the years. Do you?