5 Star Story: Central Station Memphis

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 10:42 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - When it opened more than 100 years ago, the subject of this 5 Star Story was called Grand Central Station, a passenger terminal and rail hub for six different lines.

Today, it’s an incredible example of how something old can become something new and magical. Kym Clark is hitting the brakes and unpacking the sights and sounds at what is now called Central Station Memphis.

Central Station Memphis has anchored the corner of Main and G.E. Patterson in what is now called the South Main Historic Arts District since 1914.

“And served the Pacific Railroad Line for many, many, many years. And there’s been many incarnations of this building, but it’s been open and in use in Memphis since then,” explained Troy Dixon, general manager of Central Station Memphis.

But it was virtually abandoned and deserted after World War II until 2019.

“It was repurposed as a hotel. So it’s a Hilton Curio Flag Hotel. It’s a great story and a great partnership between Kemmons Wilson, McClean Wilson, and Henry Turley, the City of Memphis, Amtrak, MATA--all really in partnership to repurpose this area which in total was about 17 acres of property to convert that into this hotel. You have the Malco Theater next door and the South Bluff complex that we’re adjacent to as well,” Dixon described.

Central Station Memphis is like most Hilton Curios, a unique local property transformed into new life.

“The Curio flag is kind of the boutique arm of the Hilton umbrella,” Dixon said. “And you know I think honestly, this is one of three Curios that I’ve worked at but easily, I think, the most unique.”

Inside Central Station Memphis
Inside Central Station Memphis(Action News 5)

And the local flavor that runs throughout the hotel is intentional.

“Really what we try for every day is to have a really, really Memphis-rich experience for everyone and that’s articulated in the story of the hotel of being the train station,” he added. And that’s seen through the artwork in the lobby. “You know, as you come into the hotel, this is also part of the welcome and the lobby experience.”

At the Eight & Sand bar and lounge, guests can sip craft cocktails while listening to Memphis jams and flip through the Memphis-inspired vinyl collection.

“It’s almost 4,000 records that all have a Memphis tie, whether it was recorded in Memphis, Memphis artists, or a song about Memphis. The speakers that we have both here in Eight & Sand and the guest rooms were handcrafted by Eggleston Works, which is also located here in Memphis,” Dixon explained.

The lounge is also where guests can enjoy live DJs on an organ-turned-turn table--where Memphians are known to hang out with out-of-town hotel guests.

“And it’s a wonderful, wonderful cross-section of all of Memphis: age, race, gender, it’s just great to see,” Dixon said.

The walls of the 123 guest rooms with speaker-inspired mini-fridges also hold custom artwork. In this case, photographs taken along Amtrak’s City of New Orleans passenger line which still stops at Central Station twice a day.

Inside Central Station Memphis
Inside Central Station Memphis(Action News 5)

“What Jamie Harmon did was rode the City of New Orleans line from New Orleans to Chicago and back and just snapped photos from the train, would hop off the train and thematically--they’re pretty random, but when it ties into the story... and really where we’ve sat in the history of being on the train line, it’s like, ‘Oh! Well that’s kind of cool,’” Dixon pointed out while adding that the guest floor hallways are also rail-inspired.

“Even the carpet was meant to resemble a train track and the line as well. The tile that you see in the hallway is original tile from 1914,” he said.

Although reminders of the past abound, you’ll find modern visual surprises in the renovated meeting and event spaces as well.

“Some of the paintings large and small, like, every corner would be another kind of point of discovery. Kind of using it as a big backdrop for a gallery and forgetting that you’re even once in a train station,” Dixon revealed.

Take a trip to the hotel’s ground floor and you’ll find the French brasserie, Bishop, from superstar chefs Andy Ticer and Mike Hudman featuring Southern-French fare served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

You can even order it to your room!

“We really want to be Memphis’ living room, to come explore, work, travel, rest, eat, sleep... just all of it. We really want to be an active participant and really hub of all great things culturally and travel in the City of Memphis,” Dixon said.

Dixon said the hotel is also in the process of constructing even more meeting and event spaces.

Click these links for more information about Central Station Hotel or the Amtrak passenger service.

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