When looking for places to stay during travel, it’s always fantastic to combine comfort with history, especially when it can be done in an upscale way. The Central Station Hotel located right on the corner of Main Street & GE Patterson Ave., do both things well. Boasting more than a century of history, it’s the perfect space to introduce both locals and visitors to the Main Street of Memphis.
Part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, this space will wrap you in luxury while also staying true to the deep musical roots that make Memphis so amazing. Musical nods are sprinkled around the hotel, from the walls to the lobby, to your personal sleeping space. A live DJ is there weekly, and if you’re not too keen on spending time with strangers, you can get the set siphoned through the Bluetooth speakers in your room, missing nothing of the charm the walls hold.
I’ve taken the train from Chicago to Memphis as a young girl, and Grand Central Station – the location of the Central Station Hotel – did NOT look this way when I did. Well, as much as my memory serves.
For a bit of history about this building that has been standing since 1913, but didn’t become the hotel that it is until recently:
Central Station Hotel History
Memphis built its first grand train station in 1855 here at the corner of GE Patterson Avenue – then called Calhoun after President John Calhoun – and Main Streets.
The Calhoun Station was the first depot in Memphis constructed by the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad around 1855. A more ornate, two-story station opened in 1888 by the Illinois Central Line. The Calhoun Station was demolished in 1912-13 to make room for the new Central Station which would be the last building designed by the architect Daniel Burnham, who you may know as the genius behind Chicago’s 1895 Columbian Exposition.
Central Station was the center (get it?!) of the railroad transportation era for nearly 50 years. By 1935, the depot was the hub of more than 50 trains a day, helping make Memphis one of the busiest inland railroad transportation centers in the country.
As rail traffic started to wane in the 60s, passenger traffic declined at Central Station having a negative impact on the surrounding restaurants, shops, and hotels. Amtrak was the only train regularly using the track until the grand station fell into disrepair.
Now, the track still serves Amtrak’s City of New Orleans route bringing passengers south from as far north as Chicago and bringing those from the pelican state to the Land of Lincoln and the Windy City.
Central Station Hotel Rooms
We booked adjoining rooms and were pleasantly surprised. Usually, adjoining rooms offer four full-sized beds with no charm. Instead, we had a double room adjoined by a king suite. Perfect for a family our size and for folks who want to watch different things on television when they are winding down for the evening. Bathrooms were spacious and the living area doubled as a sleeping area with a full-sized pull-out sofa.
While renovating that hotel, most of the original structure was kept intact. Large windows that face Main Street, the Mississippi river, or if you have a corner room – the parking lot – which isn’t NEARLY as boring as one would think – let light stream in and wrap you at the start of the day. Those corner rooms and Mississippi River facing spaces give you a perfect view of the twice-arriving Amtrak trains in the morning and evening. I wondered often where every person who stepped on or off that train was going for their final destination.
Here’s a peek at the King bedroom and attached bathroom.
Everywhere you look in the hotel, there are musical influences and touches. The biggest is the large lobby that’s downstairs from check-in. A wall full of vinyl albums and a spin table, flanked by the entrance to the Grand Lobby – where commuters once gathered to wait for their trains – and the hotel Bar 8 and Sand.
This floor also holds the way to the in-house restaurant – Bishop which serves up contemporary southern cuisine.
Proximity to Exploring
Given its location in the South Main Arts District, the Central Hotel is steps away from the Main Street Trolley, and restaurants and shops in the area. We got to ride the trolley to the end of the line and back and noticed all of the things we could do without ever getting in our car. Our walk to the National Civil Rights Museum, only two blocks away, took a little over 15 minutes – mostly because I slowed the group down.
The trolley is $1 per ride or you can splurge and get an all-day pass for $2. The pass doesn’t activate until you take your first ride which is a HUGE plus. You would stop at the MATA depot to snag passes.
Other notable stops are The Renasant Center – previously known as the Cook Convention Center – Aldo’s Pizza, Beale Street, and more.
If you’re considering a stay at Central Station Hotel AND you want to make it a huge adventure, know that if you’re coming from New Orleans or Chicago you can take the train TO your hotel. No waiting for Uber or Lyft and no fumbling over getting luggage into and out of cars more than necessary.
The hotel is a 15-minute drive from the airpost as well. As with all things, we do road trips and from Chicago, we clocked in at a little over 7 hours because we live right off of I-57 which leads to Memphis, TN.
Make your reservation today and then tell me how much you like it after you leave because you will.