Save Our Treasures

Cultural tourism is important to West Tennessee and Memphis. That's one reason it's important to authentically restore our Cobblestone Landing. Statistics show that of the 10M tourists who visit Memphis in a year 81% are cultural heritage tourists who spend substantially more a day than other tourists. The jobs of 52,000 people in Memphis are directly related to cultural history tourism.

The program "Save America's Treasures" has been a driving force in the effort to protect places that tell our nation's story and one that has funded 1,100 projects, 16,000 jobs, and hundreds of millions in matched grants. Locally the Center for Southern Folklore received $210,951 through the program in 2007 to preserve the Rev. L. O. Taylor Collection of photographs documenting African American life and culture from the late 1920s to the early 1950s.

"Save America's Treasures" is on the chopping block in the federal budget.

For more info. and to get involved, click HERE.


In Memphis an Event to Celebrate on Presidents’ Day

One of President Theodore Roosevelt’s lasting contributions as our 26th president was the preservation of some of our country’s most unique natural and cultural resources. His speech in Memphis in 1907 to the Deep Waterways Convention is hailed as a milestone in the beginning of the conservation movement.

Arriving Oct. 4 on the USS Mississippi, Roosevelt landed at our Cobblestone Landing accompanied by Gifford Pinchot and WJ McGee, all of whom saw the importance of the Mississippi Valley and a network of waterways linking the U.S.

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Vibrant Riverfront for Less

A letter-to-the editor at the Commercial Appeal had
5 good suggestions for how to reduce the cost of BSL and get more bang for the buck on the riverfront.

Check them out HERE and share your ideas. Several comments so far: make it a deck not a dock; get rid of the “pods/islets” and put a playground at the N. end of Tom Lee Park; convert it to a skate park; make it a plaza with food vendors.

You can add your comments at or e-mail your suggestions to us at

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2 FfOR Board Members Profiled on City Beat

June West, Executive Director of Memphis Heritage, and Virginia McLean, both founding members of FfOR, were profiled in the Flyer's City Beat as preservationists to be reckoned with.

Preservation is not about protecting old buildings as relics; it's about saving our significant places for present and future use. At the core of new urbanism and smart growth, the preservation movement is about revitalizing our cities and neighborhoods as places people want to be and live. It's why people advocate for protecting the Old Forest, the Cobblestone Landing, the fabric of downtown, and neighborhoods citywide.

Hooray for the work and voices of a long list of Memphians, men and women! Today Memphis retains an authenticity and vitality that is the envy of many cities who have lost their sense of place to the wrecking ball and short-sighted decision making.

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1 family has captained local fleet and given Memphis proud tradition

Photos of Dale & William Lozier by Amie Vanderford.

For the late Capt. Thomas Meredith Meanley, his daughter Dale Meanley Lozier, and now his grandson, William Lozier, a love of the river has provided Memphians and visitors a trip on the “Mighty Mississippi.” They’ve built, owned, and operated a fleet of boats that have headed out from the Cobblestone Landing for 50 years. And they’ve done it with little support from the City.

After a stint in the Navy, Capt. Meanley, the grandson of newspaper tycoon E. W. Scripps, moved to Memphis and (click read more below)

Read more »


Unrealistic to expect local company assume cost increases of switch to BSL

With overnight riverboat companies out of business, our local Memphis Riverboats will be the only company using Beale Street Landing. Right now they pay to dock at the Cobblestone Landing, but plans for BSL call for ticketing and boarding of local tours to shift to the new boat dock.

Q: Is there a need for Beale Street Landing, or would the cobblestone landing we already have, with improvements that would cost less, suffice?

A. In an interview for the Daily News in 2006, the current owner of Memphis Riverboats Inc., Capt. William Lozier, said he thinks the cobblestones are a better investment. “We like where we’re at,” Lozier said. “Yeah, we’d like a new facility, but a new facility comes with new problems.”

BSL will come with serious debt (roughly $2M in annual interest alone) and new maintenance and operating expenses. What will those costs increases be? No one has said, but it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect our local company to assume them.

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Questions about Memphis lore - Ask Vance

If you aren't a regular at Ask Vance - "the blog of Vance Lauderdale, Memphis Magazine's history and trivia know-it-all" - and you're interested in Memphis lore, you're missing a treat. Check it out, click HERE.

On Nov. 23, as Vance might say: "browsing through some old family photographs," he came across this one of the Cobblestone Landing that shows the wharfmaster's office. Click to enlarge or see it even better at Ask Vance.


Keep it Real - it's what Americans Crave

  • Barges still make the turn and head into our harbor to serve functioning businesses.

  • The Memphis Cobblestone Landing is still a boat landing.

  • Our waterfront is not Disneyland, yet - we still have the real thing. Roger Clinton in an op-ed for the New York Times says, it's what Americans crave: "the authentic, the unspoiled, the genuine – the un-globalized and un-homogenized and un-gentrified” - it’s what makes cities live.


    Spotted Enjoying our Cobblestone Landing

    It was a beautiful early November day, and visitors from Atlanta and the United Kingdom said they loved taking a riverboat ride from our authentic Cobblestone Landing.

    From Nov 1 - 30, Memphis Riverboats offers 90-minute sightseeing cruises at 2:30 pm each Saturday and Sunday. Cost: Adults/$19.99; children ages 4-12/$10.99; infants ages 0-3/free. To make a reservation or for more info., click HERE.


    Floating Restaurant - Memphis an Innovative Leader

    Self-service grocery stores, overnight package delivery, and a national chain of quality motels all put Memphis on the map as a place for innovation. So did ideas for a floating hotel and the floating restaurant, Sunset Cafe, at the foot of the Cobblestone Landing.

    In the 1980s, you could walk down the cobblestones, sit on a floating restaurant, eat a hamburger, and drink a beer any day or night of the week. Memphis was even thinking about adding a floating hotel. Click “read more” to see what’s happened.
    Read more »


    FfOR's position and recommendations

    Keep the Landing Open - This Place Matters

    FfOR supports restoration, maintenance, and increased public use of the Cobblestone Landing as a vibrant, active, working dock. It is both the city's historic and current riverboat landing and one of our most significant landmarks. Its cultural significance and location in the center of the riverfront make it a key component in downtown's revitalization and an important asset for recreation, commerce, and historic tourism.

    The current proposal to use riprap and a bulkhead capped with a sidewalk to stabilize the landing will permanently close the site for boat use and leave the riverfront with a vast empty field of cobblestones in its center.

    How should the landing be restored?

    The answer may lie just across the harbor at the Mud Island River Park boat ramp. It copied the Cobblestone Landing, and the constant slope allows people and boats to reach the water at all water levels.

    The original design of the Cobblestone Landing works. As the 2002 RDC Master Plan said, "The Cobblestones are amphibious in nature, part land, part water, and are the perfect form for boat landings given the river’s rising and falling tendency.”

    Restoration of the Cobblestone Landing should:

    • Get the goal right – Top Priority: Restore, Maintain, and Open it Up as a free navigable site for people to use and enjoy. Add other features only if we have extra money and they don’t have an adverse impact on the historic property.

    • Follow the guidelines of the 1996 Preservation Plan. If there is a need for any change to its recommendations or the landing’s original design, involve specialists in historic preservation, archaeologists, river users, environmental experts, and the public.

    • Repair drainage problems, discourage dredging close to the bank, plan for future maintenance.

    • Brag about our authentic historic Cobblestone Landing. Nominate the site as a National Historic Landmark. “Today of all the great landings in the MS River basin, the Memphis landing is acknowledged to be the best preserved."

    Read more:

  • The proposed project and the current situation

  • The 1996 Preservation Plan and recommendations

  • Cultural and historical significance of our Cobblestone Landing
  • Labels:

    Proposed Project/Current Situation

    Since 1996, the City has received $13M in State and Federal funds to restore the historic Cobblestone Landing - $7M approved by the State in 1996; $6M approved in subsequent years by the Federal government.

    Almost $4M of the money was spent to build a wall and sidewalk along Riverside Drive and steps from the sidewalk down to the landing.

    But the landing itself was not restored, repaired, or maintained and the wall has caused more problems and deterioration.

    The current proposed project will make some repairs and add utilities, sidewalks, and historic markers. Here's an illustration. Look carefully:

    Aerial view.


    Here's the river gauge that measures water levels. During the year, the water goes up and down about 50 feet:

    Here's the landing at high and low water:

    Here's approximately where the sidewalk will be. At 17 feet on the river gauge, it will be underwater at least half the year:

    Below the sidewalk, the project proposes to dredge the bank, alter the slope from gradual 1:6 to steeper 1:3 grade, and fill the area with riprap.

    People can't walk on riprap. Boats can't put-in or dock on riprap. This project shuts the landing down as a navigable site and creates a barrier between the land and water.

    It ignores all earlier plans for an active, vibrant Cobblestone Landing and eliminates the future potential for special use barges for things like restaurants, markets, or boat docks. It means no longer being able to board riverboat cruises here or skip rocks or any of the other things Memphians and visitors have long enjoyed on the Cobblestone Landing.

    Read more:

  • FfOR's position and recommendations

  • The 1996 Preservation Plan and recommendations

  • Cultural and historical significance of our Cobblestone Landing
  • Labels:

    1996 Preservation Plan and Recommendations

    Around 1983 the City stopped maintaining the landing, and in 1994 tore up a section of cobblestones without required permits. Stopped by the Corps of Engineers, the City entered into a Memorandum of Agreement that required Memphis to conduct a historical and archaeological assessment of the area and to create and implement a Preservation Plan for the landing.

    The 1996 Preservation Plan is the only plan for the landing prepared by qualified experts. It called the Cobblestone Landing “the best preserved” of all the great boat landings in the MS River basin and found it eligible to be nominated to become a National Historic Landmark.

    The Preservation Plan gives specific recommendations on how to restore the landing. The guidelines include:
    • Continue the gradual 1:6 slope down to the 0 water level,

    • Replace missing and damaged areas with limestone pavers laid in a bed of sand,

    • Restore the mooring rings, and

    • If needed, add a retaining system that does not create a hazard to navigation.

    Click HERE for the assessment and plan.

    Read more:

  • FfOR's position and recommendations

  • The proposed project and the current situation

  • Cultural and historical significance of our Cobblestone Landing
  • Labels:

    Cultural & Historical Significance of our Cobblestone Landing

    Memphis is recognized as a distribution center for the world, and it all began at the river. Native Americans used the land along the river as a port 1,000 years ago followed by the Spanish, French, British, and early Americans. When Memphis was laid out in 1819, the public landing was designed into the fabric of the city.

    The MS River Basin drains 40% of the US and serves as a water highway connecting inland America together and to the world. Goods, people, and ideas all traveled by river, first by canoe, then flatboat, and later by steamboat.

    Starting in 1859, the Memphis public landing was paved with cobblestones quarried in seven states and laid by skilled Irish and German immigrants. It was a technological advance that ennabled the port to operate even in the muddiest times and Memphis to out-pace rival ports and become the cotton and hardwood lumber capital of the world. Even without proper maintenance, its design has withstood the test of time, and its permeable surface is environmentally sound today.

    The landing’s cultural significance is symbolized by a riverboat and appears on the City seal, flag, and even on downtown drain covers. It is the legendary place that James Hyter sang about in “Ole Man River” and where Davy Crockett left TN headed for the Alamo. It has been in continuous operation for 150 years and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Read more:

  • FfOR's position and recommendations

  • The proposed project and the current situation

  • The 1996 Preservation Plan and recommendations
  • Labels:

    Follow-up Meeting to discuss Restoration of Cobblestone Landing

    Aug. 25 (Tues.), 4-6 pm, at Memphis Heritage's Howard Hall (2282 Madison Ave.)

    What About a Plan to Really Restore the Landing?

    "My Big Backyard," the new children's garden at Memphis Botanic Garden, is getting rave reviews and bringing smiles to the faces of kids and parents. It's imaginative, creative, and a wonderful addition to Memphis's amenities. Let's bring some of that creativity to the table and think about how to restore our historic landing.

    Bring your ideas, thoughts, questions, and creativity. Invite your friends to come, too.

    Reducing the boat landing to a dead relic is not a solution. It's a missed opportunity.


    How to Repair a Boat Landing?

    Boat landings, like all things, need maintenance and repair. Sloughing off at the toe of a landing is not a problem unique to the Cobblestone Landing. It's happening at the Wolf River landing in Shelby Farms Park, too.

    Because of the integrity of its original design, the Cobblestone Landing has been in continuous use for more than 150 years with insufficient maintenance. The RDC Masterplan described it as "the perfect form for boat landings given the river's rising and falling tendency."

    The City has received $13M in Federal and State funds to restore the landing. What's the correct way to do it -- the way that will repair, support easy future maintenance, and open the public boat landing up for people to use and enjoy in the future?


    Plan Presented for Cobblestone Landing Restoration

    Here's the proposal of how to restore the Cobblestone Landing presented to the public on Aug. 11.

    2 Big Problems:
    1. Riprap - Blocks access to the water for people and boats
    2. Sidewalk - It looks like a stroll around the edge of a lake, but the Mississippi River and Memphis harbor are not a lake. Water levels at Memphis rise and fall approximately 50' each year.

    High water

    Low water

    Approximately where that sidewalk would be.

    And a Question: Since we do care about quality of life and recreation issues, we want an authentic Memphis waterfront to support boating, tourism and economic revitalization downtown. How can RDC's plan for our cobblestone landing respond better to these concerns?

    Note: To hear an audio recording of the Aug. 11 meeting and view the RDC powerpoint/hand-out, click HERE. To read the Flyer's take on the meeting, click HERE.



    Several people have said they left the RDC public meeting on Aug. 11 confused about the purpose of the meeting. We were told it wasn't a meeting to discuss design ideas. Then we were shown a plan to use riprap to repair the landing. That's not a viable design. People cannot walk on riprap. Boats are damaged by riprap. In fact, a couple of weeks ago a barge was damaged and sank because of the riprap at the edge of Tom Lee Park. To read about it in "The Flyer," click HERE.


    What's Wrong with This Picture?

    No boats ( = no people, no fun)
    If the proposed plan "fixes" the cobblestones,
    NO More Boats... Ever!
    Be Heard or Be Without
    Speak Up for the Riverfront

    IMPORTANT: Cobblestone Public Meeting
    Tues., Aug. 11 -- 5:30 - 7:30 pm
    The Balinese Ballroom
    330 N. Main Street, Downtown.

    We call for an alternative design that respects the authenticity and use of the public landing.

    Talk about making Memphis a more livable community - what about a harbor full of boats and a National Historic Landmark?


    Blogger Takes Hard Look at Cobblestone Landing

    An independent blogger takes a tough look at the issues -- Cobbles under Glass? How stupid are we? Check it out - lots of interesting stuff. Click HERE.


    What about walking on cobblestones?

    Spiked heels not advised, but Gwyneth Paltrow did it.
    Michele Obama, in low heels, did it.

    Regular people, kids and grown-ups, do it.

    They do it all over the world.

    Segways and dancing permitted.


    What's Riprap & Why do you need to know?

    It’s stones or chunks of concrete thrown together without order on a slope to prevent erosion. That’s how Merriam-Webster defines it.

    It's used to stabilize river banks, but not at boat landings. People can’t walk on riprap; and boats can’t land on riprap. You can see that at Tom Lee Park.

    The RDC is proposing to use riprap on the Cobblestone Landing.

    YES, repair the cobblestone landing. BUT NO RIPRAP. Keep it open for the future.

    Attend the public meeting on Aug. 11, at 5:30 pm, at the Balinese Ballroom (330 N. Main).


    Case Study - Restoration Pays Off

    Let’s repair the Cobblestone Landing, and let’s do it correctly.

    The small city of Natchitoches, LA proved it’s worth the effort. They repaired their historic brick Front Street removing, numbering, cleaning, and then replacing each brick after utilities, drainage, and foundation were repaired. In 2005, the town was named one of the “Dozen Distinctive Destinations,” and it has received the Presidential Award for Heritage Tourism and the Great American Main Street Award. Today Natchitoches draws more than 1,000,000 visitors annually to enjoy the town’s historic authenticity and rich sense of community.

    Planning a vacation? Click HERE and HERE to learn more about Natchitoches.


    Cobblestones Something to Brag About

    Cobblestones may not be the smoothest ride for cars or bikes, but cities and neighborhoods brag about their cobblestones - a link to their history and a part of their charm and attractiveness.

    This is Thames Street in Baltimore's Fells Point. The historic waterfront neighborhood has protected its authentic character, and today is alive with restaurants, cafes, and shops serving a diverse mix of people. For more on Fells Point, click HERE.


    Public Meeting to Determine Future of Cobblestone Landing

    Yes, it is August. Yes, the 11th is the 1st full day of school. Yes, 5:30 is a difficult time.

    Yes, where is the Balinese Ballroom? 330 N. Main (corner of Commerce & Main, just north of the interstate highway). There is free on-street parking, lots nearby, and it's on the trolley line.

    And YES, your voice is important. Come, learn about the plan, be heard. This may be the only public meeting to determine the future of the Cobblestone Landing.
    * Keep the landing open
    * Repair it
    * Protect and maintain it for the future.


    Original Waterfront Cobblestones

    Memphis is not the only city with cobblestones, but few U.S. cities have original waterfront cobblestones. That makes Memphis a primary destination to see and board a boat on an original cobblestone landing on the Mississippi River. Archaeologist Guy Weaver says of all the great 19th c. stone-paved wharfs, Memphis Landing is acknowledged as the best preserved.

    Known affectionately as the Cobblestones, the Memphis Landing is situated along the Wolf River Harbor. The stone pavement stretches about 2,000 feet between Court Avenue and Beale Street and covers about 8.7 acres. First major paving project occurred 1859 -1869. Final phase occurred 1879-1881.


    What's a Cobblestone?

    It's a rock, smoothed and rounded on one side. They were laid as pavers, predating tarmac, poured concrete, and asphalt. They can be set in sand or dirt, or held together with mortar, but the granite cobblestones on the Memphis riverfront don't have any mortar, so they're flexible, resistant to cracking, and permeable.

    You can buy cobblestones today, old and new ones. They've become popular for paving newly pedestrianized streets and high quality drives and walkways. Here's a video on tips for installing. The narrator's sense of humor and Irish accent reminds us that it was Irish immigrants who brought their masonry skills to Memphis and laid the stones on our landing.

    Laying Cobble Stone Tips - The best video clips are here


    Is Cobblestone Landing just a Bunch of Old Rocks?

    Well, it is a bunch of old rocks, but not just any old rocks. Why not? Because 130 years ago, the rocks of our Cobblestone Landing made Memphis a major distribution center. They aren't big boulders, but they made a big impact on our local and national economy.

    Paving the landing with cobblestones was a technological innovation that increased commerce, allowing year-round loading and unloading of products and supplies to travel upriver and downriver. Before this, the sloped bluff could be difficult to negotiate, especially in rainy weather. Paving with cobblestones allowed Memphis Landing to be heavily used year-round and boosted Memphis to become a world center for hardwood and cotton trading.


    Keep the Landing Open!

    Thanks to your letters, the TN Dept. of Transportation will hold a
    Public Meeting on plans for our Cobblestone Landing!!!

    Aug. 11 - 5:30 pm - Balinese Ballroom (330 N. Main)

    The Cobblestone Landing has been in continuous use for more than 150 years. It's full of memories; it's the foundation of Memphis as a distribution center;
    its future as a boat landing and National Historic Landmark are at stake.

    Money has been approved to RESTORE the Landing. Let's do it correctly - for the future. Mark your calendar to attend the public meeting.


    What’s a National Historic Landmark?

    National Historic Landmarks are exceptional places.
    They include buildings, sites, memorials, and parks that have meaning to all Americans. The landmarks are registered and protected by the National Park Service with the goal of helping us understand our common heritage and conserve our treasures.

    TN can boast of 29; 4 of them in Memphis: Beale Street, Chucalissa, Graceland, and Sun Record Co. That’s something to brag about!

    The Cobblestone Landing is eligible to become #5. Recognized as the “best preserved of all the great river landings on the Ohio, Missouri and upper Mississippi rivers,” its proper restoration and maintenance are a key to riverfront revitalization.

    To learn more about why the Memphis Cobblestone Landing is important, click HERE.

    For a list of all National Historic Landmarks, click HERE.


    Cobblestone Landing "Restoration" - Letters to RDC & Corps of Engineers

    FfOR wrote to:
    1) the RDC in April 2008 requesting discussion of the proposed Cobblestone Landing project
    2) the Corps of Engineers in May 2009 requesting a public hearing on the project.
    We have not yet received responses. Several people have asked for more information about those letters, so we have posted their text here for you to read.
    Read more »


    Q: How Long Did It Take to Lay The Cobblestones at Memphis?

    A: Start-to-finish, the cobblestone paving took about 22 years. The
    first paving project was 1859-1881; the final phase was 1879-1881.
    The stones were shipped on riverboats to Memphis from about 7
    locations with quarries that had stone best suited for the purpose.
    These carefully selected stones have lasted 150 years in good

    So, what is the problem with the stones? No problem at all with the stones themselves. Problem is a lack of maintenance and dredging too close to the base of the landing. Those are fixable. Sand and soil, not mortar hold them in place, creating a permeable and sustainable riverfront landing.


    Q: Who Laid Our Original Cobblestones?

    A: Irish and German immigrants, who had masonry skills and previous experience in cobblestone paving. Contractor Joseph Loudon was in charge of laying the Memphis Cobblestone Landing.


    What do Cobblestone Lovers Really Want?

    We say "YES" to both questions posted in the Commercial Appeal. We don't see a choice of either/or:
    • Is $6 million necessary for Cobblestone Landing repairs to stabilize it and increase safety?
    • Is Cobblestone Landing a historic place that shouldn't be unduly disturbed?

    Since about 1995, lots of people, including the Riverfront Development Corporation and Friends for Our Riverfront, have agreed on two common goals:

    1. The historic Cobblestone Landing should be the central focal point of the riverfront.
    2. It is important to have access to the river.

    FfOR supports a plan that will accomplish BOTH goals. Without modifications, the currently proposed plan for Cobblestone Landing will not achieve BOTH of these goals. FfOR recommends everyone's careful consideration and review of the plan. We have requested a copy to study the details.


    An Active, Vibrant Harbor - Yes!! And that includes boat ramps and docks

    There’s been some squabbling lately about who owns the boat ramp under the Auction Street Bridge and water-cooler-style
    conversations about whether it’s been closed because of disrepair, Bass Pro, national security, or liability issues. It all seems a bit snarky.
    Read more »


    Cobblestone Landing Plan Needs a Fundamental Change

    A small group of “stakeholders” met with the RDC to discuss a “restoration” plan for the Cobblestone Landing. It’s all preliminary we were told. The plan, however, has been sent to the TN State Historic Preservation Office for consideration and a request to approve funding is in this year’s CIP budget.

    For a long time the Cobblestone Landing has been neglected and allowed to deteriorate, so it’s good news that there’s a plan in the works and $6M on hand for the project. But this plan is not what most people have been expecting. It needs careful review and a fundamental change.
    Read more »


    Update: BSL funding, Cobblestones, Ericson proposal

    The City Council Parks Committee will meet at 12:30 Tuesday (Dec. 18) to consider a resolution to approve $6 million for Phase 2 of the Beale Street Landing project. In Phase 2: Steel pilings will be driven into the riverbed and landfill brought in to create four new acres for the project. (Much more below...)
    Read more »

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    An Update on BSL – the details

    At the request of the The TN Dept. of Transportation (TDOT), FfOR sent suggestions about ways to avoid or minimize the negative effect of Beale Street Landing on the unique historic integrity of the Memphis riverfront. We did a little research and came across some earlier plans that, with modification, just might solve the problem – give us an exciting public space at the water level, restore the Cobblestone Landing, and provide a place for commercial and private boats to dock.

    Here is some background on the 106 process, FfOR’s letter to TDOT, illustrations of earlier designs, and links for more study.

    Read more »

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