At 430 feet, the iconic One Hundred North Main office tower is the tallest building in Memphis, Tennessee. The building was completed in 1965, after two years of construction. The tower stands 38 stories with a rooftop revolving restaurant and a Japanese rock garden. One Hundred North Main was designed by local architect Robert Lee Hall, who also designed the Clark Tower, as well as Patterson Hall at the University of Memphis.
The Industrial-style office is clad in vertical marble panels and aluminum windows. The base of the tower is a parking garage with street-level entrances to retail space. Due to its proximity to various municipal buildings, the tenant base was mainly attorneys, title companies, and different other government professionals involved with the courts. The office tower borders Adams Avenue, North Second Street, and North Main.
By the 1960s, rooftop restaurants were all the rage. There were three in Memphis, alone. The restaurants never rotated fast enough to cause motion sickness. If you did not have a long, leisurely dinner, you might not make a full rotation. The rooftop restaurant in One Hundred North Main operated under several different names over the years including Top of the 100, The Tennessee Club, Diane’s and The Pinnacle before closing.
The rooftop restaurant sits on rubber tires and would rotate 360 degrees every 90 minutes. In 2006, the aging office tower listed for sale for $20 million. Due to low demand in office space in downtown Memphis, One Hundred North Main began to decline in value. By 2012, tenants only occupied 30% of the building. In August 2013, Isaac Thomas purchased One Hundred North Main for $5 million. Thomas revealed his plan to renovate 100 North Main into a mixed-use development which would include commercial space, apartments, and a luxury hotel. The renovation was expected to cost $100 million. In February 2014, all of the remaining tenants were given the notice to vacate the building by the end of May. Construction began in June after all of the tenants moved out but quickly halted due to a lack of funds.
In 2015, One Hundred North Main was condemned by the Shelby County Environmental Court for falling debris and inoperable fire safety equipment. A court-ordered barricade was placed around three sides of the building, blocking the sidewalk. The city cited the owner with 31 other violations including inoperable elevators and blocking the sidewalks. Thomas was able to have One Hundred North Main placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 2015 hoping historic tax credits would assist with funding the renovation. Numerous cut-off notices were sent from Memphis Light, Gas, and Water divisions with an amount owed totaling over $80,000.
The inability to obtain financing and two years of unpaid taxes forced Thomas to sell One Hundred North Main in late 2015 for $5 million. The new owner faces the same code violations from the city. The building remains barricaded with a security patrol. One of the best views of Memphis sits locked away.