The Chisca hotel is known to Elvis fans as a historic Elvis site. In July 1954, for the first time in history, radio airwaves carried the voice of Elvis Presley. The broadcast came from The Chisca and changed the world forever. This was the largest hotel in Memphis at the time. It was built in 1913. It wasn’t a luxury hotel like the Peabody; it was an accommodation for the middle class. Many other historic events occurred at The Chisca hotel.
From 1949 to 1956, WHBQ radio’s DJ Dewey Phillips broadcast his legendary show, “Red, Hot and Blue” from the mezzanine level of The Chisca. “Daddy-O-Dewey,” as Mr. Phillips was popularly known, was the first DJ to give Elvis a chance. Phillips played Elvis’s “That’s All Right, Mama” three days after Sam Phillips recorded it at Sun Records Studio.
The Chisca Hotel has been vacant for years. It's owned by the Church of God in Christ, which has let the building fall into disrepair.
Memphis City Councilman Edmund Ford is proposing a two million dollar grant for the entities redeveloping the Chisca. Ford says the private investors are committed to $17-million of their own dollars. The plan is to turn the Chisca into apartments.
"It's important that we take buildings such as the Chisca and others in the city and put them back into use so we can have a return on investment," said Ford.
Ford says redevelopment would result in nearly 500 jobs and would help tackle the blight issue on main street.
"We're looking at something that would connect both sides of downtown because when you look behind us, we have a great part of downtown here, but we have the Chisca right here where nothing's being done."