In 1985, Ringo Starr recorded an album at legendary producer Chips Moman's Three Alarm Studio in an old fire station at 200 Linden (now Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Ave.), but he later sued to prevent the album's release, claiming he was drinking heavily when it was recorded.
The building where the "Lost Ringo Album," as it's been dubbed by Beatles fans, was recorded has sat empty in a prime location next door to the FedExForum for several years. But its current owners are hoping to bring new attention to the former firehouse-turned-recording-studio through a planned fall beer garden, modeled after the successful Tennessee Brewery beer garden — dubbed The Revival — last spring.
Beginning October 1st, Station 3: The Memphis Firehaus will be open from lunch through late night every weekend through November. The beer garden will feature live music, food trucks, and broadcasts of sporting events.
The old firehouse building is owned by Shelby County Schools board member Billy Orgel, who, after attending the original pop-up beer garden at the Tennessee Brewery two years ago, ended up purchasing the long-vacant brewery and is now converting the historic property into apartments.
His son, Benjamin, and his friends Paul Stephens, Logan Scheidt, and J.C. Youngblood organized the second beer garden at the brewery this past spring, and they're the team behind this next beer garden at the old firehouse/studio. While the main purpose of the beer garden is to provide a fun experience for Memphians, Benjamin said they're also hoping the event draws a potential tenant for the building, which is for lease.
"We're hoping we find the right user for the space. And hopefully, when this [beer garden] event is successful, people will see that, and we can get the right person in," Orgel said. "The best uses would be an office space or something like we're doing with the [beer garden], but a more permanent solution. It would have to be upscale, like an upscale sports bar with nice food."
It wouldn't be the first time the building has housed a bar. Years after Three Alarms Studio closed, the building was turned into a dance club — first with the name Danceplex and later called The Skybox. But those clubs were short-lived. The building sat empty for years, and, before Orgel purchased it last fall, had become an eyesore.
"It was disgusting inside. People had been breaking in and living there. It was really a nuisance," Benjamin said. "We went in and changed the locks and did a major cleanup job. We put on a new roof and lights on the building."
Station No. 3, as it was called in its firehouse days, was built in 1924, according to the Shelby County Assessor's Office. But it seems as though an earlier incarnation of the firehouse was located on or near the property since as far back as 1857, according to Memphis Fire Department history books.
After the firehouse closed, the city leased the property to Moman in 1985 for his Three Alarm Studio. Moman is best-known for producing records by Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Neil Diamond, and others in the 1960s and 1970s at American Sound Studios on Chelsea.
Whatever the building becomes in its next life is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain — in October and November, Station No. 3 will be a beer garden.
"We're going to make a courtyard space on the corner of Third and M.L.K. in front of where the old fire doors are, and we're opening the fire doors to reveal an indoor-outdoor bar. We'll have a stage outside," Benjamin said. "Four local beer companies are making beers just for this, and as always, it's family-friendly, dog-friendly, and all ages."