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Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Japanese Gardens in Overton Park - I Think

Posted By on Sun, Sep 26, 2010 at 9:25 PM

My pal Robert Ferguson, a former police officer turned history buff, recently purchased a set of old black-and-white negatives at a Memphis estate sale. He went to the time and trouble (and expense) to get some of them turned into prints, and made an interesting discovery — what he thinks may be really fine old photographs of the Japanese Garden in Overton Park.

Robert Galloway, who was head of the Memphis Park Commission, was fond of all things Oriental, and in the early 1900s he had city crews scoop out a nice pond and build an island in the middle with a "snow-covered" Mt. Fujiyama. They installed a graceful arched wooden bridge, and added Japanese lanterns and other ornaments. It was a wonderful addition to the park — until December 7, 1941, when anti-Japanese sentiment boiled over and the entire thing was demolished. The Memphis College of Art stands on the site today.

I think Robert (Ferguson) is right. Some of the pictures show Japanese lanterns and other ornaments, and the photo of the man in the hat, who seems to be sitting on an invisible chair, shows the fake "mountain" in the background. But I don't know what to make of the woman sitting on the ground, since she seems to be perched on rocks piled on an old iron gate.

Robert wrote me: "I'm guessing the photos are from the Japanese Gardens that were destroyed in Overton Park. I'm 90% sure these are Memphis locations, because the old Midtown home where I bought them also shows up in some of the negatives [not shown here]."

Judging from the clothes, these were taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s, and one photo [not shown here; just take my word for it] shows an automobile with a 1935 license plate.

I think these do indeed show the long-gone Japanese Gardens, though I don't know what to make of the weird bare trees that seem to have wires dangling from the sawed-off branches. And does anybody recognize the family?

Other pictures are on the next page. Thanks, Robert, for sharing them.

Hey, where did the dog go?
  • Hey, where did the little dog go?

What on earth is she sitting on?
  • What on earth is she sitting on?

See the Japanese lantern in the background?
  • See the Japanese lantern in the background?

Notice the mountain behind him.
  • Notice the "mountain" behind him.


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