How We Began
Our city’s origins trace back to Spanish land grants bestowed to Benjamin Fooy, John Henry Fooy, Isaac Fooy and William McKenney in the 1790s. Originally called Hopefield, the town was chosen as the eastern terminus of the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad in 1855. Despite a halt in rail construction because of the Civil War, the railroad was completed in 1871.
Other infrastructure enhancements came in 1892, when the first river bridge opened, and in 1916, when the Harahan Bridge was completed. The second bridge’s completion marked a milestone – for the first time vehicles could drive across the Mississippi River rather than take a ferry across. West Memphis’ Broadway Avenue became a U.S. highway and traffic began flowing through town.
In the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, 8th Street was often called "Beale Street West", reflecting a music and nightlife scene to equal that in Memphis. Some places in West Memphis have been associated with famous entertainers, such as the Square Deal Café—referred to as Miss Annie's Place on South 16th Street, where B.B. King began his public entertaining—and The Coffee Cup— located at the corner of East Broadway in the 1950s, outside which Elvis Presley ate his first breakfast after being inducted into the U.S. Army on March 24, 1958. Other popular night spots along Broadway Street were Willowdale Inn, the Cotton Club, and the Plantation Inn.
Legal greyhound racing began in the county in 1935. Currently known as Southland Park Gaming & Racing on North Ingram Boulevard has been in the same location since 1956 and is now open every day of the week, including 24 hours on weekends.
West Memphis began its role as a trucking hub with the opening of parts of Interstate 55 in the 1950s.
Over 60 years later, the six-lane Hernando Desoto Bridge opened a part of I-40,
further increasing the city’s importance as a trucking hub. Today, FedEx National LTL and
Schneider National Carriers are among West Memphis’ top employers.