Tue July 6, 2010
Memphis Moment: The Gayoso House
By Steve Pike
Memphis, TN – The Gayoso House, the first luxury hotel in Memphis, was built in 1842, when the city was barely twenty years old. The hotel was the brainchild and pet project of young Memphis entrepreneur Robertson Topp as part of his plan to develop South Memphis. The development included warehouses, commercial buildings, and a group of superbly constructed homes, with the Gayoso as its centerpiece. Topp commissioned renowned architect James Dakin to design and construct the building. It cost $144,000, an exorbitant amount at the time, and it was the place to stay in Memphis.
In 1858, Topp decided to double the size of the hotel, adding an additional one hundred rooms to the existing 150. He chose Isaiah Rogers, designer of the country's first modern hotel, the Tremont House, to draw up the expansion plans. Rogers sent James B. Cook to Memphis to supervise the project. Cook stayed in Memphis and went on to design many of the city's greatest buildings. The renovated Gayoso House was extravagant and luxurious in every detail. Unfortunately, on the night of July 4, 1899, the Gayoso House burned to the ground.