Built in 1936 by the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, Lauderdale Courts was one of the first federal housing projects in the nation. It replaced substandard housing with clean, modern dwellings for the poor. The Courts were built along property adjoining Bayou Gayoso, which had been lined in concrete and covered by the extension of Lauderdale Street. Designed in the Georgian Revival style, the Courts contained 449 apartments in buildings one to three stories high. Part of Market Street was converted to green space. Memphis Housing Authority (MHA) selected families based upon financial need. Conforming to the segregation laws at the time, only white families were considered for residency. In 2000, MHA renovated the Courts into mixed-income housing under the Hope VI program and renamed it as Uptown Square.
Presley Family at Lauderdale Courts
Elvis Presley and his parents, Vernon and Gladys, lived at 185 Winchester, Apt. 328, from October 1949 to January 1953. Former residents remember foremost that Elvis liked to sing and play guitar. He practiced in the basement and preformed for neighbors on the front steps of his building. Elvis volunteered to sing at teenage dances in the Recreation Center. Johnny Burnett, founder of the Rock n' Roll Trio, sometimes refused to let Elvis perform. The Presleys moved in 1953 because their income exceeded the level allowed for project residents. Bill Black also lived in the Courts, but did not meet Elvis until they recorded together at Sun Records in 1954. For three years Black and and Scotty Moore were Elvis' original band members.