Shortly after the West Tennessee Normal School broke ground in the farmlands on the outskirts of the city of Memphis, development in the area began to expand past residential properties. One road that ran north to south just west of the school began to host small stores and markets.
"Initially, it was just a few stores—a grocery store, a bakery, just essentials for people at the time," said historian Jimmy Ogle. "But after World War II and a large amount of people moving to the area, [South] Highland Avenue really took off."
Though it began as an early place near the school to do some light shopping for essentials, it wouldn't take long for the stretch of road to develop its own identity. After the district was annexed in 1929, the university grew in size, the neighborhood expanded greatly and the storefronts along South Highland grew in number and variety.
With the increasing population of university students in the 1950s and 1960s, more bars and restaurants opened in the area.
"The First Danver's was on the strip," said former Memphis State University student Rebecca Feaster. "They use to wear conductor hats because it was so close to the railroad. It was a fun place."
In the 1970s, a lot of change happened to the area. A huge drug bust by the Memphis Police Department disintegrated the bad reputation of the area but took a bit of the business along with it. The advent of eliminating 'angled parking' in the 1970s further dismissed a transient nature to the group of properties and supposedly lost business as reported by The Commercial Appeal later in the same year.
Though the area remained relatively quiet over the next quarter-decade, a new business was able to thrive. Newby's Memphis, a bar and music venue, opened in 1975 and has continued to flourish.
In the 21st century, the location has seen an uptick in activity. The Stratum, a new apartment complex at the corner of Highland and Midland, not only brought new residents to the area but also a Cafe Eclectic, located on the bottom floor. RP Billiards opened up only a few years ago at 525 S. Highland and has seen success and return customers. Even students are faring out to the strip for food and fun.
"I go sometimes with friends to the pizzeria," said Memphis student Orline Bowers. "Nice variety of foods that I probably can't find elsewhere."
Even though the strip was able to house many bars and prosper to a relative degree after 2010, it's not completely without complaints.
"It's been a really great spot to have a business," said Tiger Gift Shop owner Jeremy Stinson. "But we still have issues with parking... and I wish there were more businesses open during the day to convince more students to stop by and check the strip out."