Jimmy Ogle, performance historian and keeper of esoteric Memphis lore, is like an informational slot machine that pays off every single time you play. Simple questions like, "Why did your Shelby County courthouse tours go away?" get rapidfire answers: "I was working out east, 26 miles away. That's a 52-mile round trip if you're counting." Ogle's new position as community engagement manager for the Riverfront Development Corporation brings him back downtown so his free walking tours of one of Memphis' most detailed buildings is returning.
Ogle explains: "We meet at the southwest steps by the statue of Justice. There are six statues, all of which were carved from a single block of marble, the largest in the state of Tennessee, which is interesting. We'll look at the pediments and the markers. And there's a 26-year-old tulip poplar tree planted for the building's 75th anniversary, so you can see exactly what a 26-year-old tulip poplar is supposed to look like."
The courthouse's seven kinds of marble will be identified, as will its Cuban mahogany. Ogle will spin yarns about a bust of Andrew Jackson and drop some details about films that have been shot on location there. He will also introduce visitors to the famous cuspidor.
"There was a time when spitting — or should I say expectorating? — was in fashion, and there were cuspidors everywhere," Ogle explains. "Well, it went out of style in the 1960s, and they were all given away. After the centennial celebration, someone loaned one back, and we have it on display."
Shelby County Courthouse tours begin at noon on Thursday, September 15th, October 27th, November 17th, and December 22nd. tours are free, and cameras, which are usually prohibited in the courthouse, are welcome. The courthouse is located at Second and Adams.