Col. Robert Galloway
September 3, 2014
By Kelly Sowell, Elmwood Historian
Col. Robert Galloway played an important role in beautifying and enriching Memphis. He was a businessman who started out working for the Southern Railway, and later owned his own local coal company which made him a wealthy man. He made a significant contribution to The Home for Aged Women, which was opened in 1896 by the Willing Hands Circle of the Kings Daughters. When it was time for them to expand, they purchased a new lot at Monroe and Manassas costing about $1,100 for the land and the new building. Galloway paid off their debts and the Home was renamed the Mary Galloway Home in honor of his first wife.
Col. Robert Galloway obviously loved the outdoors. Not only was he an officer for the Memphis Boat Club, he was a member of the first Memphis Park Commission in 1901 and later became chairman. Through his efforts, the land for Overton Park was acquired and the parkway system established. He played a big part in developing and improving Overton Park. In 1904 he had a pavilion erected near the east end so the public could enjoy free concerts throughout the summer months. Also in 1904, a Southern black bear named “Natch” went to live in Overton Square, chained to a tree. He was the mascot for the Memphis Turtles baseball team. Galloway had the idea to build a home for Natch, and several other wild animals which had ended up at the Park, Galloway presented the city with a plan to form a Zoo. After a few attempts to establish a Zoo, the Memphis Park Commission allocated $1,200 to establish the Memphis Zoo in 1906. In the beginning Galloway used his own personal funds to care for the animals. Later the Memphis Zoo Association held fundraisers for the animals and for improvements. By 1907, the first building, named Galloway Hall, was built at the Zoo. If not for Col. Robert Galloway, we may not have our top-rated Zoo that is such an asset to the city today.
In 1908, Galloway began construction on Paisley Hall near the new Zoo at 1822 Overton Park. Finished in 1910, it is a beautiful example of Greek Revival architecture. Much of the interior was imported from Europe. Now commonly known as the Galloway Mansion, Elvis was interested in purchasing it before he settled at Graceland. The house still stands at Overton Park, but Col. Robert Galloway now resides here at Elmwood.