What to See in Memphis, Tennessee? – Part 1

The Southern States of the USA Have something of a shady past which can reflect the way we see them today, especially from the point of an outsider who is yet to visit. Unfortunately, it’s perhaps most famous for its involvement in the slave trade along with the war fought to prevent it’s ending, aka the American Civil War. It has however been over 150 years since that war was fought and though racism still exists to be sure, the South is known as a much better place with friendly people and fine manners to boot. There are so many places to see and enjoy different aspects of Southern life that it can be hard to choose where. One place that I have no doubt would cross the mind of anyone in hopes of visiting (or certainly should!) is Memphis, Tennessee. Sitting on the Mississippi River, Memphis is a city that has played a crucial role in the development of the Deep South, playing a huge roll in its industry, its arts and culture and its social progression. So, let’s take a look at a few places you may want to visit whilst you’re there.

History

Cotton Row – As early as the 1820s Memphis was involved in the cotton industry that has since become intrinsically tied to the history of the South itself. Later, in the 1840s it became a major player in the industry with riverboats lining the banks of the Mississippi and loaded with cotton ready for export. The trade continued to grow, by the 1880s around three quarters of the nations supply went through Memphis and if that wasn’t enough by the 1900s it became the biggest inland cotton market in the entire world. So, it should come as no surprise then that this generated much wealth for the city and Front Street became the centre for its trade. The street was built up and was later given the nickname “Cotton Row”.

Today you can visit the Cotton Row Historic District and see its grand utilitarian buildings of late 19th/early 20th Century design, it’s in one of these buildings that you’ll find The Cotton Museum. Here you can learn all about the history of the industry and its role in society, culture and economics. You’ll learn about the traders and their vast empires, along with those that suffered to make it happen through videos, guides, artefacts and exhibits.

Victorian Village – The lofty heights of the cotton industry meant there several extremely wealthy individuals here in Memphis, in the mid-19th Century several grand homes were built on what would come to be known as “Millionaires Row”. Built in what was once the outskirts of town, the Victorian Village was home to over a dozen three to four story houses that came in a variety of styles that ranged from Gothic Revival to Neo-classical. Unfortunately, as time has passed many of these grand designs have since disappeared, however some still do stand today and better yet you can even visit them for yourself.