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Historic Hotspot: Memphis, Tennessee
By Aracely Jimenes-Hendricks
Initially founded in 1819, Memphis has withstood the test of time and chaos to become the city it is today. After an awful epidemic of yellow fever, the city lost their city charter but was able to thrive again with the restoration of the charter and a change in the city’s focus for economic stability. Emerging as a trade center, the city was able to thrive on cotton and hardwood along with improving their sanitary sewer system after the yellow fever outbreak.
In the 1950's and 1960's, Memphis became the center for musical talents such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. It became known as the birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll and the home of Blues.
Today Memphis is a prosperous city with a still thriving music scene. Home to the flagship campus for the Tennessee Board of Regents system for the state, University of Memphis, the culture in Memphis has exploded along with its’ economy. It is home to many historic museums that have meaning to the past history of what was Memphis.
Since Memphis is located near the Mississippi river, the industry was able to prosper with water transportation close by from the time of the Civil War until the 20th century. One of the markers for the cotton industry’s past is known as Cotton Row, which highlights the cotton trade industry. Originally built on the trading floor for cotton, the Cotton Museum showcases cotton society, video footage, artifacts, and exhibits and allows the visitor to experience the culture of the time.
With its bursting music scene, Memphis is also home to the Memphis Rock ‘n' Soul Museum. It was created by the Smithsonian Institution to highlight the artists that overcame social and racial barriers to showcase the music they created. It showcases the music from the 1930s to its’ influence worldwide. The museum tour adds an audio guide to supplement the exhibits in order to add the oral history that is needed in order to show the impact Memphis’s music scene created.
Memphis is also home to various historical sites that incorporate the history of cotton and wealth into their foundations.
The locations that have great meaning to Memphis are the Elmwood Cemetery, Davies Manor Plantation, and the Victorian Village. Elmwood Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places since it was founded in 1852 and is still used as an active cemetery to this day. Those that are laid to rest there from conflicts are from the American Revolution to the Vietnam War. In the same historical viewpoint, Davis Manor Plantation is the oldest standing plantation that covers 2,000 acres which encompass a log cabin, outbuildings and gardens, along with tenant cabins.
Victorian Village is the area of the city which once houses riverboat and cotton millionaires whose business thrived between 1845 and 1890. As the city expanded, the area surrounding their homes began to become less exclusive and more inclusive of everyone. With such things occurring, the owners began to abandon their homes after World War II as the neighborhood lost its spark with the rich. After much planning, several of the homes of the time still stand today and allow the visitor into the glimpse of a long-winding past for the city.
Even without the need for history to be mixed in, Memphis is a thriving riverfront community that allows a visitor to enjoy the music scene and the atmosphere it has to offer.
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