The last time I visited Nashville, I wanted to drive to Henning, Tennessee to visit Alex Haley's Childhood Home and Museum. At the time, I didn't realize how far away it was. But while in Memphis, I found out that it is only about 50 miles from me...so Henning here I come! On the way to Henning, which is a nice and peaceful drive, I started to see something on the road every now and then that kept catching my eye. I'm always used to seeing corn fields while driving on the road, but I kept seeing something else...cotton fields! What? Cotton fields? Of course, living in Chicago I will never see a cotton field. But being down South, it's nothing new to the people who live down here. So, I immediately grab the camera to get ready to photograph my first cotton field. The only problem was...they were too far over for me to capture. There was a thick median of grass next to the highway, and the frontage road was next to the median, then there was the cotton field. But I was looking around at exits or any possible way for me to get my cotton field. I kept driving, and kept seeing cotton fields, but no way to get off and get the photo. As I'm getting near Henning, all of a sudden I get to College Street, and to my right is the perfect cotton field. I make a quick right turn, park up on the curve and grab the camera. I couldn't believe it! I'm standing in front of my very first cotton field...live and in person. But while photographing the huge cotton field, I couldn't help but reflect back on the many black people who were in these fields picking cotton for about $2.50 a week...in this hot ass Tennessee sun. I really began to feel a certain kind of way, which wasn't good. So realizing that I am in the South, I'd better grab my photos and get the hell out! And that's exactly what I did. I finally arrived at 200 Church Street, which is where Alex Haley spent many years growing up. The Alex Haley Museum is right behind the house, but was closed. I parked on the narrow road in front of the house, and walked across the street. I stop to read the historical marker and headstone on Mr. Haley's burial site, which is just left of the front steps. I stayed at the house for about 20 minutes, and chatted with a neighbor who told me that everyone is excited about the tourist traffic that comes through Henning to see the house and museum. On the way back to Memphis, I figured I could stop at the cotton field again and grab more photos, but for some reason I couldn't find it. And I didn't want to drive around and get lost. Oh well!
Back in Memphis, I work my way over to the Riverfront. While there, I photograph the Hernando De Soto Bridge and grab a partial downtown skyline photo. While walking, I noticed a huge sculpture just off the sidewalk. It was Evan Lewis' kinetic wind sculpture called "Meander". I thought it was a pretty cool sculpture, functioning by way of slight breezes from the wind. Across the street is the corporate headquarters of AutoZone. Walking further, I see the Memphis Queen Riverboats docked and ready to go! I also see iBank Tower across the street as well. My next stop is the Burkle Estate, which is also the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum. The Burkle Estate is claimed by some to have served as a "way station" on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves. Publicly, Mr. Burkle was a livestock trader and a baker. Privately, some claim he was a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad. Many believe his home was the last stop in a series of Memphis homes connected by underground tunnels. The house included a small cellar which might have been used to hide escaping slaves. Slaves could then get on boats to take them upriver to other way stations in the free states north of the Ohio River. At the time I got there, I had just missed the tour. While driving to another location, I see a different angle to photograph Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid. Later, I passed by the Wonder Bread Bakery plant, which is now vacant. I finally reach the legendary Sun Studio on Union Avenue. When I got there, there was already a bus load of people there to see and tour the studio.
From Sun Studio, I head back downtown. Displayed along the Main Street Mall are two awesome murals...one by Assasin Duo and the other one by Chicago artist Damon Lamar Reed and Pugs Atomz, which shows someone walking with a guitar. On the guitar case are stickers pin-pointing historic spots in Memphis. I also spotted the Main Street Trolley as well. My next stop is The Cotton Museum at the Cotton Exchange. This stop was very interesting as earlier in the day I saw my first cotton field. I did the self-guided tour of the cotton museum, and found it very interesting. I saw a bundled bale of cotton, some scattered cotton on a counter and an enclosed cotton bush. There were also many kiosks showing the development of cotton...beginning with planting the cotton seeds to how the clothes are made with the cotton. It also shows the machines that picks and separates the cotton in today's time. But in 1793, a black man named Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, which easily separated cotton fibers from their seeds. Across the street from the cotton museum, I stopped in front of the Memphis Fire Department Headquarters on Front Street. I was taking photos of the outside of the building, but the Fire Chief waved me inside for a brief tour of the facilities. Continuing walking along Front Street, I walked past the colorful windows of the Memphis Public Library-Cossitt Branch, the University of Memphis School of Law, the landmarked and historic Falls Building and Raymond James Tower. I also found the Piggly Wiggly site marker on Jefferson Avenue. Back on Main Street, I photograph the Court Square Center, the historic Dr. D.T. Porter Building and iBank Tower. A special photo was the Magevney House, which is the oldest in Memphis built in the 1830's. When I travel, I always try to find the oldest house or building in that city. And the Magevney House is it for Memphis. After leaving the Magevney House, I head back on Main Street to photograph a building I kept passing up on. This building is 100 N. Main Street, which is actually the tallest building in Memphis at 430 feet and has 37 floors. Across from 100 N. Main is Memphis City Hall and the Civic Center Plaza trolley station clock tower. I also spotted two Memphis banners. One I had seen before, but was able to capture the other one. As my time in Memphis is winding down, I couldn't leave without finding a certain B.B. King statue. Making my way back over to Riverside Drive, I capture another downtown skyline shot, and I find the Tennessee Welcome Center. Inside the welcome center were two statues...one of Elvis Presley and the B.B. King statue I was looking for. Well, my time is done...until next time Memphis!