Friday, July 20, 2012

On Cotton Row

From Peter Taylor's short story "A Friend and Protector":

I stood at the top of the stairs watching the three old people ascend the two straight flights of steps that I had come stumbling up half an hour earlier – two flights that came up from the ground floor without a turn or a landing between floors. I thought how absurd it was that in these Front Street buildings, where so much Memphis money was made, such a thing as an elevator was unknown. Except for adding the little air-conditioned offices at the rear, nobody was allowed to do anything there that would change the old-fashioned, masculine character of the cotton man's world. This row of buildings, hardly two blocks long, with their plaster facade and unbroken line of windows looking out over the brown Mississippi River were a kind of last sanctuary – generally beyond the reach of the ladies and practically beyond the reach of the law.

From my piece on unique museums found within the Mississippi River Corridor of Tennessee for the River Times magazine:

Cotton Row in downtown Memphis was the hub of worldwide cotton trading in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Cotton Exchange – at the intersection of Union Avenue and Front Street, firmly in the center of the Row – was a place for sellers, traders and buyers to meet, discuss the issues of the day and industry, and keep track of the most up-to-date pricing. "A lot of our history, art and culture comes to us as a result of the people who gathered here," says Melissa Farris, special events coordinator for the museum. That exchange floor now is home to the Cotton Museum and welcomes those interested in agriculture – and the Southern way of life – from around the world.

Visit the Cotton Museum on Front Street and at

Read Peter Taylor's story in his fine collection, The Old Forest and Other Stories.