Sunday, August 2, 2009

With caretakers like these...

The RDC's Web site would have you believe that they're being sensitive caretakers of our heritage, e.g., by "providing adequate walking surfaces [sidewalks] constructed in a manner respectful of historical significance."

Aside from the obvious fact that the Cobblestones themselves are the historical walking surface, how much does the RDC really know about the history of the Memphis Landing? Not much, it appears.

Continues...The RDC Web page tells us,
Located on Riverside Drive between Beale Street and Jefferson, the landing was created by the commerce of incoming ships using cobblestones as ballast, exchanging them for loads of cotton, lumber and other products.

Oops. The 1996 Garrow Report tells us something quite different:
The City of Memphis recognized that the surface of the Landing should be improved. Center Landing, between Adams and Poplar avenues, was paved before 1859. However, paving the portion of the Landing that remains today was not considered until 1859, when the opening of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad fueled a boom in activity at the Landing to connect river with rail transport. At that time, the City hired paving contractor John Loudon to initiate 'paving the wharf with limestone or granite" between Adams and Union avenues to cover a width of 100 feet and length of 3,300 feet. Amendments to Loudon's contract set the thickness of the paving at 12 inches and extended its length to Beale Street. The stone used in the project was quarried in Illinois; contrary to popular and longstanding myth, it did not originate as ballast stones in sailing ships.

Apparently, RDC officials did not bother to read and understand the Garrow Report, a study the City was forced to have prepared after they were caught carting away two acres of the stones at the foot of Beale Street.

But this should come as no surprise. After all, what they're building at the foot of Beale has no relationship whatsoever to Memphis history. It's about as historically accurate as something you'd find in Disneyland. It's even got the wrong name, and should really be called the Beale Street Boat Dock.

With caretakers like these, God help our history.

RDC's fractured history lesson, preserved in a screenshot. [PDF of full page preserved as of August 2, 2009]

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