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March 2015
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Lose yourself in the ghost city that was to become Memphis

Lose yourself in the ghost city that was to become Memphis. The Ghost City © Ludovic Bischoff

Memphis: the coloured capital of Tennessee, birth place of black music, vibrating turntable of regional business, the southern city where people come to slum in smoky clubs…these are all images of the past. For it must be noted that the glorious era of Memphis is long gone! While strolling through the city centre, it is a surprise to see the streets so deserted. All the shops are practically shut. Apart from Beale Street, which attracts tourists like bees to a honeypot, the rest of the city is empty…or almost! This is a unique characteristic for any American city, particularly this one, which has been defined by the large riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel. The city centre has been prone to violent clashes between civil rights activists and police forces. Numerous businesses have shut down. Residents have migrated to the suburbs, in search of tranquillity. And the economic crisis halted the city’s pauperisation process. The result: a hint of Detroit reigns over Memphis with its old and beautiful abandoned red-brick buildings, the most emblematic being the Chisca Hotel, a sort of impressive monster, the largest hotel in Memphis constructed around the 1900s. The Chisca is famous for having housed first that first broadcast Elvis Presley’s debut record! Abandoned, sold on, its immense framework dominates the city centre, like a shipwreck. By exploring the streets of Memphis, you will encounter many other ghosts of the city’s triumphant past, including an impressive pharaoh-esque pyramid, which formerly housed an enormous sports store! These buildings that were once full of life, are today derelict.

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