Geographically speaking, President’s Island is in reality a peninsula. Once upon a time, however, it to be an island — the biggest one ~ above the Mississippi’s 2500-mile course — and also it has withstood a journey from untamed wilderness to the bustling industrial park it is today.

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The 7,500-are island has been component of Tennessee because it ended up being a state in 1796. Just 3.5 miles south of Downtown Memphis, it to be a far wilderness until the feather of 1865 when, in ~ the end of the civil War, the Freedmen’s Bureau, i beg your pardon was developed by conference to help former slaves, established a camp top top the island.

“More than 1,500 refugees were quartered there,” according to Robert Talley in a 1947 Commercial very nice one article. “The males farming and also working in sawmills and the females being teach to cook and sew, until they to be gradually soaked up into other communities.”

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Shipping and also manufacturing eight at President"s Island in the 1970s.

Just 10 years after hosting freed slaves, President’s Island’s tasks shifted to task that was eerily similar to that competent by the freed slaves prior to Emancipation. Starting in 1875, Nathan Bedford Forrest leased 1,300 acres and also operated a farm yard therein an initiative to recover the fortune he lost in the civil War and also in unprofitable rail investments.According to a Forrest biographer Jack Hurst, Forrest “contracted with Shelby County for the usage of some of its prison inmates in agriculture operations use slave-style labor.”The workforce because that the island agriculture operation had 117 prisoners, most of whom were African-American. Forrest himself died in 1877 native dysentery indigenous questionable water from the Island.

Around this time, Memphians fled come President’s Island during the Yellow fever epidemic, which brought death to over 5,000 Memphians and also caused 25,000 rather to evacuate. After human being War I, throughout Prohibition, remote areas of the island came to be a haven because that moonshiners. Constant raids to be made by revenue officers however the moonshiners’ service continued to flourish until Prohibition to be repealed in 1933.

During the beforehand 20th century, President’s Island likewise became a site for farming. Joe seafarers owned a plantation top top President’s Island, and 31 African-American sharecropper households lived and also worked top top his land. Because that the sharecroppers, there was a church that doubled together a ar school. That is proximity come the Mississippi River, which helped make the floor so well-off for farming, additionally made the island prone to flooding, and also who those lived on the island had to be evacuated during the flood of 1937.

In 1946, a group including councilor Kenneth McKellar planned come relocate the Memphis’s riverfront harbor and warehousing businesses away from the Downtown area and also onto a ar that could handle the volume of barges, railcarsand trucks the were part of freight transportation in the post-war years.Thus began President’s Island’s change from agricultural to industrial.

The U.S. Military Corps of engineers helped construct a closure dam to link the island to Memphis and also turn it right into a peninsula. Sinclair Oil came to be the island’s very first industrial tenant, and the city of Memphis linked President’s Island in 1947. By 1958, business was booming. A Commercial Appeal write-up from the year boasts, “During the critical year more than 23 acre of commercial sites valued at $150,000 were marketed on President’s Island by the Memphis and Shelby County harbor Commission.”

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A photo from 1955 the the Norris serial Co. Facilities on President"s Island. (University the Memphis)

In the beforehand 1970s, the idea of having a prison on President’s Island was suggested by Shelby ar Commissioner Lee Hyden and also Mark Luttrell, that was climate Commissioner of Corrections. The jail area envisioned was intended to at some point replace Shelby county Penal farm yard at Shelby Farms, and also President’s Island seemed favor a good location because it to be separated from residential areas. The idea was ultimately scrapped after objections from the President’s Island commercial Association and also the Memphis and also Shelby County port Commission.

President’s Island is part of the global Port that Memphis, which includes both President’s Island and also Pidgeon commercial Park.President's Island houses a selection of companies, such as Barnhart Crane and Rigging, Memphis Wire and also Iron, GlaxoSmithKline, Vertex, WM Barr, and also Ergon. The island is also home come a restaurant referred to as The Port, i beg your pardon is own by Nick Vrettos, a member the the President’s Island industrial Association Board. The Port, which first opened in 1964, is President’s Island’s only restaurant.“People native Downtown likewise come to the restaurant,” stated Nick Vrettos, “But 75 percent of our clientele room workers or visitors to the island.”

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Cook grains Inc. On President"s Island in the 1970s (University of Memphis)In April, Cargill partnered through Calysta Inc. To construct a feed manufacturing facility at Cargill’s 69-acre property on President's Island. The new facility is supposed to be completed in 2018 and will rental 160 workers.

The Cargill news “was good news to most of the Island residents”, stated Jeffrey Harris, storage and logistics specialist with Barnhart Crane and also Rigging.

Barnhart purchased residential or commercial property on President’s Island in the mid-1970s, broadened operationsand acquired a second property in the so late 1970s.

“I am still impressed through the stability of the Island,” said Harris. “And impressed v the range of businesses tho active. I feel there are less unoccupied buildings on President’s Island than most industrial parks in Memphis. When there have actually been transforms over the years, plenty of businesses have flourished and grown.”

Another President’s Island firm is Memphis Iron and Wire, a family-owned organization that has actually been approximately for over 125 years but relocated native Downtown Memphis come President’s Island in 1964.

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According to the company’s president, Jim Stafford, having a business on the island is helpful since of the proximity to similar industries. “Our rivals are additionally located on the Island, and also they help us when we obtain overloaded, and also we aid them once they acquire overloaded,” stated Stafford.

Like Harris, Stafford has actually a confident view that the existing state the the Island. “The Island is doing fine,” he said. “Some big companies have actually left in the past 8 to 10 years, however there room still quite a few here.”