The Great Wall Of Batesville could be an attraction

Published 7:46 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2023

By John Nelson


While recently crossing what Batesville folks like to call the overhead bridge, I glanced down at the old firewall that once separated warehouses one and two of the Federal Warehouse complex. It now stands there by itself as a monument to the time that cotton was truly king.

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The wall brought back fond memories of being inside those warehouses as a young boy.  I recalled the vastness of the buildings, the smell of cotton, and the stacks of compressed bales waiting to be shipped all over the world.

Though it brought back pleasant memories to me, I guessed that most folks these days wouldn’t remember any of this and probably consider the wall an eyesore that should be removed.

I also assumed that those who might favor demolition have not talked to Danny Holland who knows first hand how difficult that would be.

Such thoughts took me back to my time of service on a tanker of the Military Sealift Command transporting fuel to various American and NATO bases.  We were sometimes in the vicinity of St. Nazaire, France, where the German submarine pens remaining from WWII were the most prominent landmark.

The French were not enamored with the structure housing the pens since most considered it not only unsightly, but also an unpleasant memory of German occupation.  But since it had survived about fifty Allied bombing missions, taking it down was not a viable option.

As time passed, the folks of St. Nazaire decided to stop lamenting the structure and start making use of it, and it’s now an integral part of the city’s waterfront and houses its tourist office, museums, and a host of other venues.

Having a unique relic from WWII that offers a vast amount of internal space gives St. Nazaire a leg up on Batesville since we have only a wall.  But with some imagination, it might be possible to transform it into something more interesting.

How about using pneumatic tools, or maybe just some artistic application of color shading, to make the wall appear to have been constructed of individual stones.  A stone guard tower could be added on top housing an oriental figure in Chinese armor.

Making use of the lifelike, and possibly even robotic, mannequins that exist today, barbarian invaders could be approaching the wall while the guard in the tower rings an alarm bell.

A small, accompanying museum would present a history of the Great Wall of China and feature photos of the current wall.  A display of weaponry from the period would add a nice touch.

What about a more dramatic recreation with the wall transformed to look like an ancient palisade.  A Fay Wray-like figure could be seen being led to the wall by natives while a gigantic gorilla lurks on the other side.

If desired, some robotic motion of the figures could be activated from a small visitors’ center where guests could also view clips from all the King Kong movies from the original 1933 classic to Kong: Skull Island, the 2017 version.

The big ape idea might be a little too much, but it wouldn’t be difficult to make the firewall resemble a section of the Berlin Wall.  A guard tower could again be constructed on top, but in this recreation, the mannequins would be dressed in the uniforms of East German border guards.

A small museum would feature a photographic history of the Berlin Wall from its construction in 1961 till its destruction in 1989.  And the highlight of the museum could be a lifelike, robotic Ronald Reagan that would, with the touch of a button, exit the museum from a special door, proceed a few feet, and then shout out, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

These are just a few ideas from a whimsical, old mind, and I’m sure more practical readers will have some better ones.

With the Cotton Warehouse growing in popularity and Classic Cars shipping vintage autos all over the country, it’s high time to put that wall to work.

Write to John Nelson at