The Little Store Gets Fancy: A Memoir of Jitney 14

Many thanks to neighbor Susan McNease for passing along this October 2, 1988 article from The Clarion-Ledger by Leslie Myers about the extensive remodeling of the old Jitney 14. Given the recent changes to the store, it makes for a timely read, and many neighbors past and present are mentioned. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I have.

The Little Store Gets Fancy: But loyal Jitney 14 customers hope the neighborhood personality remains cozy

Jitney-Jungle 14 has recovered from its face lift and the surrounding Belhaven neighborhood is abuzz with the news. For reasons nobody can quite explain, Jitney’s store No. 14 has never been a typical grocery store. Since its 1929 opening at Fortification and Jefferson Streets, it has been a friendly meeting place, a lifeline for its loyal customers. Regulars say they keep in touch with their neighbors there, renew old acquaintances and even get an emotional lift from a Jitney trip. The dress code is: come as you are. For some, that means pajamas. It’s homey. Shoppers plan to keep it that way.

“I’ve always loved the Jitney,” said writer Eudora Welty. Welty, who grew up to become the store’s most famous customer, said its magic began on Day 1—as Jackson’s first self-service grocery store.

“I’ve been shopping there since it opened,” Welty, 79, said. “Then it was like a maze. That was part of the charm—that was the jungle part, turning corners all the time. Then they had bottled milk with cream on top in the refrigerator box—not homogenized. Real milk. You bought the one with the highest cream on top.”

Throngs of such loyal customers, along with past and present employees, will gather Monday morning at 8 to celebrate Jitney 14’s “Grand Reopening” (although it never has closed). Jackson Mayor Dale Danks will cut a ceremonial ribbon. This year-long renovation is the store’s first face lift since 1941. It includes a 10,000-square-foot expansion. Many culinary delights and services have also been added to its former meat-and-potatoes fare. Now there’s a fresh seafood counter with live lobsters instead of a freezer with fish sticks. Anchovy paste and fancy pasta? No problem.

For many customers, the change is a source of both joy and angst. Shoppers have been anxious for the store to stock some non-traditional foods . . . but they wonder if it really was necessary to level out the crooked floors and paint the walls.

“Professionally I’ve been going to the Jitney for 22 or 23 years,” said Cleta Ellington, a school teacher. “However, my grandmother used to shop there, so I would go with her, which puts it up to about 40 years. What I liked about the old Jitney was it was not all slicked up. That’s one of the dangers of the Jitney 14 getting all slicked up—its personality. It’s like when you have a friend that’s gray-headed and kind of fat and she loses weight and dyes her hair. You’re not sure you know her anymore.”

“I’m not sure about this new place,” Ellington, 44, said, the reconsidered. “Well, there is a man there who will decorate a cake for you on the spot if you’re desperate. It’s the new Jitney 14 that has this instant cake decorator. That’s a plus.”

Jackson City Councilman (sic) Margaret Barrett, a Jitney 14 shopper since childhood, said she already misses the sagging floors.

“Now, when you let go of your buggy, it doesn’t roll down three aisles,” Barrett, 43, said. “Before, down by the ice cream case, if you ever let go of your buggy it would never stop rolling—just like in the parking lot.

“When you go to the Jitney, you find out what’s happening with your friends,” Barrett said. It’s the community meeting place. If you’re ever feeling out of touch, you only need to go for one shopping trip.”

She is pleased that the Old English style and décor of the original store has been retained. “I know it was a decision that Jitney-Jungle made, to try to preserve the English village style,” she said. “I know that was costly for them. But I think that’s very much appreciated by people in the neighborhood. The Jitney has been a good neighbor.”

“It’s just real personal,” said florist Susan Milan, a 13-year customer. “Frankly I like all the people who work there, the bag boys and all the people at the checkout. You can go in and, if you need time and the lines are real long, you can tell them, ‘I’ll bring the money tomorrow.’ They trust their clientele, when they finally know you real well.”

But she worries about the ritzy signs on the new shelves. “When CANNED SOUP is written in Old English, it makes me nervous,” she said. “Maybe it’s getting too fancy. But well, now it’s cleaner.”

At least two other sleepers are wiping the sleep from their eyes.

Pat Cothren, a florist, and Patti Carr Black, Mississippi State Historical Museum director, have gone to the Jitney in their pajamas. Both have had Jitney as a “second home” for 20 years.

“One morning,” Cothren, 41 recalled, “I had nothing for breakfast to feed my family. So I ran to the Jitney in a night shirt. The Jitney is the Jitney,” she said, defending her attire. “It didn’t bother me, so I figured it wouldn’t bother them . . . it was a pretty decent night shirt. But I don’t know if I’d do it now, now that the Jitney is so fancy.”

Black emphasized with Cothren’s rush-hour plight. “I have been to Jitney a few times in my nightgown, with a long coat over it, early in the mornings,” Black, 54, said. “that was the way we used to go to breakfast at the ‘W,’” said the Mississippi University for Women alumna.

“The Jitney’s plurality is what makes it nice,” Ellington said. “There’s just all kinds of people in there. It cuts along class (and fashion) lines.”

Barrett said, “The employees also are people you know very well by first name. You’re very interested in their lives, and they’re very interested in yours.”

Two favorite employees mentioned repeatedly by Jitney 14 fans were store manager Sam Holley and veteran cashier Johanna Wade. Wade said she will never forget some of the customers.

“Three or four years ago, I was going to Holland to see my parents,” Wade, 53, recalled. “Margaret Barret, Karen Gilfoy, Cleta Ellington, Penny Hutcherson, Sis Hicks, Pat Cothren, Susan Milam and some others came up in here one afternoon. They gave me an envelope with all this money in it—almost $400—and said, “Go to Holland, spent it and have a good time.’”

“Karen (a judge) had some kind of declaration make up saying I could come back into the country as a joke. I had no idea they would do that,” Wade said. “I was shocked. It was so sweet, what they’d done. It’s just something we’ve got here in this store,” she said. “We’re close. It’s always been that way here.” Holley said the real magic of Jitney 14 mystified him, too.

Ellington said that the Jitney feeling probably is best described by Charlotte Capers, a seasoned shopper who likes to say, “I belong to the Episcopal Church and the Jitney 14.”

 

A  History of Belhaven–1966-Present

The old Power School closed  in 1954 because of structural problems. The following year a new Power opened at 1120 Riverside Drive with the same faculty and   continued providing traditional elementary education until a significant and ultimately landmark event occurred in the early 1980’s. Funding was secured through an Emergency School Aid Act grant (ESAA Magnet), written By Dr. Swinton Hill, assistant superintendent for federal programs, with assistance by Joyce Holly. This program brought $1.2 million to the Jackson Public Schools. From September 1981 to June 1982, an initial block grant of $396,000 from this fund was used to introduce a new Academic and Performing Arts Complex (APAC) into the fourth and fifth grade curriculums. It also opened the door for additional funding for Bailey Magnet and Murrah High Schools, which would become key contributors to this farsighted educational network.

Dr. Jean Simmons, coordinator of the Power APAC Performing Arts Division, joined the academic planning in the early fall of 1981 as the program was being developed and put together a curriculum drawn from the expertise of each department chair and faculty. Her efforts established credibility with local professional area arts organizations, educational institutions and the general public.

All Jackson students are welcome to audition and test for inclusion in the APAC program regardless of income or background. Former student Amber Williams, a 2013 Power APAC student, credited the program for her developing interest in dance. “Power APAC influenced my interest in fine arts of all forms, especially dance. Dancing is my personal form of expression and artistic vision. Since enrolling in Power, I decided to add dancing to my academic pursuits.” Amber continues in her field of interest today having gained the ability to focus on her strengths and talents in order to make beneficial decisions concerning her future.

The four areas of the performing arts in which Power APAC shares instruction with Bailey and Murrah are dance, drama, music and the visual arts. In these areas Power has partnered with numerous Belhaven neighborhood and Jackson institutions to bring first hand experiences to students. Some of these organizations are New Stage, Belhaven University, Mississippi Museum of Art, ETV, Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Mississippi Opera. Local artists with whom students have worked include Miss Eudora Welty, Margaret Walker Alexander, Beth Henley, Mary Ann Mobley, Gary Collins, Sam Gilliam, Ed McGowan, Jamie Wyeth and Leontine Price.

Power APAC has prospered under the leadership of school Principal Marlynn Martin who came to Power in June 2010 after a distinguished career in academia and school administration. The school has received a multitude of honors from  local and national  sources including the distinguished John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts National Schools of Distinction in Arts Education Award in 2010-11 and recently was designated a 2016-18 Exemplary School by the Arts School Network, the largest professional membership organization of specialized arts schools in America.

Old Power and Power APAC have been part of Belhaven’s basic education fabric for over 100 years. Regardless of the time and circumstance both share the goals of preparing our children for the world of their day and structuring their lives in order to achieve their maximum potential. They have been and are graced by excellent teachers and administrators dedicated to making society better than they found it in their own day.  From Miss Marcia Gibbs to Dr. Marylynn Martin, the mission of each administration has been to teach children and encourage them to reach their highest level of achievement. John Logan Power would be proud of his namesakes and our neighborhood and city owe much to that fine name.

New Stage Theater began its life at 7:30 p.m. January 25, 1966, in a converted Seventh Day Adventist Church at the corner of S. Gallatin and Hooker Streets. It was a cold night, temperature 25 degrees, and what little heat generated in the building found ways to escape through cracks under its doors. Its first production was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a radical production for its time.

The theater was created the previous fall by a farsighted group of nine, Ford and Jane Reid Petty, Patti and Carl Black, Howard and Beth Jones, Kay and Jim Childs and Jackson Daily News Amusement Editor Frank Hains.  According to Jim Childs, New Stage had three goals: the establishment of a serious theater with a professional director, staff and actors who produced contemporary works selected for their artistic merit; a theatrical forum  open to all and a theater where you did not have to join and become a member to attend productions. Jane Reid Petty was the driving force behind the group who hired New Yorker Ivan Rider as its first director.

New Stage was a groundbreaker in Jackson during the 1960s. Not only did it bring productions of a modern and sophisticated content but through an association with Tugaloo College, courageously faced the issues of integration and civil rights associated with the arts.

No new artistic venture with any degree of unconventional mission could have survived and thrived during those formative years without influence. Eudora Welty, already well known and respected in the literary community, joined the New Stage board in 1970, placing her name among its roster of artists. Several members of the Tougaloo College faculty lent their names to the new enterprise as well as members of the theater department at Jackson State University. In the early 2000s, Bill McCarty, III, of the prominent Jitney Jungle family, stepped up from his role as a volunteer board member to full time general manager. Without Bill’s tireless work and family financial support New Stage would not be what it is today.

New Stage moved to Belhaven in 1978 when it acquired the Little Theater building and mortgage at the corner of Whitworth and Carlisle Streets. Today it serves a community far beyond Jackson as more than 35,000 Mississippians attend performances each year. It boasts a statewide educational touring program, school fest matinees for students, performs in touring shows and sponsors youth productions of Shakespeare in the Park each spring. In 1995, the theater’s education program received the Governors Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Today, New Stage produces five main stage shows per season, has a 41 member board of trustees and is supported by ticket sales, grants, subscriptions and hundreds of financial donations from throughout the state.

While topical in its productions, New Stage does not hesitate to occasionally step back in time for a historical perspective. It recently concluded a record breaking performance of the Million Dollar Quartet which featured the music of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. Nightly packed houses stood and cheered those magical memories and artists from 60 years ago.  From Virginia Woolf to Jerry Lee is quite a stretch, but for over four sold out weeks, there was a Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Virginia Woolf would have enjoyed it too had she been there.

We can’t leave this topic without a tribute to Jackson’s Little Theater. This amateur collection of volunteer actors and directors began its life on Carlisle Street in 1925. An outgrowth of similar European theater movements of the 1880s and 90s, it had its genesis in 1911 and 1912 with the formation of theaters in Boston, Chicago and New York. The movement reached Jackson in 1924 in the person of Margaret P. Green who organized the Little Theater Players of Jackson the following year. Its non-profit mission was to cultivate, advance and promote education in dramatic literature, expression and art.  It did so for 53 eventful years.

In those 90 plus years when young and old took their friends and families to first  the Little Theater and later New Stage they must have done so with a subliminal understanding of what William Shakespeare wrote so many years before:

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts.”
As You Like It, II,vii

For four generations the Belhaven neighborhood has had the privilege of attending plays and musicals down on Carlisle Street.  Many famous playwrights, actors, directors, audiences and supporters have passed through its doors and played their roles for entertainment and historical enlightenment.  The curtain is set to rise on New Stage’s 52nd season, just another attraction to one of America’s great neighborhoods.

Baptist Medical Center Jackson has evolved since its inception in 1908, when Doctors Harley Shands and John Farrar Hunter united in a successful effort to provide Jackson’s first true brick and mortar medical facility. It has since grown from its origin at the southeast corner or Manship and State Streets to a six block long complex running from Fortification to Marshall.  It is now Mississippi’s premier health provider. In addition to the main campus in Belhaven, there are 21 Center clinics with 107 providers in the metro area. With the addition of the clinics and the medical center, the entire organization has been named Mississippi Baptist Health Systems.

A 2016 report to the community shows a facility with 3,000 employees and approximately 500 physicians on the medical staff. Net revenue was $454 million with approximately $18 million in charity care.

The modern day Baptist has embarked on a multitude of local health projects. These include the Baptist Medical Office Building containing 13 specialty clinics, expansion of woman’s and cardiovascular services, a Madison Performance Center, a joint venture with MS Sports Medicine and SouthStar, and the Belhaven Building, a multipurpose facility, which opened in 2013 in concert with Landmark Healthcare. This building was constructed to accommodate a variety of professions and residents. It currently houses the Manship Restaurant, a Trustmark Bank, a parking garage and is backed on the south end with 11 luxury townhouses (Belhaven Village).

On May 1, 2017, Mississippi Baptist Health Systems signed a shared mission agreement with Baptist Memorial Health Care in Memphis. As a result of this agreement, Baptist Memorial became Mississippi’s fourth largest employer and the largest health care system in the state. Baptist Memorial hospitals offer patients in all areas access to the region’s largest network of doctors and specialists.

In February 2018, Baptist will launch an electronic medical record called Baptist OneCare. The software powering this program is used in integrated health networks, community hospitals, academic medical centers and children’s organizations. Its biggest convenience for patients is “My Chart”, a free app assessable via Smartphone or computer, allowing patients to schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, direct message their care providers, access lab results and much more.

As a good corporate citizen, Baptist continues to provide charitable support to community and philanthropic organizations. These include the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Head for the Cure brain cancer research, March of Dimes and Baptist Foundation’s annual Cyclists Curing Cancer Century Ride in September.

The Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation and its constituency owe much to Baptist Medical Center. More than 16 years ago, Baptist and the Foundation began a partnership to preserve and enhance Greater Belhaven. Many of the improvements and benefits we see each day in our neighborhood were made possible through this partnership.

Baptist Medical Center has received numerous recognitions for its health care performance. In 2017, Healthgrades named the center one of America’s 100 best Hospitals for orthopedic surgery and one of the nation’s 50 Best Hospitals for vascular surgery. In addition, for two years in a row, Baptist received Healthgrades Outstanding Patient experience Award.

Awards were not limited to physicians and specialists. In 2017, after ten years of work, the hospital received the nation’s top honor for nursing excellence called the “Magnet”, given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, an affiliate of the American Nurses Association. It was the only hospital in Mississippi to receive this designation.

There have been a number of other awards and recognitions received by Baptist Medical Center whose early health care developers had the foresight to lay the path for a long and eventful journey. There will be a number more to come. (6)

What would Dr. Shands think of his and Dr. Hunter’s idea spawned over a century ago? He is not here to tell us but in an interview with his granddaughter Susan Shands Jones, she felt she knew. “My grandfather was a stern but very professional man. He cared deeply for his patients and their families. When he was not growing camellias he was doing surgery and would be quite impressed with today’s modern and well-equipped surgical suites and how much heart treatment has improved”.

Baptist is coming up on its 109th year of service to the health needs of our community and state. Yet, the facility remains a good neighbor and enthusiastic supporter of our own future right here in the neighborhood where it first began.

Belhaven University has come a long way from Louis Fitzhugh’s dream of a Christian girl’s school in 1894 and that hot, windy afternoon in 1910 when the college’s second president Dr. James Rhea Preston’s daughters watched fire consume that dream a second time only leading to a third on the Peachtree campus in 1927. The college has survived these conflagrations, a depression economy, elusive accreditation, myriad ownership and four name changes. The school became a University in 2009.

Today’s Belhaven University is a private four-year liberal arts institution and occupies a Jackson campus composed of 42 acres. The site is bounded by Peachtree Street, Pinehurst and Greymont Avenues and Belvoir Place. It is composed of classrooms, residence halls and administrative buildings, a lake, a bowl stadium, a pavilion, a commons and lighted fountain. Every four years the City of Jackson hosts the International Ballet Competition and Belhaven University provides lodging for a majority of its participants from throughout the world.

As of 2017, there are a total of 4,500 Belhaven students, 1,200 traditional with approximately 600 living on the Jackson campus and 1,000 adult students on the LeFleur Campus in Ridgeland. Twenty-three hundred adult studies and graduate students are enrolled on campuses in Memphis/Desoto County, Houston, Orlando, Chattanooga/Dalton County and Atlanta, plus participating in an ongoing online program.

The school is a member of NCAA Division III, belonging to the Mid-South and Southern States Athletic Conference. In 1929, the college library of 2,000 books was short of sufficiency for accreditation. The Hood Library now has 115,000 volumes and 500 periodicals.

The Jackson campus has 88 faculty members including 68 with doctorates or terminal degrees. There are 54 undergraduate and eight graduate studies programs available with a wide variety of concentrations ranging from health administration to human resources. Associate degree programs are available as well. The Adult and Graduate Program, located in a facility on I-55 north in Jackson, provides an encouraging educational environment where adult graduate students can complete their degree while maintaining their careers and personal lives.

In just a brief time period, Belhaven University has experienced growth in all three areas of academic excellence – traditional, adult and online. The adult and graduate components have added four locations (the newest this year in Madison). The traditional campus on Peachtree has expanded Fitzhugh Hall to accommodate its nursing and science studies. In addition the school has built an international center, upgraded the athletic bowl to a state of the art multipurpose stadium, built an apartment style residence hall, added a 43,000 square foot visual and dance center, a walking trail and by 2018 will have a brand new track. A University Center for the Arts at 835 Riverside has been adapted to host musical and fine arts events.  The entire metro area looks forward each December to the University’s Singing Christmas Tree.

Belhaven University is more than keeping pace with the times and demands of today’s education. It, along with First Presbyterian Church, the Baptist Medical Center and Power APAC School form the cornerstones of the special place in which we live.

This has been a brief history of our Belhaven Neighborhood from 1894 to August 2017. But like all accounts it cannot cover all facets of its legacy. Older citizens will remember the old blind institute at the northwest corner of State and Fortification streets where neighbor children would slide down it corkscrew fire escape although their mothers had told them not to. Further down on the west side of State Street was the old charity hospital and its park where kids from Davis and Power Schools would meet to play baseball in the spring, and to the north,  Beth-Israel Cemetery (1860) and the site of several prominent family homes now gone. On the east side were Jess Willoughby’s Barber Shop and Patterson Drugs, about where McDonalds is today. Further down was Morris Pharmacy, now the Manship Restaurant, Jitney Jungle # 9 and the Snack Shop near Poplar. The wonderful Parkin Pharmacy, originally part of English Village and later a standalone where Lou’s serves lunch and dinner may remind some of John Archie and the “pill wagon” that delivered prescriptions to our homes. All have given way to progress but remain part of our heritage.

We know that what is the present today is history by the morning sunrise. With this in mind, there will be an additional segment on how our neighborhood’s future is being shaped and assured by far-reaching creativity and planning on the part of capable leadership and our residents’ faith in its vision. Look for it soon. You might find yourself in its picture.

Copyright: Bill and Nan Harvey 2017

The Pink Apartments

Growing up we called them the “pink apartments”, something unique to the architecture of the neighborhood and an attraction to passersby throughout Belhaven.

The two apartment complexes at 1204 and 1214 Kenwood Place were built in 1938 by Jackson architect James T. (Jack) Canizaro. They have been the home of hundreds of tenants over seven decades spanning three generations of Jacksonians. The apartments rest quietly behind a façade of crepe myrtle and magnolia trees, cool and shady and adjacent to the old Kennington property, which gave their street its name. The pink apartments have no prenomen, but have a great story to tell. No one can tell it better than Bob Canizaro, son of the original designer, who grew up there in the building’s early years.

Mr. Canizaro, an architect himself, lives in Evanston, IL. He grew up in Belhaven with a loving family and great friends surrounded by post-war Jackson and those wondrous times we refer to as the greatest generation. This is his story as told to Bill Harvey, a neighbor from just up Manship Street. 

“The stork arrived at Baptist Hospital on Christmas Eve 1938 and quickly moved me to 1110 N. Jefferson Street, a four-plex that stands today. My architect dad (James T. Canizaro), announced my arrival in a series of blue prints complete with maps, plans and schedules. My first gift from him was a football, which I never played with much myself, but I enjoyed following my favorite teams. These were Notre Dame and Central and St. Joseph High Schools in Jackson. My family moved into the 1204 Kenwood Place building when it was completed in 1939.

The tri-plex apartments were a joint effort with a cousin, Emile Cavallo, a civil engineer. Jack and Emile decided to construct our two buildings so they each could live in one unit and have an income from the other two. Mr. Cavello had been in business for a while and could stake the effort for my dad since he was just getting started in his career.  Apartments were not new to the neighborhood although the architectural design was unique. I never heard any negative complaints except from his mom, Rosa Pantoliano Canizaro.  She felt it lacked a proper front porch where you could rock and talk to the people on the sidewalk. Traditions vary but hospitality remains the same.

I lived and grew up at 1204, until I was 18, then went to Notre Dame, my dad’s alma mater. Many tenants came and went in our apartment building. There was a Dutch couple, Col. And Mrs. Von Oven who lived there during World War II. He was in the Royal Dutch Air Force in training at Hawkins Field. The Dutch flyboys were notorious for their antics in downtown Jackson, often flying low down Capitol Street and waving at the girls in the high-rise office buildings. A woman who worked for us heard a loud noise one day and looked out the kitchen door on the front of the building and saw the Colonel flying down Kenwood Place. No small wonder we won the war!

Col. Lyon Brandon and his wife lived in our building on the Manship side after the war. He worked for the American Legion, traveled around the world and brought me matchbook covers that made a fine collection. I was fond of a tenant named McGehee. He and I were regulars at the old Jackson Senators baseball games at the fairgrounds. We were close to Dr. Estelle Maguria who lived in our middle apartment. After she left, William Fulton, former director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting moved in.

Tenants in our building were generally professional people. The interior and exterior of our home lent itself to the enjoyment of a boy growing up in the times – plenty of room in the back yard, high ceilings, a banister to slide down, my own room, a hill in front to navigate on cardboard sheets and visits to nearby stores for ice cream and comic books. I could walk or ride my bike to school. My dad raised chickens on the back porch and there were endless nearby places to explore. My dad had his architecture studio in a building in the rear yard until the 1960’s. After that it was used by my mother, a recognized Mississippi artist, for a studio. later I made it into an apartment.

My sister Jean Trigiani  lived in the end apartment in 1966 when the rent was $95 a month. She is now Mrs. Jean Enochs.  She remembers when she and her good friend Tine, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Wright grew up together. Tine, who is now Tine Wright Purdy of Huntsville, AL, lived with her family in the 1000 block of Manship Street. She and Jean would play together at their homes or at the Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home where Tine’s father was a partner. Sometimes when the girls needed someone to talk to – maybe on a childhood problem, they would call one another and agree to meet halfway between their residences on a Manship Street curb to talk it over. Having the Baptist Hospital close by proved convenient as I visited the emergency room often with my dad for sprains and stitches. My wife, Beth rescued a brick from the old hospital for me as a memento of those days when the hospital and Jackson were a little smaller.

My good friends in the Kenwood/Manship neighborhood were Fred and John Reimers, John Harley Walsh, Robert Stockett, Kirby Walker, Jr. Guy Lowe, John Potter, Gilmer Spivey, Bernard Meltzer, Tupper and Doug Drane and Howard Shannon. Our family was friends with the Bufords, the Millers, the Wrights, the Harrises, Granthams and Garrisons. This area produced a golf foursome (Reimers, Walsh, Spivey, Canizaro) during our high school and college years. Along streets a little farther a-field, the friends I can remember were Thad McLauren, Rip Pritchard, Jim Herring, Donald McGehee, Bill Bates, George Wilkinson, Bob Thompson, Jim Evans,  Robert Taylor, John Deweese and Ricky Rothenberg.” Older Jacksonians will remember many of these prominent names.

I recall meeting  kids from the neighborhood at Mrs. Downing’s kindergarten on the corner of Poplar and Jefferson. Most of my schooling was at St Joseph, but I spent three wonderful years at the original Power Elementary School at Pinehurst and North State.

My family had a farm in Madison County where I spent most weekends riding horses and making a bit of trouble for the farm manager.  Robert Stockett  (Stockett Stables) and I rode a lot and entered horse shows at the State Fairgrounds. Our farm was a Hereford cattle ranch back then but there were many other types of animals and crops. I later helped care for the chickens, pigs and goats and harvest grain and hay.

I did found time to play ball on the Reimers ‘back forty’; engage in a game of kick the can along the intersection of Kenwood and Manship; and hope, in winter, to get enough snow  to sled down our gentle hills each season. I do remember the 1100 block of Manship was gravel – not conventional gravel, but crushed limestone like they use along railroad tracks.

My friends and I would have rubber gun wars on the “big ditch” on Poplar, which is now Belhaven Park. We would ‘play out’ in the evenings, catch lightning bugs and watch the mosquito sprayer go up and down the nearby streets. I loved model (electric) trains, as did most kids of my era. Freddie Reimers had a miniature rail yard in one of his family’s out buildings and I spent hours playing there. On summer nights, before air conditioning, I would lie awake and listen to real trains switching on the old GM & O yard. My sister also remembers the train cars banging day and night on the tracks over by St. Ann Street. They would make loud noises to the point it got to be sort of a joke.

We could also hear the starting whistle at the Buckeye Oil Mill on Fortification and trains on the Illinois Central line along Mill Street when the wind was from the west.   I remember in the early morning the calls of the vegetable vendors who would peddle their wares on carts throughout the neighborhood. ‘ Fresh shell butterbeans and peas’, they would cry. ‘Okra, corn, tomatoes’. At dawn when the air was still, my sister could hear the lions and elephants at the zoo. I cut grass, worked on the farm, subbed on John Harley’s paper route for money to spend at Cain’s Drugstore (later Parkins Pharmacy) on the corner of Fortification and Jefferson and for a fudgesicle at Shady Nook.

Like so many sons, I owe much of my good times and success to my family. My father, James T. Canizaro, was born in Vicksburg of Italian immigrant parents. He studied architecture at Notre Dame (1928) and worked in Chicago for Graham Anderson, Propst and White. He spent a year in Europe during the Depression studying  Art Nouveau, Bauhaus and Art Deco architectural designs. After a short stay in Washington, DC, he moved to Jackson in 1936. He had just married Helene Host of Lake Geneva, WI. She said many times she married an architect because she did not want to marry a Wisconsin farmer. There was probably a bit more to it than that. She became a Tennessee Walking Horse fan and enjoyed the farm almost every weekend.

My father’s first design projects began in 1937. He preferred the Modernism he had seen in Europe, but was not able to sell that concept to many clients in Mississippi. The Kenwood Place apartments were finished in 1939 and were his original inventive concept of what he had observed on trips to Europe and Miami. It has been described as Art Moderne. He also told me he had admired then current architecture in Southern California. He had a chance to try his ideas on work in Oxford, Mississippi for a local apartment developer.  He did other projects during those years in Oxford (City Hall) and Natchez (Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co.) making him spend a lot of time on gravel roads observing construction. In Jackson, he worked on designs for residences, the City Court, St. Dominic Hospital, the Pix (now Capri) Theater, Farish Street Baptist Church, Christ the King Church, St. Mary’s School, Sally Reynolds School, the JSU cafeteria, the apartments currently at 1005 Popular Blvd., Trustmark Bank (First National) and many other local and state institutions.

My dad had a real hill to climb to prove himself given his ethnic heritage. Because of his talent, charming personality and generosity with his time he was successful. He provided leadership in many of the local cultural, social, religious and charitable organizations. Among these were the Little Theater, where my dad was in some plays, the Jackson Symphony, the Art Association, Magnolia Speech School, Good Samaritan Center, St. Vincent De Paul Society and the Catholic Diocese. My dad died in the Kenwood Place Apartment building in 1984 and my mother moved to St. Catherine’s in 1989. I sold the property to Holden Clark in the early 90’s and he sold it to Waddell Nejam a few years later.”

We see without seeing so many lifetimes in Belhaven.  We admire its eclectic structures whose casement windows reflect the sunlight of a peaceful afternoon. We walk along sidewalks built a half-century ago, half covered now with grass but still a pathway for new parents of children in strollers and pets hopefully on leashes on their way to a walk in Belhaven Park. We take the rugged oaks, like the innocence of our youth, for granted and admire the newer trees and plants in well-kept yards. We share the tranquility, which has always been there, the tenants and lives forgotten or just beginning. The pink apartments stand guard over our past and future. Their legacy is who we are. Thank you Jack and Bob Canizaro for just one more reason why Belhaven is special and a historical treasure to all who know and love it.

 

Robert (Bob) H. Canizaro FAIA is married to Dr. Beth Chihan Canizaro, the founder and Principal of Davis Magnet School, has two sons (Mark and Paul) and lives in Evanston, Illinois.  He is a former principal in the architectural firm, Canizaro, Cawthorn and Davis in Jackson. His resume includes courthouses, hospitals, laboratories, churches, offices, retail shops, residences, schools and a major airport. He has been honored with design awards by members of his profession for many of these works and has a long list of professional memberships and achievements including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mississippi AIA.  He enjoys living in Evanston, far enough from the traffic of the big city but near enough to enjoy the cultural and gastronomic amenities of the urban environment. He maintains a number of contacts in Mississippi and visits Jackson often.

Bob Canizaro and Bill Harvey, September 2012

A History of Belhaven: Part 1, Birth of a Neighborhood

This, the first of four in a history of the Belhaven neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi, was written by resident, journalist and historian Bill Harvey.

When people ask if I live in Jackson, I tell them, “No, I live in Belhaven”. While the locations overlap, Belhaven sounds better. Where in Jackson is Belhaven? Conventional wisdom outlines it as Fortification to the south, State St. to the west, Riverside Dr. to the north and the Pearl River to the east. While never a political subdivision by that name, Belhaven’s name  grew up around the college and is more than just a name.

The area south of Fortification is officially known as Belhaven Heights, a neighborhood older than “Belhaven” and more official, with a history of its own.  It has its own story to tell and may do so in future writings, but for now “our Belhaven” will encompass the above parameters – with perhaps a sneaky tentacle reaching out occasionally to the west or south to briefly touch a historical moment.

Jackson in 1900 had a population of 7,914. Mississippi’s capital city since 1823, Jackson grew slowly for a variety of reasons. Union Generals Grant and Sherman burned most of the city to the ground in 1863, sparing only a few structures for use by their men and the City Hall because of the Masonic Lodge on the top floor. The city was known then and even today as “Chimneyville”. Streets were mainly gravel and mud and Town Creek flooded the downtown area on an annual basis. The business community consisted of small shops and professional offices clustered around the Old Capitol, South State and Commerce Streets. Capitol Street, other than the Governor’s Mansion, was largely residential, tree lined and dusty. It was a great leap forward in 1899 when mule drawn trolleys were replaced with electric cars much to the satisfaction of the mules.

The turn of the 20th century brought  noticeably progressive changes to Mississippi and the nation. The U.S. population stood at 76,212,000 and there were 45 states. William McKinley was president and the world, for a time, was at peace. In the year 1900, Henry Ford introduced his first commercial vehicle, an electric powered delivery wagon, Frank Baum copywrited his book The Land of Oz, which later became the Wizard and Puerto Rico became a new American territory.

Mississippi at the turn of the last century was recovering from the Great Civil War, Reconstruction and the loss of manpower from that conflict. Essentially rural and agricultural, what little it had was concentrated in a few of the larger cities. The Gilded Age had passed but cotton, while no longer king, was the dominant crop along with the lumber industry and sorghum. The Democrat party controlled all politics and for some reason the era was known as the Progressive Age.

Mississippi’s Governor at the turn of the century was Andrew Longino, its Lt. Governor James T. Harrison. The Attorney General was Monroe McClung, Secretary of State, John Logan Power and the Treasurer was J.R. Stowers. The state’s population stood at 1,551,000, growing at about 15% a year. Vicksburg was the largest city. The Vicksburg and Alabama Railroad transversed the state from west to east and the Gulf and Ship Island Railway was newly constructed from Jackson to the Gulf Coast.

The state’s capital city was beginning to wake up from the deprivations of war and reconstruction. Shopping at Christmas in Jackson was mostly done at the Rookery, a downtown variety store which specialized in toys, tinsels and festive clothing designed to gladden the hearts of little folks. Colleges, state institutions, theaters, banks, churches and department stores bloomed along the downtown streets as more merchants moved from the environs to the city. It was an exciting time.

Jackson’s northern boundary was Manship Street (North Park Addition) in 1900. The city ran south to Silas Brown and out to the area of Monument and W. Capitol to the west. Residents lived along north-south streets radiating from Capitol Street, along the river streets of Pearl, Pascagoula, Amite and Tombigbee and around Union station at Gallatin. Outlying areas were along the Clinton Road (W. Capitol), where a new cemetery, Cedarlawn had just opened, Asylum Road (later Woodrow Wilson to the northwest) and into the estates of Livingston, Whitfield and Cohea. Fondren was a separate town.

An interesting adjunct to south central Jackson was Duttoville. Built in the late 19th century by Catholic priest Father Louis Dutto, it was a self-contained village with small homes, a fire station, grocery stores, a Catholic Church and a park. It was added to the city in later years but has been nearly absorbed in modern times by urban growth.

Jackson’s strong suite in those days was its leadership. The mayor was John W. Todd who had just taken over from Mayor H.M. Taylor. Families composed of Virdens, Yergers, McWillies, Enochs, Westbrooks, Strausses Hedermans, Watkins, Greens, Spenglers, Barksdales, Galloways and Kenningtons headed up businesses and the chamber of commerce. Businesses of the day included the Clarion-Ledger, Jackson Marble Works, J.W. Everett & Sons, Jackson Steam Laundry, Mississippi Cotton Oil Company, the Lawrence and Edwards Houses (hotels), Tucker Printing Company, Jackson Lumber Company, Westbrook Manufacturing Company and Adkisson & Bauer Hardware. The newly renovated Century Theater, converted from an opera house, graced the northern side off the first block of East Capitol Street.

In the midst of this growth and urban development an institution was born in 1894 when Dr. Louis Fitzhugh acquired the Jones Hamilton mansion near the northeast corner of Bellevue and Jefferson Streets. He established a school for girls the following year. It had seven students and Dr. Fitzhugh. The home was destroyed by fire shortly thereafter but was rebuilt and named for Colonel Hamilton’s Scottish forbearer, first Lord of Belhaven.

A neighborhood was born.

Bill and Nan Harvey; June, 2017 

 Sources for History of Belhaven: Part 1

Text:
Carroll Brinson, Jackson/A Special Kind of Place (Published by the City of Jackson, 1977)
Julie L. Kimbrough, Images of America, JACKSON (Arcadia Publishing, 1998)
Grady Howell, Jr., Chimneyville: Likenesses of Early Days in Jackson, Mississippi (Chickasaw Bayor Press, 2007)
James F. Gordon, Jr., A History of Belhaven College 1894-1981 (Jackson, MS, Belhaven College (1983)
“Jackson City Directory” (1904/05) – Multiple pages under street section
Demographics, various internet sources in public domain

Photos:
Capitol St. 1908 – Chimneyville: Likenesses of Early Days  in Jackson, Mississippi (Howell) p. 95
The Rookery – Chimneyville: Likenesses of Early Days in Jackson, Mississippi (Howell) p. 124
North State St. – 1900 – Images of America – Jackson (Kimbrough) p. 105
Jackson Street Cars – Images of America – Jackson (Kimbrough) p. 106
Jones-Hamilton Home (original Belhaven College- artist rendition) – Belhaven University Archives

A Garden on the Corner

In everyone’s life there comes a time to keep a garden, and as a healthy middle-aged man with a nurturing spirit, this was mine. The only tools I had were determination and a small shovel.

It’s difficult to find a sunny spot for a garden in Belhaven, but I found one on the corner of Peachtree and Poplar. Year in and year out, the sun shines relentlessly for six to seven hours a day, and the corner lies to the south below a rise that shields it from blistering winter and buffeting summer winds. So I began planning a garden there on a patch of hard-baked soil on public property with a stump in the middle of it.

Surprisingly, having a stump on public property proved to be a plus; dealing with City Hall takes effort in any town, but in Jackson it takes courage tempered with arduous persistence and enduring patience. As it happened, during his brief interim administration in 2009, Mayor McLemore, in a visionary and generous spirit, issued an appeal for citizens to help make the city more attractive by planting gardens on waysides, an appeal to civic pride that perfectly fit my agenda. So I placed a call, and sure enough the city sent a crew; in hours the stump and most of the roots–I still find vestiges–were exhumed and ground into sawdust used to fill the hole left behind.

Then the shoveling began. It took weeks to get a good start because the soil was so hard-packed and big roots were still in place, but kept digging. I had to find soil where I could–don’t ask!–but slowly a garden began to take form, and almost a decade later is still growing on an L-shaped verge between a very busy intersection and a seldom-used parking lot.

On the eastern edge a sidewalk from the north once led to the corner, but its south end had long been covered when the parking lot was built many years ago. Still, since many people came to the corner down that walk, it was clear that I had to provide some way for pedestrians to walk through or around the garden, so I built two short walkways: one a southerly continuation of the old sidewalk that eventually became covered with silt and another shorter one constructed with flagstones and gravel, quite well-traveled, that leads west through the garden into the parking lot. I built four beds along the incline from crown of the hill with some old railroad ties that I found discarded beneath a bridge down the street and with concrete construction rubble that seems to be everywhere here, and a series of beds with brick edging along the southern border on either side of the entrance to the parking lot. When I told a visitor that I wanted to dig up the opposite corner and plant daylilies, he called me a benign blight, a left-handed compliment if I ever heard one.

Plants come solicited from friends and neighbors, some I find on my own; some are—more and more often—left on the purlieus of the garden for adoption, and occasionally I buy seed and sets at Hutto’s. The garden, like any other, has been a learning experience, an engine of maturation and discovery, finding out what will grow well and what won’t on my own more often than from others, learning the angles of sunlight, measuring the rain, all lessons in interacting with light and water and determining levels of care. In time, it has achieved balance and rhythm in step with my own long slow dance through the seasons.

After eight years the street corner has become a joy for me and others: In the spring, the parsley and mustard white and yellow, the iris raise alabaster and porphyry blossoms and the garlic, chives and onions begin breaking through the cool earth; early summer brings butterfly roses, echinacea, zinnias of red and gold, bee-grazed basils of every stripe, bright cosmos, small sweet tomatoes and a clump of papyrus that sways in afternoon rains; autum brings sunflowers that tower over marigolds drooped with butterflies, Clara Curtis spreads her pink bosom and the asters clustered around the sundial erupt in cornflower blue; kitchen greens bring color and provision through the dun and grey of winter before the narcissus tribe seeks the sun.

In time I will join those who have gone before me, but maybe after I go some will come to care for the corner, to hoe and sow, to give water when there is no rain, to keep at bay the grass, asphalt and sand.

First Pres: Our Cornerstone Church

“That realm is best and most stable which is ruled in accordance with God’s will alone,
and the worst and weakest is that which is ruled arbitrarily.”
Ulrich Zwingli

Jackson’s First Presbyterian Church (FPC) is a prime example of stability. It is located at 1390 North State between Pinehurst and Belhaven Streets. The current church, which opened in 1951, began its history 114 years before at the corner of N. President and E. Capitol Streets in Mississippi’s first state house building. Greater Belhaven’s only church was organized on a Saturday afternoon, April 8, 1837 by the Rev. Peter Donan and four persons: Mrs. Margaret E. Mayson, Mrs. Susan Patton and Mr. and Mrs. John Robb. There was a pastor (Rev. Donan), but no elders for two years, no deacons for six years nor an individual house of worship until 1845. In its first two years of existence, the church had but three new members. (1)

The State of Mississippi owned considerable land in the downtown area of Jackson in the early 1800’s. It made land available to religious denominations in the vicinity of Smith Park and First Presbyterian purchased a tract a bit north and east of the original designations at the corner of Yazoo and North State Streets. Its first home edifice was erected on this site in 1845-46. Somehow, it escaped the fiery ravages of General W.T. Sherman 18 years later and was razed in 1891. It was replaced by a small red brick building in 1893 (left) which served the congregation until the opening of the present structure in 1951. The final service in the old church was preached by Belhaven College President Dr. Guy T. Gillespie on August 26, 1951. (2) (3) (4) (15)

The land on which the church rests today (Hinds County MS parcel number 13-38), was owned by a group of developers in 1925. These were early Jacksonians S.S. Taylor, C.E. Klumb, S.K. Whitten Jr., W.N. Watkins and H.V. Watkins. This group sold the land on December 4, 1925 to W. N. Cheney, R.S. Dobyns, Carl L. Faust, W.E. Guild and Stokes V. Robinson. The Pinehaven Realty Corporation purchased the property from this group on March 1, 1927 for $12,700. (5) (6) (7) For the much of the following 23 years, Pinehaven Realty Corporation maintained the land where the church sits today. A single dwelling and out building were shown on the 1925 Sanford Fire Insurance map. The majority of the land between Pinehurst and Belhaven Streets was vacant and remained so until purchased by First Presbyterian Church on September 20, 1950. Prominent Jacksonian and church member Chalmers Alexander was instrumental in this transaction. (8) (17)

According to Jacksonian Judge Swan Yerger, much of this north end of the 1300 block of north state was a field which served as a softball diamond for the older Power School boys who were enrolled in the old Power School on Pinehurst. The spent their recess and many hours after school on this diamond. Since the inception of the church in 1837, First Presbyterian has had only 12 permanent senior ministers. The tenures shown below do not include interim or guest preachers.

Rev. Peter Donan – 1837-41
Rev. S.H. Hazard – 1841-42
Rev. Leroy Jones Halsey – 1842-48
Rev. Halsey built the first church sanctuary
Rev. Isaac James Henderson – 1849-53
Rev. L.A. Lowery – 1853-55
Dr. John Hunter – 1858-95
Dr. James Buchanan Hutton – 1895-1939
Dr. R. Girard Lowe – 1940-52: When this man knelt to welcome little children to Sunday School, he was a giant.
Dr. John Reed Miller – 1952-68: Dr. Miller was active in missions and in 1962, led the church in founding a Winter Theological Institute which was continued as Reformed Theological Seminary. For 16 years his sermons were broadcast on radio and beginning in the early 1960’s, the morning worship services were televised.
Dr. Donald B. Patterson – 1969-83: During Dr. Patterson’s ministry Twin Lakes Conference center was established near Florence and he served as chairman of the steering Committee that formed the Presbyterian Church of America. The PCA was Founded in 1973 and is focused on the infallibility and historicity of the Scripture and the Westminster Standards. According to Dr. William K. Wymond, minister of music and media, “We distinguish ourselves by these tenants.”
Dr. James M. Baird – 1983-95: Dr. Baird gave leadership to three new building programs, popularized the Church’s TV ministry and was instrumental in involving the church’s Mission Mississippi movement.
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, III – 1996 – 2013: The son of an eighth generation ruling elder, Dr. Duncan recently resigned his pastorate to take over the position of Chancellor of the Reformed Theological Seminary. (1)

The Rev. David Strain took over the responsibilities of pastor in early 2015. Since that time several other worthy churchmen have helped fill the pews on Sunday morning. Today’s original sanctuary was opened Sunday, September 2, 1951 with the first service preached at 7:30 p.m. by interim pastor Dr. Albert Sydney Johnson. Additions to the original building have been the Lowe Fellowship Hall in 1956 which included additional Sunday School space, Westminster Hall in 1986 and Miller Fellowship Hall which contains the music suite, choir suite and kindergarten. A study center is located on the northeast side of the church which includes a gymnasium and three stories of Sunday School space. The present sanctuary was expanded in 2005-07 and currently seats 1,380. (2) (15) Since its inception 176 years ago, Jackson’s First Presbyterian Church has been housed in but three permanent buildings in three locations. It has been served by 12 elected ministers, for an average of just under 15 years each. This consistency is proof of the stability to which Zwingli alluded and is testimony of the continuity and permanence of this institution.

“And I say also unto thee, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church;
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Matthew 16:18

On July 10, 1950, while the present sanctuary was under construction, the church cornerstone, which dates from 1891, was transported from the old building on Yazoo Street to the left side of the new church’s front door. Dr. Girard Lowe oversaw the insertion of documents pertinent to the time. These included a bible, a church history, the church roll, various bulletins, a list of major actions leading to erection of the new building, names of the building committee, a roster of the major contributors up to that time, the departmental leaders and daily newspapers chronicling the event. (9)

The mission of First Presbyterian Church is that which is the answer to the question posed by the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is man’s chief end?” Man’s chief end and the mission of the church is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  Today’s church is composed of over 3,100 members, 2,550 of whom are resident members that represent 1,375 families. Many currently live in the Belhaven neighborhood. There are 105 staff members including those at Twin Lakes Conference Center. The church is governed by a 70 member Session which is made up of elders. The minister’s role is to provide spiritual leadership.  Property and care of the church is done by deacons. Ministers belong to the Presbytery. Major decisions are normally made by the Session with senior ministers selected by the congregation. Early growth of the church was overseen by its senior pastors and pioneer Jacksonians such as the Power, Williford and Wells families, Judge Julian P. Alexander, Bob Cannada, George Lemon Sugg and R.E. Kennington. Many leading elders and youth leaders have also contributed to church growth. (2)

“Those who have arrived at very eminent degrees of excellence in the practice of an art or profession have commonly been actuated by a species of enthusiasm in the pursuit of it.”
John Knox

 The Presbyterian ministry throughout its history, which dates back to the Reformation, has been shaped by the knowledge of Christian faith and the principles of the history which surrounds it. Since the Reformation church leaders have placed a high premium on the education of its ministers and laity. A primary source of this knowledge is the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS). The RTS was started in Jackson, Mississippi in 1966 by five men, four of whom were elders in First Presbyterian Church. Its purpose is to train for the ministry based on a high view of scripture and historic Westminster standards. With ancillary campuses in Orlando, Charlotte, Dallas and Washington, DC, it offers advanced degrees in bible studies, missions and family counseling. (10) Belhaven University has received significant support from FPC for a number of years.

A thriving institution today, Belhaven experienced some fallow years in the early and middle 1900’s involving its endowment and accreditation. In spite of the heroic efforts of its third president Dr. Guy T. Gillespie, the school struggled to maintain its viability. The designation of the college as a co-educational institution in 1954 helped the situation but it was its transfer by the Synod of Mississippi Presbyterian Church in the United States to the Belhaven College Board of Trustees in 1972 that ensured its modern independence. FPC elders serve on the College’s board and significant support is provided by the church. (11) FPC has historically supported private academies which base their mission on Christianity and character. Chamberlain–Hunt Academy in Port Gibson has a history that goes back to 1830 at Oakland College in Rodney. Founded as a military school, its fortunes waxed and waned through the years and were quite low in the mid 1990’s due to decreased enrollment. In 1996, members of the First Presbyterian church in Jackson and French Camp Academy in Choctaw County–in which the church also has an interest–purchased from a local bank the historic buildings, over 200 acres of land and the school’s educational equipment. This purchase ensured the viability of the Port Gibson facility at that time. (12)

Twin Lakes Conference Center near Florence was obtained in 1970. It serves as a summer camping facility in warm weather months and an events center the balance of the year. Over the years millions of dollars have been invested in this first class facility which is available for rental by outside groups. (13) FPC is youth oriented beyond Twin Lakes and its regular ministry. It supports the neighborhood Christian Center in the minority community which emphasizes Christian ethics, academic tutoring and breaking the chains of poverty. (2) Other outreach programs include work with Mission Mississippi, world missions, campus student groups and assistance in starting new churches within the PCA movement. The First Presbyterian Day School was established in 1965 and is located in Miller Hall on Pinehurst Street. The day school contains grades k-6 and currently has a student body of about 650. It involves normal school curriculum, which according to Dr. Wymond, “is based on a Christian and world life view.” It is designed so that the school and church complement each other. While this school can present some traffic challenges when taking in and letting out, it greatly strengthens the character of the neighborhood and is an attraction to numerous young families, many of which have remained in Belhaven after their children finish the sixth grade. (14) (2)

Let us not cease to do the utmost so that we may incessantly go forward
in the way of the Lord;and let us not despair of the smallness of our accomplishments.”
John Calvin“

When asked of the church’s future plans, Dr. Wymond stated “the First Presbyterian Church is always looking for opportunities to serve and preach the gospel. He further added, “No new projects are scheduled at present except to help the city. We are here for Jackson and as an institution to anchor the neighborhood, to conduct bible studies in the Mid Town neighborhood and be helpful and supportive of the church.” (2) On a rainy Sunday morning on the first day of October 1950, Billy Harvey, age 11, stood before the 400 member congregation in the little brick church on the corner and accepted Christ as his personal savior. He held a bible given to him by his parents and a Shorter Catechism provided by the church. Dr. Lowe asked the congregation to accept him into church membership and, standing, they agreed. Looking back through the prism of 63 years he would joyfully do so again. One hundred and seventy six years ago a pastor and four early Jacksonians met in a statehouse in a tiny city only 15 years in existence. They planted the seeds of a great church and a monument to their faith.

Photo courtesy Dale Partners

Today the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson rests firmly on its foundation, its steeple soaring toward the heaven we aspire to and towers over the memories of old Power School to the south on State Street and the rambling Green Apartments to the north. It surveys to the west what was at its construction the Hederman home at Marshall Street, the beautiful Vaughan Watkins house at Webster and Beth-Isreal Cemetery in between, ever facing east. Its mission remains the glorification of God. It is not moving to the suburbs. It is not changing its doctrine. It is not going away. Like Peter’s rock, it represents a hallmark of stability and is grounded in the inspiration of its purpose belonging to all as a beacon of faith, a citadel of strength and a cornerstone of our neighborhood.

Bill & Nan Harvey
September 2013

SOURCES

(1) Church history from web site
(2) Interview with Dr. William K. Wymond, minister of Music and Media, (09/30/13)
(3) Historic marker, NW corner of Yazoo & State Streets
(4) FPC archives
(5) Hinds County deed records, book 174, page 22, (12/04/1925)
(6) Hinds County deed records, book 190, page 284 (03/01/1927)
(7) Hinds County deed records, book 676, page 87 (09/20/1950)
(8) Jackson city directories 1930-50
(9) Program, Laying of the Cornerstone, FPC, 07/10/1950
(10) Reformed theological Seminary, Internet Wikipedia, (09/04/2013)
(11) Gordon, James F., Jr., A History of Belhaven College 1894-1983, Jackson, MS Belhaven College (1983)
(12) Chamberlain-Hunt and French Camp Academies web sites
(13) Twin Lakes Conference Center web site
(14) Mission Statement, FPC Day School, A Kingdom School, Established 1965
(15) Jackson Daily News, Sunday 8/26/51
(16) Conversation with Judge Swan Yerger (09/29/13)
(17) Sanford Fire Insurance Company map – 1925

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

(A) Thanks are extended to Dr. William K. Wymond, minister of Music and Media at First Presbyterian Church for his kind contribution of time to explain much of the background of today’s church
(B) Appreciation is extended to Rev. Brister Ware, minister of Pastoral Care for his efforts to coordinate permission and approval of this article
(C) Appreciation is extended to the senior pastor and others associated with the governmental structure of First Presbyterian Church of Jackson for their support and approval of this article.

Confessions of an Urban Planter

Growing cotton in Jackson, Mississippi is problematic, yet while well south of the fabled Delta and sorely lacking in expansive fields and farming equipment, the capital city of Mississippi does have a favorable climate for the cotton plant.

In my hometown of Bruce, Mississippi, well into the hills, Mr. Buddy Massey, who ran the Shell Station on the corner of Hwys. 9 and 32 grew cotton every year. Everyone sort of chuckled at it, but the townspeople loved talking about how his crop was coming along. I wanted to do that here, reinforce a sense of community that I’d felt growing up and was certain others here remember as well. This was an ambitious undertaking in the heavily-wooded old neighborhood in Jackson I call home, Belhaven, where many years before I’d hacked out a small garden on what was once a barren, sun-scorched verge at the corner of two long streets. The sun is strong there, and not only was the soil hard-packed, it had the stump of a long-dead oak embedded in the clay. But former mayor Leslie McLemore had the stump removed (thank you, Dr. McLemore), and armed with only a shovel and persistence, I eventually worked the ground into a garden that grows a good variety of flowering plants and vegetables over the course of a given year. I figured if Buddy could grow cotton, I could too.

This project encountered obstacles right off the bat. First and perhaps foremost I discovered you need permission to grow cotton in Mississippi; the shadow of the boll weevil still looms over the Cotton Kingdom, and the Mississippi Code states specifically that “Every person growing cotton in this state shall furnish to the commissioner and the corporation on forms supplied by the commissioner such information as the commissioner may require concerning the size and location of all commercial cotton fields and of noncommercial plantings of cotton grown as an ornamental plant or for any other purposes.” Having found that out, I knew having the Mississippi Department of Agriculture in a building a mile and a half away magnified my chances of getting busted for cotton, and since the novelty of being hauled to court for growing cotton in Mississippi did have some appeal, I called the Commission. They in turn directed me to a man at Mississippi State University who assured me that such a small “field” as mine wasn’t an agricultural time bomb. Second, getting the seed; cotton seed, because of the restrictions, is not something you find in a yard and garden emporium. They seem to be sold not by the bushel, nor even the pound, but by the seed; the individual seed, mind you. At a loss, I issued an appeal on the local social networks for help, which came forthwith, netting me not only enough seeds for my modest enterprise, but enough to plant a city block. For some time, I considered the novelty of becoming a Jesse Cottonseed, spreading the wealth of white gold across Jackson’s cityscape, but in the end I decided that I would never live down the shame of being the man who reintroduced the boll weevil to Mississippi. I’d probably be pilloried, then burned at the stake, at the very least tarred and feathered and exiled to Arizona. Third, waiting for it to get warm; we had a typical winter, but a cool spring. The first batch, planted in outside seed flats on April Fool’s Day of course failed, so I decided to sit on my haunches and seed while my part of the earth tilted more towards Sol. While waiting for it to get warmer, I decided to dig up a new bed for the cotton. I’d already planned to put it in the center of the main bed where I get my best sun, but just west (all of about 5 yards) was another patch of ground covered in grass. In my mind I’d always known that I’d have to hew out another bed there, but this time I needed more than a shovel. This earth, Yazoo clay to be exact, had been baked by the brutal Mississippi sun for decades and was full of gravel, broken bricks and fragments of concrete and asphalt. I found this out on my first efforts at making it useful for cultivation.

So I put out a cattle call on the local social media for a garden adz. After much back and forth, I ended up with a pick-axe with a horizontal blade weighing about 50 lbs. What followed was a series of excruciatingly painful lessons on performing heavy manual labor with a body that had grown soft and old involving such simple elements of physics as gravity and motion. In the end, I had not one bed but two: the one intended and another across the parking lot entrance, smaller and with a trellis. I dug the beds as deep as I could after reading up on cotton roots, which are said to extend up to nine feet in an alluvial soil such as the Delta’s. People, I did my best, but I only ended up with a bed that is about two and a half feet deep. I filled it with a mixture of clayey sand and humus, Mrs. Hutto’s garden soil. As a good son of Calhoun County, there I buried a sweet potato that had sprouted over the winter behind the refrigerator as a blessing on my endeavors and waited for the earth in orbit to tilt closer to the sun, another lesson in physics, this time involving celestial mechanics.

Springs in Mississippi are usually brief; most years we jump directly from winter to summer with little respite at the end of March, but this year Father Winter, who had enjoyed a brutal reign in the north with record snows and lows, lingered here in the South with cool temperatures and cloudy skies. Any other year I’d have been grateful for his late company, but I had a crop to plant, one that needed warmth. The temperatures remained cool and rainy until the end of April; then suddenly the skies cleared and the sun came out in force. The earth, which up until then had been too soggy to work, suddenly firmed and my shovel seemed inadequate. But it was all I had, so I began digging, one square yard at a time, sometimes only one a day, at the same time working in the sand and humus the cotton needed with the clayey soil. The teachings of toil and tedium brought home another lesson of how hard people worked to grow cotton when it was still a farm crop, something people raised to provide income to abet that from what little food they had to sell. If they were lucky, they had a plow and a mule, but they were no strangers to hoes and shovels, and had to deal with weeds in the same way I do, by uprooting. Likewise, herbicides and pesticides were out of the question, since calling in a crop duster to fly down Poplar Boulevard might have peppered the gyros at Keifer’s with legal consequences potentially much worse than growing cotton without a permit and besides, with the exception of an occasional light fertilizer, my garden has always been free of chemicals. I prayed for some Muse of Cotton to grace my crop with benevolence as she must have for those who came before me.

The first week of May, Jim Steeby from Stewart, Mississippi, said cotton planting had begun in the Delta. With two beds ready, I sowed my cotton by hand, which was a less-than-mystical experience than I had anticipated, but shouldn’t have, since cotton itself is a plant, and what aura it has is what we have given it; besides, it was the seeds themselves which no doubt found an exhilaration in being thrust into warm, moist soil after such a wait. Of the four beds planned, the ones on the east and west were planted on May 5. Since my appeal for seeds had netted no less than three copious batches (in different colors, I might add, blue, brown and purple due to the fungicides which coated them), they were mixed together in a batch and sown, some in short rows, others in small hills. Predictably, once the seed was planted, the rains ceased, and watering began, not just for the cotton, but for the other seeds and seedlings already in place; their roots, once established, would sustain them in months to come, but the roots themselves had to be encouraged.

The next two beds were planted on May 10, after the soil had been broken up with an adz borrowed from a nearby neighbor, then churned by another near neighbor with a gas-powered tiller, which thoroughly belittled my former efforts. Sandy clay and humus was mixed with existing dirt to a depth of at least a foot. The seeds were sown in roughly four very short rows in both beds, and though rain threatened all day, it never appeared, so watering was again in order. On the same day, I noticed that the first seedlings had begun to appear in the pot and the west bed. Again, their emergence seemed anticlimactic. Perhaps I was simply tired, or perhaps I was distracted by other events in the garden, since other plants were up as well: sunflowers, morning glories and moonflowers, marigolds, plum grannies and zinnias, cherry tomatoes and celosia. The coneflowers were budding, as were the orphaned Easter lilies I’d garnered from neighbors, and the herbs (chives, mint, oregano and others) were at their late spring peak. The garden was coming into being, and it promised to be a bountiful year.

For whatever reason, the cotton seeds proved fickle. To make a series of mini-rows, a total of perhaps fifty were planted each round, each planting a mixture of the three seed types, those with a purple coating proving the most viable. Rainy weather in mid-May helped the second set, and before long the rows (as such) began to take shape, not only in lines but in triangles and circles. Only the closest of seedlings needed thinning. In Delta fields, such fussy tending is not necessary, but being fractional this acreage needed more attention to crowding; in this instance, optimal outcome involving big, pretty plants that would bloom and boll. A rainy May helped; the cotyledons and stems grew big and fat. By the end of the month, some seedlings had preliminary leaves, and I decided to wait on thinning. On the one hand, I wanted the best plants possible, but then I’ve seen cotton growing close together, and in the best situation of open field and plentiful rain, all the plants were tall, leafy and in flower. Somehow back in the back of my mind I kept trying to imagine what kind of machine planted cotton, and I couldn’t envision it being less haphazard than me. I tried to imagine how cotton must have looked in its primeval state in Tehuacán, predictably failed but persisted. While many scoffed at my crop, growing cotton had become more than an endeavor; it had become a responsibility, and my care paid off. By the first week in June, the cotton was about six inches tall and the cotyledons were being replaced by true leaves. Though my beds received only five hours of direct sun a day, the stems were strong and red, so I decided thinning needn’t be that drastic, since cotton in row crops grows much closer together.

In the Deep South, we have nothing resembling the graduated springs and falls of more northerly latitudes, and while our winters are predictably brief and comparatively mild, summer has such a duration that it can be divided into three parts: new summer, high summer and far summer. The summer solstice marks the beginning of the high summer, when daytime temperatures are in the nineties and seventies at night. By that time, the cotton was a foot high, but overshadowed by early summer annuals such as zinnias, first crop marigolds and sweet cherry tomatoes. With marigolds and cotton still in mind, more marigolds are planned for early August before the cotton bolls. By that time the old maroon plume coxcomb will bloom, the yellow plum grannies ripen, the red popcorn will begin to brown and the low hedge of asters make such a show of blue as to bring the October sky to ground. In the meantime, it was lay-by time.

After a wet June, when the petty dregs of cool air from the north had wrung what rain they could from the encroaching Gulf winds, a mountain of hot still air settled over Jackson, and the sun was unrelenting, turning upon the city as a child with a magnifying glass but without pity might focus on an insect. The light itself had gravity, a throbbing, beating pressure that made any lengthy walks in the afternoon an exercise in humility and endurance. The cotton plant is what horticulturalists call a heavy feeder, meaning that it needs more nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium than an ordinary garden-variety soil can provide in order to achieve maximum growth. Cotton needs a lot of nitrogen, which was bad news for my tomatoes, but the cotton had priority. Since the cotton was planted very near the end of spring, the rest of the garden needed much tending before the solstice; the flowers and fruit of May had to make room for those of October: orange marigolds and autumn sunflowers, corn and gourds as well as hollyhocks and hibiscus for the coming year. These all had to be in the ground by the first week in July, and with the rain and heat the weeding became even more arduous. So though the cotton grew taller, I took no notice of what was happening beneath the canopy of leaves and found myself surprised in early July by the first blossom, a pale crimped envelope of crepe protruding from a frilly green box. Again, I’d been anticipating a transcendental moment for the occasion, but my reaction was more composed of surprise and curiosity, which for all I know may well be the essential elements of a transcendent experience. I lack a frame of reference. Pale at first, the petals of the blossoms turned a rich purple before dropping. My neighbor John Lewis said that in Leflore County they have a saying: “First day white, second day red, third day from my birth I’m dead!” When the blooms had fallen they left a tight, blocky wad of green still enclosed in a feathery case. On this bud empires had grown and tumbled, but other work distracted me.

July brought a heat like I couldn’t remember in many years, the sun a hot press upon the world, heavy and dense, but the autumn seeds broke from the earth and reached for the sky, hungry for light. Their growth soon replaced the spring bloomers, which had to be cut. Room also had to be found for plants that languished in other places for various reasons, others had to be moved and some culled even when the temperatures were in the eighties at midnight, but any sincere gardener knows that caring for plants is an honorable duty, and one often done against odds. Such are the toils of the earth. August brought the far summer, when the sun begins to lessen but the heat lingers like a rash no ointment will cure. Some people maintain that the southeastern United States would be just as dry as the southwest if it weren’t for hurricanes, and after once enduring an autumn drought in Tupelo that killed most of the azaleas and dogwoods, I believe it. Clouds would form and rain would fall over the Pearl, but not over LeFleur’s Bluff, which held my little share of earth.

Remember that this is a very small patch of cotton in a city, so access to water could be found; Jackson does have a water system, however antiquated. The problem was finding a tap, which involved negotiations with a local landlord who owns several apartment buildings nearby (including mine, which is unfortunately across the street). His property just up the hill has an outside tap about 200 feet away. He readily agreed to let me use it; not only that, but he gave me a better hose, a sprinkler and a spray nozzle to boot. The sprinkler covered the entire garden (all 100-odd square feet, if that) and with this water, which ultimately came from the Pearl itself, the cotton and corn, gourds and hollyhocks thrived, particularly the cotton, which began to set bolls the last week in July. As mentioned, cotton is a hibiscus, as is okra, the latter with a pod, the former a boll, both exhibiting a symmetry that is architectural under examination, one elongated and the other compact, one edible and the other not, but both threads in the woof and weave of the fabric that is the South. As I’d hoped, the cotton outgrew the celosia, four-o’-clocks and marigolds, all planted at the same time. The other plants blossomed and stoutened first, and though the cotton began blooming as well, it kept stretching towards the by now waning but still powerful sun. Very soon, a canopy of cotton thrust above the flowers, broadening as it secured stronger light. Beneath this undulating blanket of green more blossoms opened and the bolls swelled. What weeds grew beneath were smothered in the cotton’s shade, and I grew lackadaisical in dealing with them; in time, I’d get the unwanted before they went to seed, but for now I could stand and wait rather than crouch and search. It was lay-by time, after all.

During the last week in July and the first in August I found myself continually researching the growth and development of the cotton plant, which as luck would have is one of the most complex structures in the kingdom Plantae. I wanted to know such things when maximum production of bolls takes place (from 80 to 110 days after cotton is planted), how cotton responds to heat and water stress (badly) and why the buds are called “squares” but they’re triangular bracts; nobody knows, though a graduate prominent graduate of Mississippi State University (to my mind the final court of authority when it comes to cotton cultivation) did point out that an open boll has four locks of fiber and four carpels which dry into a bur with prickly tips that make picking cotton by hand an often bloody business. The garden received a long soaking once a week, and while this benefited all the plants, the cotton needed nitrogen. With nothing to give but a general-purpose fertilizer, I held off feeding the plants until cotton seed meal could be found. I’d heard that it’s risky to fertilize in such heat anyway, and though the season was rapidly waning, I simply watered when needed, and had to be content.

Two months after the solstice, the intensity of the sun had lessened, but because the earth had begun to tilt back in its orbit, the cotton plot received more continual light (if fractionally) as the sun cleared the tree line south of the garden. It was then almost to the day that the first vestiges of cold air presaging the oncoming season came sweeping across the Lower Forty, bringing frost to North Dakota but to Mississippi nothing more than a steady northerly breeze that in a higher latitude might well be construed as a sirocco. Summer’s rule was under siege, and though the heat persisted in the days, nights no longer wrapped you in a suffocating blanket. It was hurricane season; sere, still and expectant. The first boll opened the last week of August. I saw it under the light of a nearly-full moon, a low, white symmetrical glow against the shadowed green. Again, no thunder and lightning came, but though a friend in Arcola had sent me photos of a local field crop waist-high and plush with open bolls along with disparaging comments about my “scrappy-ass Jackson ‘plantation wanna-be’ cotton”, I was proud of my little fraction of an acre. It was, after all, making a crop, one that fit well with my modest and unpretentious character as an urban planter. Making a bale out of it might be impossible, but I’d have cotton to harvest.

To my astonishment, the opening cotton proved unrecognizable to many if not most of my neighbors. On many occasions I found myself faced with the question, “What is that?” as someone pointed to the whitening bolls. “Cotton,” I’d say, and they would either slap their foreheads or form a silent “o” with their lips. These reactions became a general rule of thumb for determining who of my neighbors were from where, and I’d always ask, but then I found that people from North Carolina and Tennessee didn’t recognize the plant. Most of them didn’t know an oak from an elm, either, but I’d cherished the notion that most Southerners would recognize the most iconic crop of their homeland out of repetition if nothing else. Perhaps the image of a cotton boll itself has become so divergent from reality that its actuality has become inconceivable to anyone save those who plant the seed.

Sure, I was a half-assed farmer in the middle of Mississippi’s capital city, but I was making an effort. As the weeks drew on, every surface of the cotton, leaves, stems, even the ripening bolls, became scorched, ruddy and freckled beneath the unrelenting sun. The change in color was so drastic I’d be willing to bet that big-time cotton farmers can look at a photo of a full field and tell within a month or less of how long it’s been in the ground as well as if it needed a goosing of nitrogen before it set a crop. While the cotton was reddening, the trees were yellowing, becoming sallow, assuming that peculiar jaundice I found familiar from past Septembers. The air itself became hazy because what brief winds we had were picking up the dusty earth and passing it around as they do with pine pollen in June. Everything had a sense of resignation about it, even the light, which seemed suspended in ether, hung between a pale blue sky and a dark dun earth. The world was a sepia silhouette, and the leaves were falling. With the failing of the light, the tentative knocking of Father Winter brought about the decline of the cotton plants themselves. Blistered by the sun and exhausted in their efforts to produce seed, the stems drooped under the weight of the swelling bolls, which were opening ever-so-slowly while the autumn sunflowers were swaying in a northerly breeze.

October proved the coda for the cotton; the heat was gone, the light lessening, their dance was over, and the year itself was coming to a close. Sure, for all my work and attention, I was left with a mere bundle of cotton, no more than a grocery sack, but the real harvest was reaped from the people who were a part of this creation of a bit of nostalgia and whimsy on a street in a Southern city.

Cotton field on Hwy. 49, Lula, Mississippi. Photo by Euphus Ruth.
Cotton field on Hwy. 49, Lula, Mississippi. Photo by Euphus Ruth.

 

Lou LaRose: Chef at Work

I’ve always enjoyed cooking and helping my mom or grandmom in the kitchen, whether it was making fried chicken or chocolate chip cookies or even tater tots. You’re still cooking. I got a job at the original Poet’s when I was really young, and it kind of went from there. I worked there for a couple of years and moved up quickly. It was pretty tough on somebody as young as I was; it was a bar scene. Obviously I felt there was more appeal to things other than washing dishes. I started bussing tables after washing dishes, then found out I was pretty good with a knife; I picked a knife up and started hacking on chicken, prepping it, trimming it, doing shrimp, and I got pretty fast at it, so that’s how I moved up into prep. I waited tables for a while, cooked, bar backed, did a little bit of everything. While I was at Poet’s, I worked at Sam’s Westside, which is where Broad Street is now. And then I worked at Mick & Mott’s, which used to be Jackson Bar & Grill, now La Cazuela’s. Then I went to work at Bravo!.

When I first started cooking, I didn’t realize you could buy knives out of a catalog, I didn’t realize there were “chefs”. I mean, I did, because I remember watching “Yan Can Cook” as a kid on television and loving that dude because he was awesome. I also watched “The Galloping Gourmet”. While I was working, I was learning. When I was at Poet’s, I didn’t know you had culinary schools and real knives, so I started to learn and pick up on it and began thinking I should learn what I could at one place and then move on to another. So I progressed through the restaurants around here and ended up at Bravo!.

I started out as a hot line cook my first night there and soon picked up a lot of shifts because I was always the guy who wanted to work more. I was always one of those guys out there working. I worked at Brick Oven for a while, because a guy I worked with at Bravo! worked there as well, and he told me they were short-handed and needed some help. I picked up a few morning shifts at Brick Oven while working nights at Bravo!. I didn’t work at Brick Oven too long because I wanted to devote myself more to Bravo!. I really enjoyed working in the Bravo! kitchen; its well-run, well-organized, and I got to learn a lot of things that I’d never had my hands on before, whether it was making pizzas or baking bread. I started doing things such as that right off the bat. After about the first year I was there, I was making the breads three mornings a week. It was when I went to work at Bravo! that I began to think my career path was leading to the restaurant business.

After a couple of years, I started looking at the culinary schools. I chose Johnson & Wales in North Miami. I knew I had to go to a place to work and earn income because I couldn’t go on full scholarship, I couldn’t go with all the money in the world, and I was going to have to get loans. I went through an advanced-standing program, which let me test in and get on with recommendations for having prior experience. By this point, which was 1997, I’d worked for five or six years in kitchens, so I was able to CLEP-out of the lesser classes, since they had a program for people with industry experience. This advanced program only required me to be there about a year and a half, but it was still a full culinary degree. I went every day, early morning to mid-afternoon, and then went to work at night. I worked at some really good places there. I worked at Mark’s Las Olas for Mark Militello, who was one of the bigger-named chefs in that area when I was there.

I’m a native to Jackson. I grew up here; my dad’s been a realtor here for almost forty years. I grew up on Whitworth Street, and have lived on Belhaven, Manship and Poplar Streets. I love the Belhaven neighborhood, the old houses, the feel of it, and it’s one of the most storied neighborhoods around as well. There’s a lot of appeal to that. I chose Jackson for my restaurant because there are simply more people here who would decide to go out to eat than there would be in a more remote location such as Madison, Ridgeland or Flowood. It’s a tougher sell outside of Jackson. For one thing, you don’t get the draw from outside people in Madison or other places that you do here in the city. Not as many people go out, and you just get your local crowd, but from what I’ve seen people from those areas are more inclined to come into Jackson to eat and then go back home.

When we first came in to this location, we liked the space and we liked the way it looked at night. I really liked the old black-and-white checkerboard floors, which are still here. We kept the ceiling grid, cleaned it and repainted it. I came in and had an idea about what I wanted, how I wanted it laid out, talked to my architects about it, and we ended up gutting the whole place, took it down to four walls. The only wall that was left standing was a four-foot section that had the electrical panels on it. Everything else is brand new.

I really didn’t put a lot of thought into the menu before we opened. I wrote a menu a long time ago and just sat on it. I had a couple of different ideas for what I wanted to do, and depending on the spot I got, I was going to do a different concept. If I’d gotten the place in Madison I was looking at, it would have been completely different. You don’t want to open up something too similar to something else; I wouldn’t open up a wood-fired kitchen here with my buddy Alex Eaton at The Manship up the street, even though I worked with the pizza oven at Bravo! and worked with one at Brick Oven. I wanted to incorporate that somewhere, but it would have been at a whole different end of the culinary spectrum: less of the Creole/French/American that I’m partial to as well, and more to the Mediterranean/Spanish/Italian. That may be one day or not, you never know. I’m content right here with this one place, trying to keep the doors open, keeping the business going and building a good name and reputation as these other chefs and restauranteurs are doing.

The dynamics of restaurants in big cities change a lot more than it does in Jackson, but I like it better here because a lot of restaurants have been around for a long time, which is my interest. You know, in a lot of these cities you have restaurants that change what they do and open up for a couple of years, then they’re happy closing down and opening up another restaurant. But I look at restaurants like Bravo! and Walker’s that have been around for twenty years or longer, and that’s where I want to be. Obviously you progress with the times and you change so you stay relevant. If you can. I don’t want to be one of those restaurants that are open for five or six years and then closes down and does something different. That’s really not what I want to do. The industry is a marathon, not a sprint. The work itself is a double marathon, but it is what it is. I want Lou’s Full-Serv in Belhaven to be relevant for more than a just few years. At the end of the day, what matters is treating customers right and putting a good, well-seasoned plate in front of them that they enjoy and want to come back for. That’s really as simple as it is.

 

Sylvandell: More than a Myth

Tucked away in the environs of our historic neighborhood is a bit of Greek mythology. A wooded area at the eastern end of Pinehurst Street was once the dream of Jackson land developer L.L. Mayes who saw in its forests, hills and streams a domicilable setting for young families to begin their lives. Mr. Mayes began the development of Sylvandell in the late 1920’s and many of its homes of varied architectural styles may be found in the 1400 block of St. Mary Street (east side) and around the southeastern corner of Laurel Street to Laurel Street Park.

Pinehurst Street (named for the Pinehurst subdivision) was cleared and developed around 1915 as an integral product of Captain William M. Gillespie’s land purchase prior to the Civil War. Captain Gillespie moved to Jackson from Tennessee and for $840 purchased a country place consisting of 40 acres along the “Canton Dirt Road”. The Gillespie Place, which was the origin of the Belhaven neighborhood, was later known to be comprised of portions of North State, Arlington, Hazel and Wells (Poplar) Streets. After the captain’s death the old Gillespie place burned, but was known to have been surrounded by beautiful woodlands so dense only the gables of the house could be seen from the road. It was said that Captain Gillespie left a fortune buried on the grounds of his homestead and thus the land became the clandestine haunts of a number of treasure hunters shovels in hand. That legend, however, is a tale for another day.

Prior to the mid-twenties, that portion of Pinehurst Street that developed east along the southern campus of Belhaven College and on to St. Ann Street was previously known as Harper Street. At its terminus at newly-developed St. Mary (‘s) Street, it dipped into hostile typography: ravines and ditches, hillocks and gulches, filled with a multitude of critters and cries in the night. Most potential developers viewed it as worthless terrain. But not L.L. Mayes, then living with his family in a neoclassical home designed by Emmett Hull, which still stands on the southwest corner of Peachtree and Pinehurst Streets.

Entrance to Sylvandell

Mayes saw a residential niche in the six acres he initially purchased in early 1928. He was sensitive to the needs of young families who either could not afford to buy or preferred to rent their starter home. Mayes described his acreage as a “beauty spot where one would expect to hear Pan playing on his reed pipes and to see fairies and wood nymphs dancing in the dells to his irresistible music.” He therefore commissioned Mr. Joseph Barras, sculptor, to design a concrete entrance of wide steps anchored by nymphs and leading down to the bucolic setting which became Laurel Street Park. Behind the homes on St. Mary and Laurel Streets there were woodlands to the west and a meadow to the east. A descending natural stairway led from the entrance to a simple bridge and winding walkways built of crushed gray slag with white borders which dropped down to ravines and undergrowth and a “babbling brook”. The walkways coursed through rustic walls emulating old English country sides. Interspersed were several benches and tables also designed by Mr. Barras and cast by the N.W. Wright Stone Works that also cast the figures for the main entrance. Homes were built of buff brick, trimmed in white and topped with light apple green tiled roofs. Both the front and rear of the homes were set in a forested atmosphere designed to be attractive from the street.

Each new home was comprised of a living room, dining room, one or two bedrooms, tile bathroom, kitchen, basement, storage attic, “warm air plant”, electric cooking stove and hardwood floors. They averaged 1,000-1,200 square feet and according to the 1930 census, rent ranged from $65 per month at 1466 St. Mary to $85 per month at 1436, with rates based on the overall structure and size of the lot. There was a screened side porch for hot summer evenings, later closed in by most when AC arrived in the late 40’s. Community garages were built at suitable points so as not to take space and esthetics away from the original building. The homes were furnished prior to rental for according to an ad by the R.E. Kennington Company in 1929, “it has been our pleasure to furnish the shades, rugs, draperies and furniture for the living rooms, bedrooms and dining rooms of the beautiful Sylvandell homes.”

In addition to Kennington’s store, there were a number of local companies, firms and individuals who contributed to the ambience of Sylvandell. Among these were Enterprise Furnace Manufacturing, A.F. Nash, plumber, Eagle Lumber and Supply Company, Stephenson Brick Company, Jackson Lumber Company, Ricks Storage Company, McCleland, Addkison & Bauer Hardware, D.P. Denny, contractor, E.W. Cook Lighting Fixtures, Ray Wright Sheet Metal, Capital Paint and Glass Company, Moseley, Nelson & Smith Insurance, C.A. Hollis, builder, Ellis Stewart, painter and decorator and Planters Lumber Company.

While not directly in the Sylvandell plat, some residents remember a small building at the top of the hill on Laurel Street where some stone steps now lead to a vacant lot. The structure near this lot is reputed to have been a neighborhood library and careful examination of this garage building shows where this might have been possible. This was most likely a private effort on the part of a literary resident. It was a small but meaningful service to surrounding residents. But whose effort was it? Who cared enough to take the time? Who now knows?

Corinne Fox is a current resident of Sylvandell. As a former Jackson city planning director, she is professionally familiar with neighborhoods, architecture, codes and building policies. She has owned and lived in her home on St. Mary Street since 1971. Corinne knows the history of the development and remembers the remains of the alley dividing portions of her block and the community garage behind what is now an apartment unit on Laurel Street. For 41 years she has never regretted moving from other Jackson locations to Sylvandell and learning of its history since eye physician Dr. W.L. Hughes was her house’s first tenant in 1930. Other early residents in these homes according to the census were Bernard Lowe (fire insurance agent), P.R. Galbreath (automobile dealer), Donald Munroe (geologist and weatherman), Hamilton McRae (wholesale hardware), Freeland Gale (store clerk), Lacey Hughes (dentist) and Ernest Laird (bank cashier). “The people who settled this area were of some prominence,” she says, “and still are today through their myriad interests, achievements and gifts to this community.”

“I love being in this house,” she responded when asked of her home. “This is an area with an ideal mix of people – young, old, all income levels and interests in life. I feel safe here with furnishings of my earlier life and among friends who are part of my life today. My new neighbor is an FBI agent. No wonder I feel so safe!”

Special Agent Robert H. Ruby, who grew up in Starkville, came to Jackson from New Orleans about a year and a half ago. He kept hearing good things about “a small town setting (Belhaven), sitting in the middle of Jackson”. He at first considered building a new house on a vacant lot, but later decided to renovate an existing structure in Fondren or Belhaven. A Belhaven realtor told him about one of the Sylvandell homes which had fallen into serious disrepair. Upon first inspection of the property Robert said “no way”. But the more he learned of the neighborhood the more determined he was to live not only in Belhaven but that very house. His decision was made. “It took 13 months from the time I obtained the property to get the multitude of clearances from the city which had originally wanted to demolish the existing structure. I spoke with a builder who is college buddy and he told me he could make the house look like new while keeping the original appearance.” The task is now complete and Robert has moved into the house which is a showplace and he plans to have it as his “home forever”.

When resurrecting old structures one of the first things you want to know is if there is a ghost. “Of course there is a ghost,” Robert says, “one of a former tenant, and he welcomed me with sights and sounds the first week I lived here.” The first night, while Robert was sleeping, there was the sound of a picture falling from the wall. He turned on the lights, investigated but could not find where this had occurred. The second night he thought he heard a key turn in the front door. Again, no evidence. On the third night there was a ‘crash’. No motive could be found. Although there have been no incidences since, the new tenant feels confident he has been accepted by his ghost and there will be no further contact.

A garage in Sylvandell

You may now wish to pause for a moment and enter the heart and thoughts of the young couple viewing their new dwelling for the first time some 80 years ago. You can imagine their dreams of starting their life together in prosperous times, planning their family and roads to success. You might think of them walking hand in hand on the pathways along the stream, pointing out the hues in the foliage and discussing improvements and the larger home they would one day own. You can also see in the mind’s eye the development of this neighborhood and the foundations of its larger future.

The fairies and nymphs are gone now. Well, almost. The concrete foundations of Pan’s pipes remain crumbling at the dead-end of Pinehurst and the steps and little footbridge across the brook and into the park have returned to the soil. Sylvandell has given way to Greater Belhaven. Laurel Street Park is entered from the north. The remaining homes are now of varied hues and the woods have grown over the little footpaths. Driveways and garages have replaced the hidden community carports originally earmarked for resident’s vehicles. Pan and his music have gone back into the flocks and shepherds from whence they came. But a single nymph remains, hidden along a nearby driveway in the vicinity of her once statuesque beauty. She is quiet now and pensive, recalling her origins in folklore and proud of her singular role of helping frame one of Belhaven’s most classical neighborhoods.

The Nymph of Sylvandell

 

bill-and-nan-harvey-web
Bill and Nan Harvey

Nan Ertle Harvey is a native of Yazoo County, a graduate of Mississippi College and has lived with her husband Bill in the Belhaven neighborhood since 1994. She worked in a research position in the Department of Microbiology at UMMC, retiring in 2003. Nan’s hobbies are photography, nature study and family research. She is a volunteer at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Bill Harvey is a native Jacksonian, living most of his life in Belhaven. A MSU Bulldog, he has had careers in journalism, education and as development director of the Andrew Jackson Council, Boy Scouts of America. Bill enjoys photography, music, writing articles for neighborhood sources and sharing experiences with friends at a local coffee shop. (Text copyright Bill and Nan Harvey, used by permission of Bill and Nan Harvey)

Sources:

1) “Keith’s Beautiful Home Magazine”,  Jackson Daily News, March 3, 1929
2) Corinne Fox, Sylvandell resident
3) Robert H. Ruby, Sylvandell resident
4) 1930 Census (Hinds County, Mississippi, Beat 1; City of Jackson, Ward 5)