The last two antebellum homes in Starkville, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are for sale.
For more than 150 years, both the Gillespie-Jackson House, located at the intersection of Highway 12 and Louisville Street, and The Cedars on Old West Point Road have stood as awe-striking symbols of Starkville’s early history.
Last week’s listing of The Gillespie-Jackson House — built in 1850 — puts the future of that 4,200 square-foot home somewhat in jeopardy.
California-based Marcus and Millichap Real Estate listed the property at $2.1 million and is marketing it as hotel or commercial use, agent Wes Tiner told The Dispatch. However, he said the agency would entertain offers for residential use.
Tiner added the property is priced to move, and he expects to sell it sooner than later.
“I have been doing this for 30 years now, and I have never been told that a property is severely underpriced until now,” Tiner said. “So, I expect this one to move pretty fast. I think it will probably go as a mixed-use development, with both retail and residential space. Or because it is about a mile away from the school (Mississippi State University), a condo development.”
Though listed on the register for three decades, that alone does not protect the house from demolition, said Chief Architectural Historian at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Jennifer Baughn. That protection is reserved for houses in historic districts — such as the Greensboro and Overstreet districts in Starkville, neither of which include the Antebellum home.
The city also hasn’t deemed the home a local landmark, Baughn said, leaving its fate entirely in the buyer’s hands.
“The National Registry is not a restrictive program,” Baughn said. “And unless there is a local ordinance, for instance, a historic district, the house or building can be torn down.”
Joe T. Mosley currently owns the Gillespie-Jackson house, although it is now vacant. His son, Brooks Mosley, declined to comment to The Dispatch on why the family is selling the house.
History of the Gillespie-Jackson House
Built for Dr. William Gage Gillespie, a physician who came to Oktibbeha County in the 1830s, The Gillespie-Jackson house is a traditional “four-over-four” house with Greek Revival style architecture and design, according to documents included on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History website.
Greek Revival architecture was a common style Mississippi during the 1800s. However, during the time of this home’s construction, two-room and four-room cottages were much more common.
Because of this, the Gillespie-Jackson house was thought to be one of the most architecturally ambitious houses during its time.
By the time the house was built, Gillespie owned almost 400 acres of land and owned nearly 200 slaves. He was once considered to be the wealthiest man in Oktibbeha County.
Although the house has not undergone any major renovations, Baughn said, those living in it maintained it well.
At 607 Old West Point Road, about two miles from the Gillespie-Jackson house, sits The Cedars, a near 5,000 square-foot structure more commonly known as the Montgomery House.
The Cedars, built by David Montgomery in 1837, stayed in the family for more than a century, until it was sold to former Starkville municipal court Judge William Eshee, and his wife Judy, in 1999.
When Montgomery built the Cedars, he was a prominent planter in the community and a member of the Mississippi Legislature. Because there were few wealthy planters in Starkville in the 1800s, there were equally few large planter homes.
Different from many antebellum homes, The Cedars is notable for having the second floor as its main floor, which is also known as a “raised cottage.”
Now, it stands as the only raised-cottage home in Starkville and Oktibbeha County.
Although still owned by the Eshee family, the house is on the market. However, The Cedars’ future in Starkville as a single-family home remains promising.
With their two children living in Austin, Texas, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Eshees decided to downsize after living in the house for nearly 20 years. However, they said, there is no rush.
Besides, Judy Eshee said, there are a few standards she expects the potential buyer to meet.
“I know we can’t be too ‘choosy,'” Eshee said. “But I really do hope the family who gets this house next will truly love it as much as we do.”
William Eshee agreed, adding that both the Gillespie-Jackson House and the Montgomery House have strong, historical significance in the community.
History, he said, provides a foundation to many people in the community about what once was, which is why it should be of importance to everyone.
“I think history is not only important to individuals, but also to our city, our state, and our nation,” he said. “Because of that, we have a foundation to build upon to better the present and the future.”