Progress and the past can often find themselves in competition.
This is particularly true when it comes to development.
In recent years, the city of Starkville has enjoyed a building boom, but for all the benefits of that trend, there are some costs, too.
One of the biggest casualties has been the loss of the city’s historic homes and buildings. The full weight of that loss is beginning to resonate in the community, thankfully.
In April, the city was awarded a grant from The Mississippi Department of Archives and History to conduct a survey of the remaining historic buildings, which suggests a newfound awareness and appreciation for these old buildings. While many of the city’s historic homes and buildings now exist only in memory and photographs, a new sensitivity could mean a concerted effort to make these buildings a complement to the development rather than an impediment. The presence of these building lend character to communities in a way like nothing else can.
Another factor in the survival of these buildings is their functionality. The market for large, antebellum homes as single family residences has grown smaller and smaller. Today, families want modern, efficient homes built around their lifestyles. In the face of that, the survival of many of those old homes and businesses may rest with finding new, relevant uses.
In fact, that is what is happening with one of the city’s oldest remaining homes right now.
Lee Carson and his wife, Jennifer, have purchased the Cedars — more commonly known as the Montgomery House — an antebellum home on Old West Point Road, built in the 1840s. The house is, along with the Gillespie-Jackson house at the corner of Louisville Street and Highway 12, one of two remaining antebellum homes in Starkville.
The Carsons intend to convert the home into a bed-and-breakfast, tapping into the ever-growing demand for housing on Mississippi State sports weekends. As the city’s survey identifies similar historic properties, preservation efforts should focus not only on the history these buildings represent but how they can continue to be relevant now.
Breathing new life into these old homes and buildings should be viewed as a part of the city’s development plans. Progress and the past need not always be in conflict.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.