The Square in Downtown Oxford at night

Oxford, Mississippi – Oxford Square


The Square in Downtown Oxford at night
SquarebooksExterior e1468953295152
Yalobushwhackersat Thacker Mountain Radio Show Photocred CameronPremo
The Square in Downtown Oxford at night SquarebooksExterior e1468953295152 Yalobushwhackersat Thacker Mountain Radio Show Photocred CameronPremo

For 180 years, “The Square” has been the heart of Oxford, pumping life into this northern Mississippi town that calls itself the cultural mecca and art center of the South.

Founded in 1837, Oxford became home to the state’s first university, and rose from its own ashes after it was burned down in the Civil War. Today, it’s best-known as the home of the University of Mississippi and the former home of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, and The Square is Oxford’s downtown hub.

A fixture here since 1839 is Neilson’s, the South’s oldest department store. Originally a small log cabin, Neilson’s has moved, grown and changed with the times and the town. With three separate buildings, Square Books has hosted readings and book signings by such renowned local authors as John Grisham and Willie Morris — and it stocks every title in print by Faulkner, who lived at Rowan Oak, just south of the Square, for more than 30 years. The store is also the broadcast location for The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour, a weekly radio show featuring live music and author readings.

West of the Square in the old Burns Methodist Episcopal Church, the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center was founded after the Civil War by freed slaves who settled in the area known as “Freedmen Town.” Grisham donated the building in 2002 to the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Foundation, asking that this landmark be dedicated to preserving the area’s rich and diverse cultural history.

Head south to University Avenue and you’ll find world-class academics, art and athletics on the beautiful main campus of “Ole Miss.” The University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses complex and the Ford Center for the Performing Arts are a short distance from The Grove, a grassy parcel surrounded by shade trees that, as a famous spot for football tailgating, can draw upwards of 100,000 fans on a home-game Saturday.

Back in the Square, special events and activities throughout the year bring the community together. Highlights include the Double Decker Arts Fest, a two-day celebration of food, music and the arts, the Oxford Square Alliance Holiday Open House, and the Oxford Blues Festival.

USA Today has called Oxford one of America’s best college towns, and its public schools have been ranked among the nation’s best. With The Square as its center, this is a place to come savor — or to put down roots, and stay.

All photos courtesy of Visit Oxford
Oxford, MS is home to a 2016-17 LifeChanger: Shannon Robbins

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Mississippi min

Columbus, Mississippi – Main Street

Main Streets 2016: Mississippi

Still known among locals as “Possum Town,” the name it was given by Native Americans, the small city of Columbus, Mississippi is known for its historical charm, community pride — and, of course, southern hospitality. Its handsome downtown, centered on Main Street’s historic district, was voted one of the top 10 “Wonderful Small Town Central Business Districts in the South” in 2013 by Southern Business and Development magazine.

Columbus was also the winner of the 2010 “Great American Main Street Award” for its strong downtown ethics and its passion for embracing historic preservation, while also building strategic partnerships that have helped boost the local economy. The organization Main Street Columbus has been pivotal, together with many downtown property owners, in bringing about this positive movement for the city.

Each May, the award-winning Market Street Festival draws more than 40,000 to its two-day celebration of music, arts, crafts and food, along with a car and motorcycle show and the “Mardi Gras Madness” 5K run. The festival occupies 12 city blocks, and has been named a “Top 20 Event in the Southeast” by the Southeast Tourism Society for 17 years running.

Beginning at Main Street and running along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is the Columbus Riverwalk, a 2.2-mile, paved and lit walking and biking trail that glimpses both history and nature and is enjoyed by hundreds every day. If you’re still strolling, walk up Main to visit the childhood home of Tennessee Williams, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “A Streetcar Named Desire” who is often called America’s greatest playwright. Formerly the rectory of nearby St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Williams birthplace also serves as the city’s welcome center.

Columbus is also home to the Friendship Cemetery, which makes one of several claims — and the one recognized by the National Park Service — to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1866, the year after the Civil War ended, a group of Columbus women decided to decorate the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers with flowers. That observance became the prototype for the nation’s annual day of remembrance. It also led to the Columbus cemetery becoming known as the place “where flowers healed a nation.”

Main Street photo courtesy of Carmen Sisson
Market Street Festival photo courtesy of Luisa Porter – Commercial Dispatch

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