A Favorite Destination
By Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady
The following is an excerpt from an article from the March 2016 issue of VIP Jackson.
In 2008 the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Columbus, Mississippi (pop: 23,000) one of “America’s Distinctive Destinations.” “Columbus will undoubtedly surprise you with its diverse and abundant cultural resources,” said Richard Moe, past president of the National Trust. “As one of the best kept secrets in the state of Mississippi, it is an unrivaled destination for anyone who enjoys Southern architecture, savors down-home cooking, and seeks an escape to the great outdoors.”
“Columbus continues to be a favorite destination for cultural heritage tourism,” said Nancy Carpenter, Chief Executive Officer of the Columbus-Loundes Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Columbus Heritage Foundation. “It’s not unusual for us to have visitors from all 50 states and 19 countries,” said Carpenter.
The birthplace of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Tennessee Williams, Columbus is home to three National Register Historic Districts that boast an impressive 650 properties. While other cities were ravaged during the Civil War, Columbus was a hospital refuge, which explains why the antebellum and Victorian homes and their contents were spared.
“Columbus has one of the greatest concentrations of nineteenth century structures in the state, a virtually complete record of American building styles from the 1820s through the 1900s,” stated Carpenter.
Tours of these architectural gems abound. Whether taking a guided walking tour or winding through the scenic area by car or carriage or the double-decker bus, visitors may experience 19th century living first-hand.
Founded in 1821 on the banks of the Tombigbee River when cotton was King, Columbus in Lowndes County thrives on its rich heritage and Southern charm. The city offers an extraordinary mix of history, natural beauty and cultures. Its revitalized Main Street, bustling with family-owned businesses, treasure-filled emporiums and culinary delights, is fun to explore. Changes are taking place in downtown Columbus. Soon there will be a Discovery Center and the Children’s Museum in the former Elks Club.
Columbus’ location on a bluff overlooking the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway—nicknamed the Tenn-Tom—offers numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation. One of the top sports fishing spots in the nation, Tenn-Tom is a 234-mile stretch that connects Middle America with the Gulf Coast. It is ideal for scenic boat tours, water skiing or leisurely strolls or jogs down the River Walk that runs along the river. Since my last visit to Columbus several years ago, a Tenn-Tom Water Museum and Research Library has been built behind the Welcome Center.
Columbus is one of three cities in “The Golden Triangle,” and it has joint projects with its neighbors—West Point (home of Old Waverly Golf Club) and Aberdeen. Columbus is proud to be recognized as one of Mississippi’s Certified Retirement Communities because of its affordable cost of living, low taxes, low crime rate, quality medical care, recreation, educational and cultural opportunities, and most importantly, it is a warm, welcoming community.
Contributing heavily to the economy of Columbus is the Air Force Base, which has trained pilots for World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. The base began as a training facility in the early 1940s for fighters and bombers. In 1946 the base became inactive until 1951. “Today the base, with 3044 employees (1400 are active duty military) trains one-third of the Air Force pilots in the United States,” said Rick Johnson, public affairs officer for the base. Note: Reputedly, Clark Gable trained there in the forties.
The 2016 Columbus
The Columbus Spring Pilgrimage has evolved from a tour of homes more than 75 years ago to today’s delightfully diverse Southern history, architecture, culture, food and fun. The annual Spring Pilgrimage attracts over 15,000 visitors. This award-winning event is widely recognized as one of the best and most authentic home tours in the South.
In addition to the properties and three National Register Historic Districts, the 2016 Pilgrimage , which will take place from March 28-April 9, embraces and celebrates all of the town’s flavors. The antebellum mansions of Columbus are impeccably maintained and as resplendent as ever. Many home tours feature recreated period costumes, which add excitement and even more authenticity to this historic event. It’s an experience visitors will long remember!
Driving and walking tours and Columbus informational brochures are available at the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center located at 300 Main Street. This Victorian structure is the first home of renowned playwright Tennessee Williams, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot in Roof.”
Columbus Spring Pilgrimage Tickets
2016 Spring Pilgrimage: March 28-April 9
117 3rd Street South
(behind Tennessee Williams Home and
800.920.3533 or 662.329.1191
For more information on Spring Pilgrimage call 800-920-3533 or 662-329-1191.
Home and Garden Tours: 15 historic homes and gardens on 12-day tour along with carriage and double decker buses—3rd St. South, 800-920-3533 or 662-329-1191. Adults: $30 per person. Senior Citizen/Military: $25. Students (K-12): $12 Groups of 20+: 10% discount. Prices are per tour per person. Carriage rides March 31, April 1, 2,3, 7, 8, 9 from 9 am until; Sunday: 12 noon until. $5 per person. Double decker bus rides: $5 with purchase of tour ticket or $8 without purchase of tour ticket (Bus does not run on Blue Tour).
Kickoff Party: Monday, March 28. Crawfish and shrimp boil with live music
Tennessee Williams Home Lawn at 300 Main Street
Tales From The Crypt: Wednesday, March 30, April 1, 4 6 and 8 from 7-10 p.m. Graveyard tour that recreates the lives of noted personalities interred at the historic cemetery. Adults: $5 per person. Students: $3 per person. Tickets
available at cemetery. Tales from the Crypt is an award-winning project of history students from the Columbus-based Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.
Catfish In The Alley: Saturday, April 2. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Enjoy fresh fried catfish and live blues in Columbus’s historic Catfish Alley. Catfish cook-off in downtown Columbus.
Artisans Alley: Saturday, April 2. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Handcrafted period articles and food items. Tennessee Williams Home at 300 Main Street.
Chanticleer: Sunday, April 3. 7 p.m. “The world’s reigning male chorus” and Grammy Award-winning ensemble performs at The W Campus.
Garden Party: Saturday, April 9. Stroll through Colonnade Garden with mint juleps and cheese straws. $15 admission. 620 Second Street South
Tennessee Williams Welcome Center: This was the first home of playwright Tennessee Williams, who was born in Columbus in 1911. He spent his beginning years in an old (1875) Victorian home that was the rectory for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Williams’ grandfather, Reverend Walker Dakin, served as minister for the church. Williams’ home was saved from demolition and restored and has been designated a National Literary Landmark. Accommodating staff. Helpful literature and Southern merchandise for sale. Complimentary coffee and bottled water. Restrooms.
Historic Home Tours: Some homes are open daily. Inquire at the Welcome Center.
Friendship Cemetery: The site of the first Memorial Day celebration in 1866. Thousands of casualties from the Battle of Shiloh were buried in this cemetery.
The W (formerly Mississippi University for Women): The oldest public college for women in the United States and home to 23 National Register properties. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eudora Welty attended the “W.”
Waverly Plantation Mansion: A National Historic Landmark (circa 1852) and one of the most photographed homes of the South. From its octagonal shaped cupola to its self-supporting curved stairway, Waverly is unique among antebellum plantation homes in the South. Note: Waverley was the inspiration for the settings in Eudora Welty’s “Delta Wedding.” Be sure to visit owner Robert Snow’s antique shop next door to the mansion. Phone: (800) 920-3533 or (662) 494-1399. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year round.
Upcoming Calendar Of Events
Tennessee Williams Tribute
Eudora Welty Writer’s Symposium
Decorative Arts and Preservation Forum &
Antiques Show and Sale
Save The Dates:
Pilgrimage 2017: March 27-April 8
Pilgrimage 2018: April 2-April 14
Pilgrimage 2019: March 30-April 13
What To Know
Tennessee Williams Home & Welcome Center
300 Main Street
Staff is available.
Monday-Saturday: 8:30 am-5:00 pm