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Jones explains perspectives of Starkville architecture

September 30, 2011

By GWEN SISSON
sdnlife@bellsouth.net

Michelle Jones said Starkville residential and commercial architecture is a reflection of how residents have reacted to national trends over the years.
In a presentation at Three Generations Tea Room Friday, Jones shared her passion for old homes and her expertise as the local preservation assistance coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
“The present physical configuration of Starkville and the adjacent Mississippi State University campus is the result of patterned process of growth over a period of more than 170 years,” Jones said.
Jones began the presentation by briefly discussing the Native American influence on the history of the area, including the location of an Indian mound in the Greensboro Historic District. Jones said the archaeological site is about five feet high and 100 feet in diameter.
“It has not been tested to determine significance,” Jones said. “It is one of many permanent reminders of an earlier people.”
Jones showed a map of the community in 1840 and said most of the earliest buildings of the town and campus have long been destroyed by fire, however, the basic layout of the original town as it was established in the 1830s remains evident in the form of the street grid and blocks of the downtown business district.
“There is a lot of great architecture in Starkville,” Jones said. “Many overlook styles that are not antebellum, but good design is good design.”
Jones discussed at least 24 distinct architectural styles showcased through the Starkville community, with a few homes representing a combination of two or three styles.
“We are fortunate to have good stewards of historic properties in this community,” Jones said.
She began with the Jackson house on Louisville Street as an example of Greek Revival architecture. This style features classical columns, pilaster and a low triangular gabled pedimment. Doorways are usually recessed with sidelights and rectangular transoms. She pointed out this home and others of that time period featured six-over-six or six-over-nine small window panes because they were unable to travel with larger panes of glass.
She showed Starkville examples of the Vernacular Greek Revival style homes, which exhibited similar characteristics, but on a smaller scale.
Jones said the I-House is an early example of architecture in Starkville. She said this form was typically brought with settlers from the Carolinas.
She said the Eclectic style is a combination of Greek Revival and Victorian.
One particular representative of the Queen Anne style is located on Gillespie Street. Jones said 13 years ago, she believed this home was a “piece of history that was on its way out.” According to Jones, the pristine restoration of the home has been a “gift to the community.”
Jones said color was an important part of the Queen Anne Style with first floors often painted one color with a contrasting color used for upper stories and one or more additional colors to highlight details. She said the Gillespie Street house restoration featured 24 different colors on the outside of the home.
One home in Starkville represents the Gothic Style, and has ridgework Jones has never seen anywhere else. This home was built between 1840-1870, about 50 years after the style was popular in England, according to Jones.
She showcased several local homes that featured a mix of architectural styles and tastes.
Colonial Revival homes built in Starkville in 1915 were starting to feature larger window panes, showing the advances made in transportation. Also, a fire discimated the downtown area at this time, destroying historic storefronts.
According to Jones, the Greensboro Historic District really began with five early families in the community. Lots were subdivided as those families had children.
Jones said in Mississippi, architecture has always responded to the environment. The best examples of that today is the Four Square style, which Jones said is an improvement on the dogtrot which was designed for a catching a breeze.
Bungalows tell a lot about the growth of the Starkville community. According to Jones, the number of Starkville Bungalows as well as the styles show local culture and taste in the 1900-1940s.
She discussed local examples of Tudor Revivals homes, Arts and Crafts Bungalows, the Spanish Mission Style, International Style, Art Moderne and Art Deco styles.
Jones said after World War II, Oktibbeha Gardens was created with numerous cottages using real materials including heart pine wood floors. Those cottages show how residents responded as soldiers returned home to go to MSU.
Starkville saw a huge population increase in the 1970s as MSU increased their faculty by one-third. The result was sprawling growth in various directions. Jones said some of that growth was good, and some was not well planned.
Today, Jones said one of the best examples of New Urbanism can be found in the Cotton District.
“It is a local phenomenon,” Jones said. “It is a unique part of our community.”
Jones discussed some of the buildings that have been lost due to “poor stewardship” of local historic properties.
“Her presentation was interesting, educational and enlightening,” said Fairfax Montgomery. “I thoroughly enjoyed it. It will help me be more observant of what we have here in Starkville.”
Joan Wilson said she learned a lot about local architecture.
“It was very informative,” Wilson said. “It gives me a new appreciation for Starkville.”
The Starkville Central Neighborhood Foundation is working to develop a walking tour to showcase local architectural styles. The brochure will be finalized in October.

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