Happy International Women’s Day! Never heard of it? Here’s a little backstory:
International Women’s Day has been observed since in the early 1900’s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. For more click here.
In the spirit of this holiday, I thought I’d share an inspiring article I came across the other day. Entitled “They Made Main Street Their Own: How Four Women Revived a Derelict Mississippi Town,” this article is about how four women in small town Mississippi, Water Valley to be exact, have changed their main street for the better. The ladies of the article, Megan Patton, Coulter Fussell, Erin Austen Abbott and Alexe van Beuren, are part of a new group of business owners in Water Valley, Mississippi.
The town experienced steady growth in the early twentieth century and was booming by the 1920’s. Water Valley was a central railroad center for the surrounding agricultural community. After the railroad industry slowed down by the 1950s and the agricultural industry moved towards more of a timber focus, Water Valley, was largely left abandoned.
In recent years, the main street has gone from 18 storefront vacancies to 6, largely due to the drive of these four women. “All are particularly skilled at renovation, having stripped and rebuilt, among them, three houses and one storefront. That their husbands are in the music business and on the road for months at a time has only accelerated their prowess with hand tools.” They saw an opportunity to purchase affordable real-estate (houses and commercial buildings) that could be easily rehabilitated and they took it. By doing so, Water Valley has been given a new life.
One of my favorite buildings that has been adaptively reused is the B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery.
It is located in a 140 year old building on main street that Ms. van Beuren and her husband rescued from a developer that was planning to raze the building. The renovations took three years, and by May of 2010, the couple opened their old fashioned grocery.
Just another small-town grocery… where the food tastes like it used to: is the motto of the unique grocery and cafe. They sell locally produced as often as possible (visit their where we get our food page) and have an in house bakery and cafe.
After studying historic preservation for two years and constantly hearing about how difficult it is to get people motivated to rehabilitate versus demolition and adaptively reusing buildings, it is so refreshing and inspiring to see that it CAN be done and done well. Gonna need to make a visit!
For more info on this story check out the NY times article. PS if you like interior design, antiques, furniture, etc, check out the extra images in the article. You can see snapshots of their restored homes and these ladies have excellent taste.