Monday, October 26, 2009

A Place Called Canton -- Part I

I recently visited Canton, Mississippi, with the idea of capturing some of its southern charm and history with my camera. I made two trips to Canton, and, even then, I still had to leave a lot of "pictures" there. It is truly a photographer's treasure trove of pictures waiting to be captured.

My blogging friend Marty Kittrell of Vicksburg, said he had never been to Canton, so I thought it would be fun -- and interesting -- for us to go at different times and see how many of the same things caught our eye. If you have not discovered Marty's blog, I hope you will visit him. Marty is blessed with a God-given gift of "seeing pictures" wherever he goes ... pictures of things that most of us overlook ... and has the talent to capture those pictures with his camera for all the world to enjoy.

This is my first post featuring my pictures of Canton, and I'll start the tour with the most prominent landmark in Canton -- its historical Courthouse Square District, which, in 1982, was officially entered into the National Register of Historic Places and declared one of three best examples in the State of Mississippi.

The Courthouse Square, still the focus of exciting activities, is the biannual venue for the nationally famous Canton Flea Market Arts and Crafts Show. The Market attracts up to 100,000 visitors annually from across the United States and beyond.

In recent years, the beauty, uniqueness, and preservation efforts of the Courthouse Square and Historic District with its beautiful homes, have attracted the attention of Hollywood. Canton has been the location site for five feature films beginning in 1995, with John Grisham’s “A Time To Kill.” This was quickly followed by Willie Morris’ “My Dog Skip,” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” [Later in this post, I'll show you some pictures of the Square as seen in "Oh, Brother," compared to the way it really looks. You will be amazed at the movie transformation.]

At the very center of the town is the magnificent Greek Revival Courthouse, in all its glory.

The cornerstone was laid in July 1855, and construction cost $26,428, which was an incredible sum at that time.

The large dome (twenty feet in diameter and thirty feet high) has twice been threatened with removal for security reasons.

The first time was during original construction in 1856, and the second time was during remodeling in 1925. Both times the women of the town were successful in protecting it by insisting that “beauty prevail over reason.”

The Courthouse also served as a gathering place to welcome the railroad, send soldiers off to war, as a court of justice and the seat of county offices, a polling place, an early library, a theater, and a hospital during the yellow fever epidemic.

In 1994-1995, a new Courthouse was built one block north of the Square and the beautiful old Courthouse underwent a $2,000,000 renovation. The 1855 cornerstone was opened and re-laid by the Masonic Order. The first floor is currently home to the Madison County Economic Development Authority, and the old courtroom on the second floor is used for official city and county meetings only.

And now, I'd like to take you on a tour of the historic Square around the Courthouse.

Peace Street is the thoroughfare through town, and I think it is the prettiest of the streets around the Square.

If you saw the movie, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?," this is the way Peace Street looked in the movie:

[Photo by Mike Calnan]

Same view as it is "in real life."

Liberty Street

Hickory Street

Center Street

I want to show you some of these historical old buildings up close in another post, but for now, I'd like to share a few of the things that caught my eye as I wandered around the Square with my camera. For example, the Canton Cinema, with its old comedy and tragedy masks on the marquee ...

And I love these old neon signs. I wish I could have captured them at dusk. I'm pretty sure some of them still work ...

I wonder how many years ago that clock stopped at 4:30. I "googled" Gruen watches and found out that the Gruen Watch Company, formerly one of the largest watch manufacturers in the United States, was in business from about 1894 to 1958. Interesting, huh?

I think I like the black and white photo better than the color one ...

I think this old sign is neat, and as far I was able to ascertain, WMGO Radio is an AM station which features a variety of talk, news, and music programs.

And one of the neatest things I saw was what I mistakenly thought was a washtub full of water lilies on the town square. When Marty saw the picture after I posted it, he wrote me and said that he thought it was an old watering trough. I was curious, so I called the Canton Visitors Bureau and was told that, indeed, it is the last of several watering troughs that were scattered around the courthouse, and probably dates back to the 1800s. Thank you, Marty, for setting me straight.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of Canton's historic Square, and will join me tomorrow to see some of the architectural details of these old buildings "up close and personal," along with a tour of a few of the older houses in the historic district.


Marty Kittrell said...

Wow, Janie! I love 'em! The wide-angle of the courthouse through the fence is spectacular...and I missed it! Plus, I don't even remember seeing the cinema. Now I have to go back!
Thanks for all the details and research that you did. That is most appreciated.
We're in store for a fun week, for sure!

racheld said...

I love being lent your talented eyes every morning---one of my High School friends still lives there, so I'm e-mailing her to take a look.

The shapes of the buildings of the business district---don't you love how each is individual and distinct, all blending into such a lovely pattern?

I do believe that might be an actual bathtub---it looks much like a copper one that I remember from an old house, and when I looked online, one much like it was on sale for $32,999.00!!

Yes, that many digits.

Can't wait to see tomorrow's findings.

Tonja said...

I LOVE Canton! And, I am very familiar with the Canton Flea Market as well. Have you ever been? It is magnificent! I used to go every year, but have missed the last 5 or 6. It is absolutely one of the 'funnest' days! The town is just beautiful, too. I have actually bought jewelry in that jewelry store! It is always interesting to me how the whole town stops for the Flea Market. I remember sevveral of the homeowners who would rent out the space on their lawns to vendors and make enough to keep their bills paid till the next one. They are held fall and spring. There is no way you could ever see all that comes to town for that day...I've always thought it a shame that they only hold it on 1 day.

This was a treat, and I am looking forward to tomorrow seeing more of it.

racheld said...

I DO stand corrected on the watering trough, by the Man Who Should Know.

Don't pay me no never mind---I'm from OFF, now, and have lost track of a lot of my raising.

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Janie this post is amazing! Your photography is wonderful!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Great photos, Janie! Enjoyed this much!


Sheila :-)

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

I thought that Peace Street looked familiar. I was thinking that it looked like a street that should be in the movies. :) Thanks so much for the visit and kind words!

Beth at Aunties said...

Whew Janie,

There was so many lovely views to see. You captured the Southern charm exquistietely. I agree with Marty, you certainly went to alot of work to do your research!
I loved the clock and the courthouse. Mr B has designed three courthouses which have been built, but none of them have the elegance this old beauty has. (It might have something to do with the budgets.)
My heart melted with little Avery Grace wanting to whip up something in the kitchen Grand Maw Maw(sp).:) So sweet and the recipe sounded so fun with all the bubbles, which had to have been produced! It brought a big smile.

A Gracious Home said...

The pictures are fantastic. I lived in Drew Mississippi during the early 70's. My husband was the manager of the old Sterling Store. We lived in Natchez for a while too. Thank you for sharing. Doylene