Thursday, July 26, 2012

Collierville's Solution

As we've visited small towns around the country, we've often wondered: "What are the essential ingredients in the formula for restoring a town's historic downtown?"

The town of Collierville, Tennessee, may have some of the answers.

Located about 35 miles east of our campground in West Memphis, AR, Collierville has preserved the stagecoach stop, built in 1851. The log structure was restored in 1977 and relocated to its present site in Confederate Park.

Harrison Irby and Dr. Virginus Leake bought about 90 acres and divided the acreage into lots in 1870, establishing the Town Square.

At its center is Confederate Park. The sidewalks in the park are laid out in the form of the Confederate flag. In 1955 a tornado destroyed the two-story lattice bandstand in the park. A 1994 public improvements project replaced the bandstand.

In 1976 Southern Railroad gave the (third known) depot to the Town of Collierville and it was moved to its present location in 1977. This is now the office of Main Street Collierville, a non-profit organization that promotes, protects, and preserves the downtown historic district.

Main Street Collierville has printed the Walking Tour of Historic Collierville that was originally produced as an Eagle Scout project by Greg Baumgartner in 1992. The brochure was funded with a matching grant from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

A walk around the Town Square revealed the work that the present business owners have done to preserve the town's historical structure.

This building, McGinnis Hardware, was constructed in 1879 and originally was used as a lumber and hardware business.

Kelsey's facade (below) is a unique architectural style for the Collierville square.

The Hewlett and Dunn building, built in 1876, has operated under the name of Hewlett and Dunn for the last 40 years.

Shown below are the Brooks Collection (shown behind the street lamp), built in 1916, and later housed the local telephone exchange; law offices and an antiques shop located in the building (on the right) built in the late 1800s.

The Cafe Grill (left in the photo) was constructed as a drugstore around 1900. Built around 1890, Patricia's was originally a grocery store

C.J. Lilly, circa 1890, was originally a drugstore. The Silver Caboose will be visited tomorrow.

The Biblical Resource Center and Museum seems to be a newly-built building.

I believe the Town Hall Cheesecake (far left, photo below) was the original Town Hall, constructed in 1922 and moved in 1963. Patina Decor (far right), built ca. 1895-1900, was the original location of Fleming's Stable. In 1928, it became Kelsey Chevrolet Company.

The McGinnis family constructed this building in 1927 as a service station and is still in use today as a service station.

The Village Toymaker, a store name which fits the setting of the Town Square perfectly, was best known as The White CafĂ© in the late 1920’s.

In the end, the key to the restoration and preservation of a town's history is dedicated, motivated people. People who save historic
buildings, preserve and restore these structures, volunteer in the restoration, raise money for the preservation efforts, and value the works enough to maintain them.

Simple, yet amazingly difficult to consolidate. The people of Collierville seem to be enjoying their solution.

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