Thursday, February 3, 2005

Guests tour Featherston and Polk Place, gardens

Staff Writer

Several dozen invited guests attended a private showing at Walter Place Estates, Cottages and Gardens, Monday, January 24.

Featherston Place, Polk Place and a botanical garden will be ready for the April 11-13 Pilgrimage, according to owners Jorja and Mike Lynn of Holly Springs.

“I like it,” said alderman Garrie Colhoun, who was among a number of city VIPs to take the first tour.

Mike Lynn presented a brief history to answer the what, why and what are you going to use it for questions people normally ask about the new tourist attraction that is unfolding in Holly Springs.

Lynn said he intended to retire and have a place in St. Thomas and another in Hawaii, but his wife Jorja had other ideas.

She wanted to come to Holly Springs and do something for the city.

“I played golf after retiring and it was 1999 before I decided to look at it,” he said.

Lynn hired a consultant who told him Holly Springs lacked a major attraction, although there are over 60 antebellum homes here. He later asked John O’Keefe, an authority on antebellum homes in the South and curator of the New Orleans Museum, for advice.

“I said, ‘If we buy Featherston and we buy Polk and turn this into a botanical garden, what do we have?’ ”

“Without question, you have got the showplace of the South,” O’Keefe remarked.

“That’s what we are doing, making Holly Springs a tourist destination of the South,” Lynn said.

“It will be a living museum.”

Kent Bain, executive director of Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance, said the Lynn project will likely have a positive impact on tourism regionally.

Bain said heritage tourism cannot go anywhere without private sector investment.

He said local entrepreneurs, people like Mike Lynn and others who live in the area and love its history, have to be a part of the enterprise.

“This is exactly what we need,” said Bain. “You can read about the history and drive around and look at the houses, but if you want to experience the history, you have to do this. Mike Lynn is stepping out and creating some leadership.

“When other business leaders see what he’s done, they may decide to do something like this. It’s a catalyst.”

Bain said Walter Place Estates, Cottages and Gardens will do a lot to help the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance take on a regional status. He likened it to the Civil War Center in Corinth.

“We’ve identified four or five themes to build on in the Heritage Area, including Civil War memorials, African-American Heritage, Southern Literature and Music.”

And the themes continue to present opportunities to showcase the region’s rich and diverse historical, cultural and natural heritage.

The botanical gardens and cottages will speak to the cultural history of the South and add to voices that have already taken their place in history - rock-n-roll king Elvis Presley from Tupelo, Southern writer William Faulkner from Oxford, famous railroad engineer Casey Jones, folk blues singer Howlin’ Wolf from West Point, aviator and stuntman Roscoe Turner of Corinth, first lady of country music Tammy Wynette of Itawamba County, playwright Tennessee Williams from Columbus, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Civil Rights activist Ida B. Wells from Holly Springs and black diva Ruby Elzy from Pontotoc.

The natural heritage of Holly Springs can also be enjoyed by visiting Galena Plantation - the new home of the Nathan B. Forrest House - and Strawberry Plains Audubon - an attraction aimed at sustaining, nurturing, and showcasing the natural wildlife of the North Mississippi hills at Davis Plantation.

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