Thursday, December 2011
Historic estate a gift to Rust
By SUE WATSON
Rust College is the recipient of a generous gift from Joe and Kathy Overstreet of the property commonly referred to as Airliewood in Holly Springs.
President David L. Beckley and Joe Overstreet jointly announced the $3 million gift for the Rust College endowment fund and several projects. Transactions are expected to be complete by the end of the year, they said.
Beckley said the college was able to acquire the William Coxe Estate, located on Salem Avenue in Holly Springs, from the Overstreets, who bought the property in 2002.
The Overstreets approached the college in October about a possible gift of the estate to the college with a minimum cash transaction, Beckley said.
The possibility was presented to the Rust College Board of Trustees at its November meeting held during the college’s 145th Founders Week. After reviewing the proposal and a visit to the property, the board authorized the campaign to accept the historic estate.
The college has a goal of $750,000 committed as a part of the transaction or challenge grant.
The official announcement of the transfer of Airliewood to Rust College took place Wednesday at 9 a.m. inside a living area added after the Overstreets purchased the property.
“Airliewood is to be used by the college in furthering its academic and community service programs,” Beckley said.
He said the college is discussing the possibility of Airliewood serving as Rust’s official museum, guest facilities, and a place for meetings and public events.
He said an international collection of art and artifacts from around the world housed in the Leontyne Price Library and an African Mask collection housed in the Beckley Conference Center could be transferred to the historic house.
“Airliewood would permit all of these collections to be in one location, thereby permitting visitors to see all the collections at one place,” Beckley said. “Other activities and events would also be held on the property that will be labeled as ‘Rust at ‘Airliewood.’ ”
Beckley thanked the Overstreet family for making the gift to the college and also Rust alumni, friends, community supporters and area churches for their generous support.
“Airliewood has a special place in the hearts of many in the community and in the rich history of Holly Springs,” Beckley said. “We are proud of the plans the college has for Airliewood, which will benefit future generations, and we are happy that the proud history will be preserved.”
At the invite of the original owner/builder Coxe, Major General U.S. Grant occupied the home as his headquarters and residence for him and his family during the winter of 1862-1863. In its early years, it was the scene of lavish entertainment, including a historic Christmas dinner for General Grant and his staff.
Joe Overstreet said Tuesday this is a private transaction between the Overstreets and Rust College. He said he and his wife are now a part of the history of the antebellum home, built by William H. Coxe on 15 acres of the estate now known as Airliewood. The house has enjoyed many changes in both owners and renovations, he said.
The Overstreets purchased the mansion in 2002 and presided over a massive, multi-year restoration of the original home and added 4,000 more square feet to the back. The mansion remains on the National Register as an historic site.
Overstreet said he and his wife, who own a farm in Marshall County, saw the property for sale almost 10 years ago.
“It sounded like a fun project, something we wanted to do,” he said. “We will always have a connection to Holly Springs because some of our closest friends are here.”
Beckley elaborated on the transaction.
“Rust is interested in growing and improving Holly Springs,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to expand, to keep a historic site in Holly Springs and owned by the Holly Springs community. We want to make it available to students, faculty and the whole community.”
Beckley said the college is still accepting donations to the foundation for the maintenance of the facility.
He added that his wife, Gemma Beckley, had at one time worked with the Overstreet families as a social worker/consultant for a number of their nursing home businesses.
Three other properties owned by the college are listed on the National Register of Historic Places – Oakview Mansion and the McCoy Administration Building on the main campus and the former campus of the Mississippi Industrial College. The college is seeking funding to restore three buildings on the Mississippi Industrial College site.
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