If you’re looking for a little architectural serendipity, wander down Highway 22 toward Flora, MS.
November, in the south, the woods seem lit from within. Shafts of light filter through the thinning canopy, creating a lively interplay of light and leaf. As beautiful as this is, the woods are even more magical when the trees are bare – their skeletons casting anorexic shadows across one’s path – for this is when the forest gives up her secrets…
Last fall, I ventured out down Highway 22 – a winding rural highway bordered by rolling fields and woods -between Edwards and Canton, MS. It’s always a pleasant drive, but it’s especially interesting this time of year, when the woods are an open book. There are several intriguing old houses along the route between Edwards and Flora – houses I’m itching to go inside – but I noticed one this day that I’d never seen before. That in itself is a bit mysterious as it sits quite close to the road – but the fact that it’s well on its way to becoming one with the surrounding woods is largely responsible. I’m sure it has an interesting story to tell, but we can only surmise from what remains of this tiny cottage on the verge.
A bit further down the road, you come upon Flora, a little town of about 1500 people, located near the intersection of Highway 22 and Highway 49, north of Jackson, MS. I’ve always thought of it as one of those places you drive through on your way to somewhere else. In 25 years, I had never stopped even once to explore the shops or venture off of Main.
That changed recently, when my travels through happily coincided with the business hours of a local antique/junk shop. So, I stopped. And went in. After all, they might have something I NEEDED. Or something that needed me. They did. Of course they did. These were some of the temptations I found within.
After loading my car up with an old picture frame, the silverplate, and other oddments – I decided to explore Flora a little further.
That was when I noticed something else I’d never noticed before – anywhere, that I can recall. Several of the old buildings in the central business district shared an unusual architectural feature. They would appear to serve the purpose of ventilation, like our modern eave vents, but much more decoratively.
Flora was incorporated in 1886, and was named after an early resident, Flora Mann Jones. Perhaps in part because of its location on the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad – unlike Livingston, just down Highway 22 a bit – Flora has endured to the present day. There remain a number of interesting old buildings, including the old train depot, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Also located nearby is the Mississippi Petrified Forest. Another place I’ve never been.
Like a lot of small southern towns of its kind, Flora is an interesting jumble of old and new, small-town urban and agricultural. There is a great little restaurant in town – The Blue Rooster – that is reportedly worth the drive to Flora in and of itself. It occupies a historic brick building just down the hill from the railroad track, and across the street from an old cotton gin turned event venue.
On the north side of Main Street, there are residential neighborhoods dotted with churches and a few really intriguing old homes. Here is one old grande dame who has seen better days, but who’s pedigree is still clearly in evidence – a curious mix of simple and ornate architectural details.
Right behind this beautiful old house, is an equally interesting – and HUGE – old barn. One supposes they were both part of a plantation or farm at one time.
A more modest, but equally appealing old house, sits next to the lovely old First Baptist Church (circa 1910 ) one block north of Main Street. The framework of the screened in porch is unusual and intriguing.
The church is rather a grand structure for such a small town, indicative of a time when Flora held a more prominent place in the general scheme of things.
Another house I find utterly charming sits just south of Main Street, across from the cemetery. Perhaps not as historic but with an inviting cottage feel and, like the house with the screened porch, impeccably kept.
One doesn’t have to go far to run out of town, however. Just around the corner is this interesting old run-in shed. In warmer months, the wooden fence is extravagantly draped with flowering vines of some sort.
Ok, weeds. Rural landscaping.
But still – just the sort of thing that makes you appreciate summer in the south. For a hot minute, anyway.
Flora may be small, but there is enough here for a rewarding Sunday drive or impromptu treasure hunt. And even if she fails to satisfy on other counts – there are always the hamburgers at the Blue Rooster. Even Oliver (the dog, and chief navigator) found something to be pleased about….
You should totally check it out. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flora,_Mississippi