By Bobby Pepper
For a sure sign that spring has arrived, take a walk through the Highland Circle subdivision in Tupelo.
There you’ll see the azaleas and other flowers beginning to bloom. The flowers, combined with the elegant homes and well-kept yards, make the subdivision a place of beauty when the weather warms up.
To the Highland area residents, the beauty isn’t limited to the springtime. They see it throughout the year in neighborhood picinics, children playing in the park, a home watch program, or just stopping on the sidewalk for a causal chat with a neighbor.
With the combination of new residents and their children along with the active senior citizens, the affluent Highland Circle area the oldest subdivision in Tupelo has been a good home for neighbors of all ages.
“We have a nice mix of younger families and households as well as individuals and families who have resided in the neighborhood for many years,” said David Brevard, a 12-year resident of the neighborhood.
Location and history
The Highland Circle area is located in north Tupelo, one block to the east of the North Gloster-Jackson Street intersection. There are two entrances into the subdivision, from East Jackson and North Madison.
While in the circle, Oak Grove Road branches off of Highland to the north to a dead end while North Madison serves as the neighborhood’s east border.
“I think our neighborhood has a very convenient location to the businesses and schools in the community,” said Brevard, who lived on Highland Circle for five years before moving to Oak Grove Road in 1989. “I would say that’s one factor that makes our neighborhood so unique.”
The neighborhood was developed in the late 1920s by S.J. High and Word Baker. In 1930, the Community Development Company began selling the subdivision’s 48 lots and homes.
A flyer published by Community Development hailed Highland as “Tupelo’s most beautiful home community. … A modern development with scientific restrictions for the benefit of the home owner.” There were 15 restrictions owners had to abide by in the early 1930s. For example, no less than $4,500 to build a home and that vegetable gardens had to be kept behind the house.
The residents have worked in the yards themselves or have hired others to keep their property and homes in good shape.
“We are proud of its physical appearance, the architecture of the homes, the landscaping that’s done at private homes and the community property areas around the neighborhood,” Brevard said.
The older residents are now seeing a new generation of Highland homeowners keep the neighborhood’s looks in tact.
“The people who move in really care about their property, which is wonderful,” said Mary Faye Gwin, former Lee County circuit clerk and a 35-year Highland resident. “The young couples who have bought the older houses, they have renovated them and added to them, and they are just gorgeous. They don’t leave them like they get them, they make improvements.”
Like any neighborhood, the Highland area keeps an eye out on anything suspcious. Over the years, the residents have protected themselves through the H.O.M. Watch Group. H.O.M. stands for Highland Circle, Oak Grove Road and Madison Street.
“It has been a very active group,” said Helga Thomas, a 45-year Highland resident and the first secretary of the watch group. “We put signs to the entrance of the circle and on Madison and Oak Grove roads, and we have stickers on the doors.”
“There have been times when I’ve come in at night and they’ll call up and say, ‘Mrs. Thomas, are you all right?’ They look after each other up here, and they care.”
The H.O.M. group meets once a month to talk about neighborhood events and problems. It also brings together the residents with activities such as a fall community picnic and a Christmas party.
Brevard, president of the H.O.M. group, said the residents take extra steps to reach out to others.
“I think there is a special feeling and sense of community within our neighborhood,” he said. “We have neighbors who look out for one another, not only from a security perspective but also from the perspective of being supportive and helpful. We have a friendly neighborhood. There’s a good bit of sidewalk visiting that goes on.”
Something else keeps things busy in the Highland area children. With younger families come children ranging from babies to teen-agers. For the children, there is a playground in the middle of the “inner circle” homes where they can play games, bike or kick around a soccer ball.
Kathy Cofer and her husband, Kelly, bring their 1-year-old son, Kyle, out to play at the park. The Cofers have lived on Highland for six years.
“We had no children when we moved here, so the park was not as important as it is now,” Kathy Cofer said. “All the kids meet out here. It’s a safe environment for them.”
Remains the same
When Steve and Pam McAlilly moved to Tupelo two years ago, they wanted to find a home in an older residential area that also had young families. Highland Circle turned out to be the perfect place.
“It was one of the reasons we bought here,” Pam McAlilly said. “We’ve always lived in an older neighborhood and we wanted to get in a neighborhood with a lot of kids. It has a charming character to it.”
In addition to the neighborhood, there are upscale condominiums located just off Oak Grove Road. They were constructed two years ago.
Still, the most noticeable thing about Highland Circle, especially in the spring, are the flowers, the yards and the homes. It’s the work of many people who take pride in where they live.
“The neighborhood is just wonderful, like it’s always been,” Gwin said. “We have a lot of wonderful, caring people up here. That’s what keeps the neighborhood alive.”