By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
Editor’s note: This is the second in an 18-part series about Northeast Mississippi downtowns.
By Lena Mitchell
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
CORINTH – Old and new blend harmoniously in downtown Corinth.
Visitors come for regular programming at the Corinth Coliseum Civic Center that ranges from Corinth Symphony Orchestra concerts to bluegrass music brought indoors during winter months on Thursday evenings.
Spring, summer and fall hold regular festival events, starting in April when the Old Corinth Depot, now transformed into the Crossroads Museum, and the old Railway Express Building, converted to a modern tourism office, host the Crossroads Chili Cookoff and the Green Market at the Corinth Depot, which continues monthly through October.
In May, thousands of runners from around the world make a circuit through the historic city for the annual Coca-Cola Classic 10k run that has been a tradition for more than 30 years.
The Civil War history in Corinth, with the Verandah-Curlee House Museum that was home to generals during the Siege and Battle of Corinth, the railroad crossing at the Crossroads Museum itself, the numerous battlefields and monuments to momentous events, tell many stories of Corinth’s significance.
But people also visit Corinth to have lunch at the historic Borroum’s Drug Store soda fountain, home of the oldest continuously operated drug store in Mississippi; to make purchases at Wait’s Jewelry and Fine Gifts, which has operated since 1865 and is one of the state’s three oldest jewelry stores; to buy art at the Corinth Artist Guild Gallery; to enjoy coffee, lunch or a poetry night at KC’s Espresso coffee shop, or down-home cooking at Martha’s Menu or something unique from the menu at Pizza Grocery.
Whether local residents – including those who make their homes in more than 50 downtown apartments in spaces above businesses or own old homes or new townhouses in the commercial district – or visitors, there soon will be additional new dining and retail options.
Developers Trey Albright and Stuart Green are within a couple of weeks of completing renovations of the first two buildings set for revitalization along a two-block stretch of Wick Street between Taylor and Cruise.
One of the soon-to-be-completed buildings, both with leases in place, will open as a restaurant and the other as retail space.
While the other properties will be fully enclosed, interiors will be finished according to specifications requested by lessors as leases are signed, Albright said.
“We started with a feasibility study MSU did comparing Corinth to cities with similar population, demographics and income,” Albright said. “We went to some of those cities for market research and what we felt would work before we started.”
They’ve included green spaces in the master plan, including planter boxes at the front of each building and sitting areas near parking at the front and back of the properties.
“This is a town we love and we hated to see buildings sitting there unused,” Albright said. “We’ve had so much positive feedback from the community with this, and we’ve done other buildings downtown. We think the downtown area is prime for more expansion.”
More is happening at the other end of downtown as well, with a new eye clinic for Dr. John Dodd on North Fillmore Street in a 1913 structure that was the first home of First Baptist Church until the church moved to its present location in 1953.
The building was unoccupied for about nine years, and Dodd purchased it about seven years ago with an eye toward expanding out of the space he has across the street since 1981.
“I have one son who has joined me in practice and we’ve simply outgrown the space,” Dodd said. “Another son is starting school this year and I expect him to join us as well. I’ve always thought downtown Corinth was a special place and always stayed here.”
While Dodd expects to move across the street to his new space in early May, the building next door to his current office is being renovated by Russell Smith of Russell’s Beef House Restaurant for an entirely new dining experience in the former Rankin Printery building, Fillmore Place.
This circa 1869 building also was once home to Tishomingo Savings Bank, robbed in 1874 by the infamous Jesse James and his gang.
“One of the things we loved about the building is there’s so much history and character and it needed to be revitalized,” Smith said. “It’s beautiful inside and out, with two stories where we’ll have a dining room downstairs to seat about 100 to 110 and a private dining room for about 10 to 15. A bar will be upstairs with area for about 100 in one room and 50 in another room, and a balcony, seating about 200 total.”
The menu will offer a dining experience that includes dishes like grilled salmon with a chipotle maple glaze, Cajun, a little seafood, a lot of saltwater fish, “something nobody else does in town.”
Each of the projects is expected to qualify for a tax credit in the Corinth Opportunity Redevelopment District, a tax break passed by the city board last year that requires a $50,000 investment to rehabilitate existing buildings.