The Overstreet School Historic District is significant to Starkville and Oktibbeha County because it is an important physical expression of the growth and development of Starkville during the period 1870 to 1940, when Starkville changed from a small courthouse village with an agricultural economy to one of Mississippi’s major educational and industrial centers. Additionally, the district is locally significant for its architecture, which represents the tastes of the business and professional class that created the modern town following the Civil War.
It is the largest concentration of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century residential architecture in the county. It includes representative examples of the styles of residential architecture popular in Mississippi towns during that time. The period of significance begins in 1870, when the first houses in the area are known to have been standing (although some may have been built before this date), and ends in 1940, fifty years before the district was surveyed and somewhat of a watershed for the architectural character of the area.
The district is also important as a physical record of the pattern of social and economic relations between whites and blacks in small-town Mississippi in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many of the houses of upper-middle-class white families originally had adjacent housing for black domestic workers, of which several buildings still stand, including the cooks’ homes behind 401 East Gillespie, 301 South Washington, and 514 South Washington.
Amid the district is a traditionally black enclave on South Lafayette Street, which includes the house long occupied by Robert Weir, a prominent leader of the black community and the only black to own and operate a business on Main Street in the decades before World War II.
As explained in the documentation for the Greensboro Street Historic District (NR 1982), Starkville was settled in the 1830s soon after the surrounding lands were acquired from the Choctaws. Starkville became the seat of the newly-formed Oktibbeha County in 1835 and was incorporated in 1837, but it remained a small village up until the Civil War, having a population of fewer than 200 in 1860.
The community began to grow in the 1870s. In 1874 the town acquired rail service with the completion of the Mobil and Ohio branch line connecting Starkville to the main line at Artesia. Soon afterward, telegraph service was established. In the 1880s the Canton, Aberdeen, and Nashville Railroad (later part of the Illinois Central system) reached Starkville. The most important factor in shaping the community’s future growth, however, was the establishment in 1880 of the Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Mississippi State University.) With the railroads and the college coming, Starkville began to emerge as a business and educational center.
As the town grew in the 1870s and 80s, a residential neighborhood developed to the south of the original town, along South Montgomery, South Jackson, and South Washington Streets. A private school was established on South Jackson Street in the 1880s. In 1897 the Starkville Public School was erected on that site, at the northeast corner of South Jackson and Green Streets. The building still stands as Overstreet School, but it has been enlarged and altered several times (especially in 1949.)
Documentation is scant as to the laying out of the streets in the area during the late nineteenth century. Sanborn fire insurance maps were made for Starkville beginning in 1885, but the area south of the Illinois Central tracks is not shown on Sanborn maps until 1905, and the present grid of streets in the area is not fully shown until 1925. Nevertheless, the presence of scattered late Victorian houses throughout the area indicates that the neighborhood had grown to the extent of the district boundaries by the 1890s. The neighborhood particularly flourished in the first and second decades of the twentieth century, when many of the finest houses were built. Another burst of construction in the district occurred in the late 1920s, possibly due to the opening of the Borden Condensing Plant immediately to the northeast of the district in 1926. The presence of the university and the Borden plant provided economic stability for the area through the 1930s and sporadic construction continued in the district. In the years immediately following World War II, however, residential development shifted to other, newer parts of the city, allowing the Overstreet School neighborhood to retain a large proportion of its houses from earlier periods with only a scattering of newer houses.
The Overstreet School district is distinguished architecturally by its variety of architectural styles embodying the architectural tastes of middle-class townspeople of Mississippi between 1870 and 1940. The district contains some of Starkville’s best examples of late Victorian vernacular, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival residential architecture, as well as numerous bungalows and Tudor cottages. Among the more notable houses are:
The Charles M. Gay House, 110 East Gillespie Street
Starkville’s most important surviving example of Queen Anne styles residential architecture, built about 1896.
The Judge T.B. Carroll House, 304 South Jackson Street
A 1906 Colonial Revival House that has been significantly altered; however, Judge Carroll and his writings on Oktibbeha County and Starkville have been fundamental in historical research on the region.
The Judge W. W. Magruder House, 306 South Jackson Street
Built about 1902, this house is transitional in style between the ‘free classical’ mode of Queen Anne and the Colonial Revival.
The J.C. Ward House, 514 South Jackson Street
Built about 1906, this house is a combination of Colonial Revival and Craftsman style features, was notable for its well-preserved interior.
Although many of the district’s houses lack individual architectural distinction, the district as a whole is a notable assemblage of middle-class residential architecture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
This content was provided the Starkville Central Neighborhood Foundation