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Jan/Feb 2011 Issue
Discovery in the Delta

Greenville, Miss., presents a heritage as rich as river bottomlands.
By Marian Sykes Alexander

Author David Cohn describes his hometown of Greenville as the largest city in the Mississippi Delta between Memphis and Vicksburg. Old South stories of wealthy Delta cotton planters, mint juleps, moonlight and magnolias are mostly legend now, but the Delta mystique continues in the hospitality of Greenville’s people, historical sites, literary traditions, entertainment venues and cuisine.

bridge

Above: A bridge meanders over a slough at Greenville’s Cypress Preserve. Alice Acree Virden

Below: Muppet character Kermit the Frog in Leland. CVB photo

Kermit

U.S. Highway 82 is the main gateway into Greenville from the east or west. Visitors approaching from the west will drive over the Mississippi River on a 1,378-foot suspension bridge, one of the longest cable-stayed spans, that was completed in July 2010.

Where to start

The Washington County Welcome Center at Highway 82 West and Reed Road is housed in a Victorian riverboat replica. Exhibits on the second floor will introduce you to everything about Greenville and the surrounding area. The Greenville/Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 216 S. Walnut St., is at the foot of the levee. In addition to picking up maps and brochures at the CVB, the staff can relate chilling stories about paranormal sightings of apparitions and sounds in their building, once a National Guard armory. After an extensive investigation in 2010, the Southern Paranormal and Anomaly Research Society declared the building haunted.

When you leave the CVB, step next door to meet Puddin’ Moore, a metal sculptor who crafts everything from delicate butterflies to spiral staircases. The History Channel featured his eclectic shop in 2009.

Hot spots, cool sights

Continue walking along Walnut Street to the center of Greenville’s entertainment district. Stroll the brick Blues Walk featuring engraved steel images of local blues greats. Drop into Spectator’s Pub & Eatery (139 S. Walnut St.) and Walnut Street Blues Bar & Grill (128 S. Walnut St.) for food, drink, and on Thursday through Saturday nights, live blues.

At the intersection of Walnut and Main streets, either drive or walk over the levee–part of a 282-mile system from Memphis to Vicksburg–that protects the Delta from Mississippi River flooding. Jubilee Casino and Lighthouse Point Casino are on the waterfront, and both are open continuously for gaming and eating. A third casino, Harlow’s, is located on Highway 82 West at the foot of the new bridge on the Mississippi side and offers a hotel, three restaurants and live entertainment Thursday through Saturday.

From the foot of the levee, walk east along the first four blocks of Main Street to find many of Greenville’s historical buildings, churches and museums. The Hebrew Union Temple’s Century of History Museum (504 Main St.) showcases 144 years of its congregation. Directly behind the temple, the 1927 Flood Museum occupies Greenville’s oldest structure, a brick carriage house. An excellent PBS documentary shows dramatic, original footage of the April 1927 levee break north of Greenville and its aftermath that covered Greenville and the entire Delta for months with 10 to 30 feet of water. Both museums are open by appointment made through the visitors bureau.

Definitely worth a visit are the Greenville History Museum (409 Washington Ave.) and the Greenville Air Force Base Museum at Mid-Delta Regional Airport north of Greenville.

Children will love the Old #1 Fire Station Museum (230 Main St.) because they can climb on a vintage fire truck and try on boots, coats and hats. It is open by appointment made through the visitors bureau.

The Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Exhibit (415 S. Deer Creek Drive E.) is in Leland, a short 10-mile drive from Greenville on Highway 82 East. The museum is perched over Deer Creek, birthplace of Henson’s Kermit the Frog.

Outdoor adventure

For a change of pace, venture about six miles north on state Highway 1 to visit Winterville Indian Mounds. A National Historic Landmark, the site was home to Native Americans who thrived from 1000 to 1450.

Stretch your legs and observe nature in the wild by taking a walk through the Greenville Garden Club Cypress Preserve (one-half mile west of the welcome center on Highway 82). It features 16 acres of sloughs with ancient cypress trees, walking trails and an observation deck.

culinary adventures Doe’s Eat Place (502 Nelson St.) is a must. The recent recipient of three national food awards, Doe’s is famous for its steaks, hot tamales and atmosphere. For fine dining, try Posecai’s (1443 Trailwood Dr.), Sherman’s (1400 S. Main St.), Kepler’s Italian Grill (533 Highway 82) or Vince’s (207 N. Main St.) in Leland.

The best home-cooked breakfasts in town are served at Jim’s Café (314 Washington Ave.) and at Buck’s Restaurant (152 N. Harvey St.), where bluesman B.B. King, actress Phylicia Rashad and candidate Barack Obama have eaten.

Fat Baby’s Catfish House (1825 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) is the place for fried catfish, a Delta specialty. You will drive home with mouth-watering memories.

Marian Sykes Alexander is a new contributor from Greenville, Miss.

BEFORE YOU GO

For more information, contact the Greenville/Washington County CVB at (800) 467-3582 or www.visitgreenville.org.

To visit Greenville and Mississippi’s Delta, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.

Order free information about Mississippi through the Reader Service Card, found online at http://southern.ai-dsg.com.


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