Greater Belhaven in Jackson, Miss., is honored as one of the 10 best neighborhoods in the country for its array of diverse amenities.
When the American Planning Association was looking across the United States for 10 Great Neighborhoods to honor for 2014, there was an obvious choice in Mississippi, and not just because great is already part of the neighborhood’s name.
The Greater Belhaven neighborhood in Jackson was recognized as part of the Great Places in America program of the American Planning Association (APA), which names 10 each of the nation’s most exemplary streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces that add value to communities, foster economic growth, and feature distinctive characteristics. The winners are announced each October during National Community Planning Month, and Greater Belhaven exceeded the guidelines with its uncommon character, personality, and environment.
Located just northeast of downtown Jackson, Greater Belhaven is actually comprised of two historical neighborhoods: Belhaven Heights and Belhaven. The area’s rich history dates to the late 1800s when a block of land was sold to Col. James S. Hamilton, who constructed a new home and named it Belhaven in honor of his ancestral home in Scotland.
The eclectic mix of architecture found in the area today stems from the early 20th century, when wealthy business owners built mansions and encouraged their employees and civil servants to build cottages and bungalows nearby. The diverse architectural styles remain today, ranging from Georgian and Federalist, to airy New Orleans-inspired designs, to ivy-covered bungalows and Italianate, Art Deco, and even a few modern accents.
With so many historical buildings along their tree-lined streets, Belhaven and Belhaven Heights are both listed on the National Register of Historic Place. While both neighborhoods are impressive, Belhaven comprises the largest historical district in Mississippi with more than 1,300 contributing structures.
The varied architectural styles, quiet ambiance, and lovely green spaces have lured a host of creative individuals to Greater Belhaven through the years, including writers, artists, and musicians. The area also is populated by executives, professionals, doctors, attorneys, entrepreneurs, and university professors who all find common ground in the neighborhood.
Indeed, there is much to find appealing in the neighborhood by residents and visitors alike. Among the inviting amenities and attractions are four parks, walking and fitness trails, a movie and concert area, restaurants, cafés, shopping areas, and bars. For accommodations, visitors will find the region’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel, The Fairview Inn, a 1908 Colonial Revival mansion that was restored into a luxurious bed and breakfast.
Also located in the heart of Belhaven is New Stage Theatre, where visitors can attend everything from Shakespeare and Broadway musicals, to independent films, edgy late night comedy acts, and newly discovered plays. As one of the South’s oldest theatres, an exciting line up is offered year-round.
Three prominent and historically significant house museums can be found in Greater Belhaven, including the home of Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty. Constructed in 1924, the Tudor Revival house and its gardens are open for guided tours, and a visitor’s center examines Welty’s life and writings. The other house museums include the Manship House, which served as the home of Charles H. Manship, the Civil War mayor of Jackson; and the Boyd House, also known as The Oaks, which was home to James H. Boyd who served as mayor both before and after the Civil War. The Oaks was one of the few structures to survive Gen. Sherman’s burning of Jackson during the Civil War.
Part of the reason for Greater Belhaven’s appeal is that in 2005 it became the first neighborhood in Jackson to tackle comprehensive rezoning since 1974, which resulted in a mixed-use district that is more pedestrian friendly with wider sidewalks and heavily landscaped public spaces. Construction on Fortification Street through the area is reducing the number of travel lanes from four to three to allow for five foot sidewalks, decorative lighting, and a planting strip.
Helping oversee the neighborhood’s long-range planning and improvement is the Greater Belhaven Foundation, which also coordinates free concerts, art exhibitions, and the area’s annual end-of-summer festival known as Bright Lights, Belhaven Nights. Consistently named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society, the event features fives stages of live music, a children’s area, plenty of food, and hand-crafted arts.
Whether you visit for the celebrations, shopping, theater, or dining, you’ll surely agree with the APA that the adjective great aptly describes Greater Belhaven.
Dennis R. Heinze is regional editor of the AAA Southern Traveler.
November/December 2014 Issue
^ to top | previous page
Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part unless expressly authorized in writing by AAA Traveler Magazines.