Columbus, MS: One of America’s ‘Distinctive Destinations’

On February 7, 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Columbus, Mississippi one of its ‘Dozen Distinctive Destinations’ for the year.

“Columbus will undoubtedly surprise you with its diverse and abundant cultural resources,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust.  “As one of the best-kept secrets in the State of Mississippi, it is an unrivaled destination for anyone who enjoys Southern architecture, savors down-home cooking, and seeks an escape to the great outdoors.”

The birthplace of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Tennessee Williams, Columbus is home to three National Register Historic Districts that boast an impressive 676 properties.  While other cities were ravaged during the Civil War, Columbus was a “hospital town,” leaving the antebellum and Victorian homes – along with their contents – spared.  Tours of these architectural gems abound.  Whether taking a guided walking tour or winding through the scenic area by car, visitors to “The Friendly City” are able to experience 19th century living first-hand.

Attractions include Waverley Plantation Mansion, a National Historic Landmark and one of the most photographed homes of the South; Friendship Cemetery, the site of the first Memorial Day celebration in 1866; and the Mississippi University for Women, the oldest public college for women in the United States and home to 23 National Register properties.

Founded on 1821 on the banks of the Tombigbee River, the town thrives on its rich heritage and Southern Charm.  Columbus offers an extraordinary mix of history, natural beauty and culture.  Its revitalized Main Street, bustling with family-owned businesses, treasure-filled emporiums and culinary delights, is endlessly appealing and pulsates with the rhythms of the blues.

With a focus on its proud African American heritage, Columbus also offers tours of landmarks that showcase the remarkable impact the African American community has had on the city.  The tour itinerary includes churches, universities and homes.  From Catfish Alley, a central business district for African Americans during the late 19th century – to Concord CME Church, one of the oldest churches in Columbus dating back to 1867 – and the Robert Walker Home Site, where Walker was trained as a butler and went on to become the first African American to own and operate a hotel – this tour celebrates the lasting legacy of the accomplishments of those who, despite oppressive times, prevailed and prospered.

Columbus’ location on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway – nicknamed the Tenn-Tom offers numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation. One of the top sports fishing spots in the nation, the Tenn-Tom is a 234-mile stretch that connects middle-America with the Gulf Coast.  It is deal for scenic boat tours, water skiing or leisurely strolls down the newly-opened River Walk.

In Columbus, residents have taken proactive measures to protect their town’s character and sense of place.  They have enacted local preservation laws to protect historic buildings against demolition, rewrote zoning codes to prevent commercial sprawl, removed regulatory barriers to downtown housing – making downtown areas more walkable, enacted design standards, and taken other steps to preserve the historic and scenic assets of their communities, with rewards that transcend town limits.

“Since being named one of the ‘Dozen Distinctive Destinations,’ we have seen our visitation increase tremendously,” said Nancy Carpenter, CEO and Executive Director of the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau.  “We hope to welcome thousands more to experience our authentic charm and Southern hospitality.  Columbus really is the city that has it all!”