Hernando Commerce Street Historic District
The Hernando Commerce Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nominaton document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Hernando Commerce Street Historic District is composed of 27 resources: the houses and outbuildings located between West Street, just east of the current City Hall, to the White/Davidson/Pierce house at 720 Commerce Street.
Present-day Hernando is a modern community superimposed on a mid-19th century town plan and developing among late-19th and early-to-mid-20th century buildings. Hernando's traditional commercial core has recently been recognized for its historical and architectural importance through the designation of the Hernando Courthouse Square Historic District (1998). However, this district does not, by itself, reflect the historical character of the town.
The Hernando Commerce Street Historic District resources represent the architectural styles of private residences from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the sustained but slow development of the city. They range from late 19th century Victorian-style houses through the spectacular, early 20th century George Banks House (564 Commerce Street), built in the Neo-Classical style to Mrs. Darden Gore's Craftsman Bungalow (446 Commerce Street). With the exception of the Gore bungalow, the western resources are vernacular cottages which appear to have been built in the early to mid 20th century as rental properties, possibly associated with the George Banks Cotton Gin which occupied the present location of City Hall until the 1970's.
The smaller lots closer to the courthouse square were probably the result of sub-dividing a larger piece to build several smaller houses. The size of the western lots is fairly large, the largest occupied by the George Banks House (564 Commerce Street). All lots are well-shaded and the houses are all set close to the street. The sidewalks are curbed with driveways. Some sidewalks are elevated above the street level.
The George Banks House (Owner, Daniel LaBlond/historically George Banks) at the northwest corner of West Commerce and Elm Street intersection is surely the largest and most architecturally sophisticated of the lot. Banks was a cotton planter, merchant, and town leader who chose the "latest style," Neo-Classical, for the house he built across from one of his cotton gins. He apparently demolished the house of Edward Orne, early land speculator and town founder, which previously stood on this lot. Other Hernando Commerce Street Historic District homes appear to date from just before or just after Banks' house. They include the vernacular Victorian-era house (Owner, Lee Pierce/T.H. White, builder) at 720 Commerce Street and the Victorian Era "L" Cottage (Historical owner, Juney Tipton) at 647 Commerce Street, as well as the Colonial Revival house (Owners, Mr.& Mrs. J.B. Bell/historically S.W. Eason, Mrs. Bell's father) at 585 Commerce Street.
The area around Commerce Street in Hernando, located in DeSoto County, is locally significant for its architecture and in the area of community planning and development because it represents the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century development of the town of Hernando. The Commerce Street area is a good representation of the residential growth around the central courthouse square. Hernando is locally notable as the best concentration of early-twentieth century commercial and residential architecture in DeSoto County. The period of significance for the Hernando Commerce Street Historic District is 1890-1950, which represents the time the residential district was expanding westward from the courthouse square. While the Town of Hernando was founded in 1836, many of the original homes were destroyed by accident or by design to make way for the "latest" styles in new homes of the 1890-1950 period. Some working in the cotton mill, now the site of City Hall, and in the commercial section of town needed lower-cost housing. Bungalows such as 414, 421, 426, 437 and 449 Commerce Street were built, several as rental property.
DeSoto County was formed in 1836 from land ceded by the Chickasaws. The town of Hernando, originally named Jefferson, was also founded in 1836. There is some speculation that the town may have originated as an Indian trading post, and therefore predates the forming of the county. Edward Orne donated 40 acres of land to be used as the county seat. In 1836, this land was laid out with 172 lots surrounding a public square.
Hernando developed steadily as new transportation routes were developed. In 1839, the United States established a mail route from Holly Springs to Hernando which continued west to Commerce on the Mississippi River. In 1852, the state chartered a company to build a plank road from Panola to Memphis, going through Hernando. It was originally called the Panola DeSoto Plank Road, and later changed to Memphis and Hernando Plank Road. In 1856, the first train ran through Hernando, on the Mississippi & Tennessee Railroad, which linked Memphis to Grenada. This brought about the demise of the Plank Road, but vastly improved the transportation of cotton and other agricultural crops to New Orleans.
The Civil War brought a halt to the progress of Hernando. Union troops occupied the town in 1863 and several other times, destroying many of the town's original buildings. By 1867, Hernando was rebuilding.
The Reconstruction Era was as difficult in DeSoto County as elsewhere in the South. But from about 1880 and continuing through the 1920s, Hernando and DeSoto County entered a prosperous period. J.B. Bell's Hernando Windows book describes turn-of-the-century Hernando as a small, agricultural town, growing slowly but steadily as a shipping center for agricultural production of traditional Southern crops. The railroad carried crops toward Memphis or New Orleans and brought back goods to stock the general merchandise stores and specialty shops. Bell mentions virgin pine timber as a major product for rail shipment during the post-bellum years when Mississippi pine forests were being harvested.
Late-19th and early-20th century events that promoted prosperity in Hernando included: purchase and expansion of the Mississippi & Tennessee Railroad by the Illinois Central in 1886; establishment of the Farmer's Alliance in 1888; chartering of Hernando Bank in 1890; establishment of the first high schools for black and white students in the early 1890s; establishment of Randle University (first 9-month preparatory school) in 1901; introduction of car dealerships, 1913; expansion of city services to include first electric power plant in 1916, and city water system (1923); and organization of the Farm Bureau, 1927. (Bell, "History," pp.56-58)
Insurance maps created by the Sanborn Map Company of New York (available on microfilm at the First Regional Library), offer the astounding evidence that in the 50 years between 1886 and 1936, a high percentage of Hernando's buildings were built, and then replaced by something else. This "high turnover" rate is due in some cases to the inevitable fires and storms that eliminated turn-of-the-century buildings everywhere. But over time, the maps show substantial houses on residential streets being replaced by other substantial houses, and significant blocks of commercial buildings appearing and disappearing as though they were more temporary than the paper the maps are printed on.
Of the large Victorian-era homes shown on the 1886 through 1909 Sanborn maps, few survive. Victorian-era homes were replaced by mid-20th century Tudor Revival style houses.
Hernando's first automobile agency, a Ford dealership, was opened by W.H. Entrikin in 1913. The introduction of the car and other motorized vehicles such as delivery trucks coincided with changes in Hernando's development patterns, commercial orientation, and housing types. From 1910 up until the Great Depression (1930), the population grew from 660 to 938, about a 30 percent increase. Many of the town's good examples of Craftsman style houses appear to date from this era. The Craftsman style overcame Colonial Revival and Victorian era styles in popularity during these years and carried on through the World War II era.
Hernando continued to grow between 1930 (Pop. 938) and 1950 (Pop, 1,206), at a rate of about 22 percent. Unlike some other Mississippi towns, Hernando weathered the Great Depression between 1930 and 1940 and then came through the World War II era still growing.
This mid-20th century growth and the buildings and structures associated with it in this district are important elements in the City's present-day character, especially with the 1941 DeSoto County Courthouse at the center of the historic town area. Though some buildings may not be considered "historic" by our contemporaries, or by the people who helped to build them, they are the built records that will allow future generations to grasp what life was like in our time.
________, "DeSoto History," Commercial Appeal Special Supplement. Memphis: Commercial Appeal, September 8, 1996.
Bell, J.B., DeSoto County and Hernando historian. Interviewed by Joan Embree, preservation consultant, at his home on West Commerce Street in Hernando, Nov. 20, 1998.
Bell, J.B., Hernando Historic Windows. Hernando, MS: J.B. Bell, 1986
Bouchillion, A.W., Hernando's first Planning Director (1958). Interviewed by Joan Embree, preservation consultant, on driving tour of Hernando, Nov. 20, 1998.
Cawthon, Richard. "Railroads In Mississippi." Unpublished information compiled for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS, 1995.
DeSoto County, MS. "Agriculture," "Education," "Homes," "Industry," and "Transportation" chapters, WPA Records, Special Collections, Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS.
DeSoto County, MS. Probate Court Records. DeSoto County Courthouse, Hernando, MS.
DeSoto County, MS. Bound Newspaper Collection, Probate Records. DeSoto County Courthouse, Hernando, MS.
DeSoto County First Regional Library. Vertical files on Hernando's "Buildings," "History," "Homes." Hernando, MS.
Hernando. City Minute Books for 1870, 1907, 1928, 1938. Hernando City Hall, DeSoto County, MS.
Ivy, Pam McPhail, Ed. Our Heritage, DeSoto County, MS. Memphis, TN: North Mississippi Times/Frank Meyers & Associates, N.D.
Lowry, Robert and William H. McCardle. A History of Mississippi. Spartanburg, South Carolina: The Reprint Company, 1978.
Mississippi Department of Archives & History. Cooper Post Card Collection, "Hernando," in the State Archives. Jackson, MS.
Mississippi Department of Archives & History. DeSoto County Maps, photographs in the State Archives. Jackson, MS.
Mississippi Department of Archives & History. National Register File. DeSoto County. Hernando Courthouse Square District.
Reps, John. Making of Urban America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 1965.
Rowland, Dunbar, LLD. A History of Mississippi. Volumes I, II, & HI. Atlanta: Southern Historical Publishing Association, 1907.
Sanborn Map Company. Insurance Maps of the City of Hernando: 1886, 1892, 1903, 1909, 1916, 1925, 1936. New York, NY: Sanborn Map Company. Special Collections, Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS.
United States. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules, DeSoto County, MS, 1870, 1910, 1940, 1950.
† Samuel H. Kaye, AIA, Luke & Kaye, PA, Hernando Commerce Street Historic District, DeSoto County, Mississippi, nomination document, 2000, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.