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Belhaven Heights Historic District


Belhaven Heights Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. A revision and amendment was listed in 1998. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from copies of these original nomination documents. [†, ‡] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.

Description

Belhaven Heights Historic District is located near the downtown core of Mississippi's capital city, Jackson, in Hinds County. The Belhaven Heights Historic District is one of Jackson's most architecturally unique neighborhoods. The 38-building historic district is a small neighborhood within modern Jackson (population 250,000 [1983]) and is distinguished by its eclectic collection of the major residential styles of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century.

In 1982-83, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History initiated a survey of the 155-acre Belhaven Heights area in response to citizen concern over the Jackson Redevelopment Authority's proposed annexation of the area. The subsequent nomination of the Belhaven Heights Historic District (a neighborhood within Belhaven Heights) to the National Register is a result of the survey findings.

Situated on one of Jackson's highest hills, the Belhaven Heights Historic District is known for its diverse architecture, terraced lawns, and tree canopied avenues. Although North Jefferson Street is a particularly busy thoroughfare, it retains a turn-of-the-century ambiance, as evinced by the continued use of front porches, the existence of gardens and green spaces, and the number of pedestrians who utilize the sidewalks.

The Belhaven Heights Historic District contains the primary remaining historic resources in Belhaven Heights. District boundaries were drawn around a cohesive historic core, omitting as much recent residential and commercial development as possible. Three pivotal houses in the Belhaven Heights Historic District are outstanding examples of the Greek, Neoclassical, and Colonial Revival styles in Jackson.

The major domestic architectural styles constructed in Mississippi during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries are represented within the Belhaven Heights Historic District. The oldest residence in the Belhaven Heights Historic District is The Oaks (Boyd House), an 1856 Greek Revival cottage listed on the National Register in 1973. Turn-of- the-century house styles and types include the Queen Anne, L-shaped cottages, American Foursquare, and the Neoclassical Revival. In addition, many residences were influenced by one or more of these formal styles. Later residences in the Belhaven Heights Historic District are in the Bungalow, Colonial Revival, Tudoresque, and Italianate/Mediterranean modes.

With few exceptions, the historic resources of the Belhaven Heights Historic District enjoy their original integrity. Some of the contributing buildings have been sympathetically altered to reflect a progressive lifestyle or family growth. Such alterations include the addition of sleeping porches and carports, backyard decks utilizing the steep slopes of the hilltop, and the conversion of single family residences to rental apartments.

Significance

The Belhaven Heights Historic District is significant as an eclectic blend of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century residential architecture in Mississippi's capital city. As one of Jackson's most cohesive downtown residential neighborhoods, the Belhaven Heights Historic District is also significant for the homeowners' determination to remain downtown, and their concerted stand against encroaching commercialization and redevelopment.

After five years of statehood and a succession of capitols, Jackson was designated Mississippi's capital city in 1822. Peter Van Dorn's 1822 map of Jackson laid out the city upon a formal grid, and designated State and Capitol streets as the major arteries, with the proposed state capitol building at the junction. Capitol Street, running west from the Capitol Green became the primary governmental, commercial and ecclesiastical artery, while State Street, a thoroughfare running north and south, became primarily commercial to the south and residential to the north.

Because of the precarious Pearl River to the east, there was little proposed commercial or residential settlement to the northeast, even though a group of hills rose above the path of the river. This hilly northeastern area, which became Belhaven Heights, was not settled until about 1853, when James H. Boyd, a prominent Jacksonian and mayor of Jackson from 1842-1844, constructed a Greek Revival cottage on the present 800 block of North Jefferson Street.

By 1875, only one other residence had been constructed in the area. Mrs. Moody, proprietor of the vast Moody Estate (approximately today's entire Belhaven Heights area), selected the block bounded by Morningside Street, Madison Street, Boyd Street, and North Jefferson Street as the site of her residence. The entire block was sold later to Col. James Hamilton, who constructed a new residence, and named it Belhaven, in honor of his Scottish ancestral home.

In 1894, Mississippi educator Dr. Lewis Fitzhugh purchased the entire Hamilton estate and opened Belhaven College, an educational institution for women. Belhaven College quickly gained acceptance in Jackson, both for its academic and social activities, and for its pleasantly appointed surroundings. Although a fire destroyed the entire campus in 1895, the buildings were replaced, and Belhaven College reopened for classes in 1896. By 1899, the Jackson Daily News described Belhaven and its surroundings as "remarkably picturesque and attractive...located thus in the most beautiful spot in the city, surrounded by elegant residences, within easy reach of every important point in Jackson, yet enjoying the seclusion of a suburban position, the college is all that can be desired."

Not surprisingly, the growing residential area surrounding Belhaven College became known as Belhaven. Due to the natural elevation of the area, and its proximity to one of Jackson's highest hills, the neighborhood also became known as Belhaven Heights.

By the turn-of-the-century, North State Street had become Jackson's most fashionable address, and elegant mansions ascended the street. Residents who could not afford to build on State Street settled for the less prominent side streets, and just a few years after the opening of Belhaven College, Jackson's residential growth reached the college boundaries. With the influence of the women's college, the Belhaven neighborhood itself became an enviable address. Along North Jefferson Street and Bellevue Place (formerly Boyd Street), a multitude of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival residences were constructed within walking distance of the pleasant campus. In 1905, a quartet of Mississippi and Tennessee business saw the growth potential in the area and incorporated themselves as the Belhaven Heights Company.

In 1910, a second fire destroyed the entire Belhaven Campus, and the owner, J.R. Preston, offered the institution to the Presbyterian Church. The Presbytery of Central Mississippi accepted the proposition and relocated the college in a sparsely populated area northeast of the original campus. Again, the area around the new college became known as Belhaven. The original Belhaven area became more clearly identified as "old Belhaven" or Belhaven Heights.

The original Belhaven College block was sold to individuals and during the 1910s and 1920s Italianate-influenced residences and bungalows appeared on the grounds of the former college. In a later subdivision of the original college property in the 1930s, three Tudoresque apartment buildings were added to the neighborhood.

Through the 1940s and 1950s, the Belhaven Heights neighborhood grew eastward to its logical boundaries: the GM&O Railroad tracks on the east and Fortification Street to the north. From Madison Street eastward the new buildings were primarily Tudoresque, picturesque expressions in brick, stone and timber, or two-story, rectangular residences covered with asbestos siding. These single family residences extended eastward until they met the older frame cabins and duplex shotguns located near the railroad tracks.

The planned neighborhoods, suburban development and growth of consolidated shopping areas of the 1960s and 1970s prompted many business and homeowners to leave downtown Jackson. Following this exodus, many of the empty downtown mansions were demolished to make room for commercial and governmental offices. As a neighborhood, Belhaven Heights was eclipsed by smaller houses in newer suburbs. Many of the residences in the area were destroyed, and their lots rezoned for commercial and multi-residential structures.

Because of its downtown proximity, Belhaven Heights has been historically and recently threatened by encroaching commercialization. Much of the original Belhaven Heights neighborhood located close to State Street fell with the wrecking ball. A rejuvenation of the remaining areas in the late 1970s, initiated by older residents and incoming urban pioneers, held the demolition line at Jefferson Street. This informal group of neighborhood preservationists organized themselves as the Belhaven Heights Conservation District, Inc., in 1980 and in 1983 successfully opposed a move by the Jackson Redevelopment Authority to annex the Belhaven Heights neighborhood into the Authority's redevelopment district. Following the Belhaven Heights Conservation District's success, it appears that the future of the Belhaven Heights Historic District is secure from rezoning and non-residential commercialization.

Boundary Increase Description

Belhaven Heights Historic District is located near downtown Jackson and represents one of Jackson's earliest suburban neighborhoods, dating to the turn-of-the-century. Its eclectic architecture includes illustrations of the Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Neoclassical Revival, Colonial Revival, Craftsman Bungalow, Tudor, Mediterranean Revival, and Minimal Traditional styles.

In the years before and just after the Civil War, Jackson's rich merchants built huge mansions in the Italianate, Greek Revival, and Queen Anne styles on North State Street the main artery through downtown Jackson making this the premier residential area of Jackson. As the city grew, however, lots on North State became increasingly hard to obtain, and upper-class citizens began to look elsewhere for a desirable place to build their houses. The area now known as Belhaven Heights, situated just east of North State Street, on one of Jackson's highest hills, was a perfect alternative. This neighborhood began to grow in the 1890s with the establishment of Belhaven College at "Belhaven," the suburban estate formerly owned by James Hamilton, just east of North Jefferson Street. Thus, the two streets in the neighborhood between North State and Belhaven College — North Street and North Jefferson Street — developed with turn-of-the-century architectural styles: Queen Anne cottages (probably less ornate than those that would have been found on North State Street), Neoclassical Revival mansions, and detailed Craftsman Bungalows. By the 1920s and early 1930s, the neighborhood had expanded even more eastward to include Madison Street and Whitworth Street, and by 1948 (the end of the period of significance), Belhaven Heights comprised almost all of its present area, and had grown to include Monroe Street and Moody Street, which contained housing for a significant number of blacks.[1] Today, as one moves eastward in the neighborhood, the houses become more distinctly middle-class and less ornate than those on the western side.

Almost all of the buildings within the Belhaven Heights Historic District were built as residential structures. Some, however, have been adapted to commercial or office use as downtown Jackson has grown. Most of these adaptations have been sympathetic to the historic fabric of the buildings; others have been detrimental.[2] Only one historic building — 1032 Spengler Street — in the neighborhood was built for commercial purposes. This brick Commercial Craftsman building is situated on a lot adjacent to the GM&O Railroad, and served as a restaurant and a boarding house for railroad workers. Longtime residents recall that the business had a reputation as a brothel.

Although the majority of houses within the Belhaven Heights Historic District were built as single-family homes, Belhaven Heights also possesses a tradition of multi-family housing, especially on the more middle-class streets east of North Jefferson Street. Of the contributing buildings in the Belhaven Heights Historic District, 24 were built as duplexes and 5 others have historically functioned as four-plexes. In addition, many houses originally constructed for single-family use have since been converted to duplexes or even triplexes. As with the buildings adapted for office use, some of these changes have been sympathetic while others have changed the character of the buildings. The house at 1105 Riverview Place is an excellent example of a sympathetic alteration from single-family use to a triplex. Since the 1960s, the neighborhood's historic character has been increasingly threatened by the demolition of historic buildings and the construction of large apartment complexes in their places. Although these complexes (usually consisting of three to five buildings, but up to sixteen in River Oaks Apartments) detract from the ambiance of the area, they do tend to be fairly compact, occupying a minimal amount of space in relation to the rest of the neighborhood. For instance, River Oaks, which has 16 buildings in its complex, is situated in the core of a block that was never subdivided historically. Thus, only three of four of the buildings are even visible from the street because the rest are "inside" the block, shielded from view by historic houses.

Most streets in Belhaven Heights are residential in nature, but North Jefferson Street, which runs north and south in the western half of the neighborhood, is a busy thoroughfare, as is East Fortification Street, a four-lane highway which forms the northern boundary of the Belhaven Heights Historic District. Sidewalks are present on most streets, with the exception of Monroe Street, the latest and most eastern street in the district area. Lawns are generally higher than the street, marking the boundary between public and private space, and often have steps up to the level of the house. Mature trees shade most streets and ornamental bushes and plants decorate many yards. The topography of the Belhaven Heights Historic District is rather hilly, with the highest point being around the intersection of Bellevue Place and Madison Street. This hill slopes off to the southeast where the railroad tracks are located. Thus, the neighborhood of Belhaven Heights is roughly triangular in shape, with the railroad, North Street and East Fortification Street forming the sides of the triangle.

For the most part, the buildings in the Belhaven Heights Historic District retain a good degree of integrity. Most are single-family, detached, wood-frame houses of one or one-and-a-half stories. Many houses have historic detached garages to the rear of the main building. Some historic houses have been re-sided with vinyl; these buildings have been evaluated on a case-by-case basis. When the original siding was clapboard or other wood siding, the vinyl is considered not to detract substantially from the character of the house, but when the vinyl covers other materials, such as brick or asbestos shingles, the vinyl is usually considered to compromise the historic appearance of the house. In these cases, if the siding were removed, the house's status might possibly change from "noncontributing" to "contributing."

Boundary Increase Significance

The Belhaven Heights Historic District has local significance in the areas of Community Planning and Development and Architecture, with its period of significance extending from c.1856, the construction date of the Boyd House ("The Oaks") at 823 North Jefferson Street, to 1948, fifty years before this nomination and the date at which Belhaven Heights as a neighborhood had virtually reached its present borders. The neighborhood's growth eastward from North State Street is easily traced in the progression of its architecture from Queen Anne cottages on North Street, to Colonial and Neoclassical Revival houses on North Jefferson Street, to Bungalows and Tudors on Madison and Whitworth Streets, and finally to Minimal Traditional buildings on Monroe Street, the most eastern street in the Belhaven Heights Historic District. The development of the neighborhood from its upper-class beginnings to a more established middle-class area can also be seen in the movement from high-style, large, ornate houses to more scaled-down, less detailed versions of popular national styles.

The area that is now Belhaven Heights was not included in the first formal street grid of Jackson, laid out in 1822 by Peter Van Dorn in response to Jackson's designation as State Capital by the legislature. State Street (running north-south) and Capitol Street (running east-west) were the main arteries, and the state capitol building (finished 1840) was eventually built at the intersection of these two streets. Capitol Street became the primary governmental, commercial, and ecclesiastical artery, while State Street became mainly commercial to the south and residential to the north. Because of the precarious Pearl River to the east, little commercial or residential settlement was even proposed northeast of downtown, even though a group of hills rose above the path of the river. This hilly northeastern area, which became Belhaven Heights, was not settled until about 1856, when James H. Boyd, mayor of Jackson from 1842-1844, constructed a Greek Revival cottage on the present 800 block of North Jefferson Street.

By 1875, only one other residence had been constructed in the area. Mrs. Moody, proprietor of the vast Moody Estate (comprising approximately the area of the entire neighborhood of Belhaven Heights today), selected the block presently bounded by Morningside, Madison, Bellevue, and North Jefferson as the site of her residence. The entire block was later sold to Col. James Hamilton, who constructed a new house and named it "Belhaven," in honor of his Scottish ancestral home.

In 1894, Mississippi educator Dr. Lewis T. Fitzhugh purchased the entire Hamilton estate and opened Belhaven College, an educational institution for women. Belhaven College quickly gained acceptance in Jackson, both for its academic and social activities and for its pleasantly appointed surroundings. Although a fire destroyed the entire campus in 1895, the buildings were replaced, and Belhaven College reopened for classes in 1896. By 1899, the Jackson Evening News described Belhaven and its surroundings as "remarkably picturesque and attractive... Located thus in the most beautiful spot in the city, surrounded by elegant residences, within easy reach of every important point in Jackson, yet enjoying the seclusion of a suburban position, the college is all that can be desired."[3]

Not surprisingly, the growing residential area surrounding Belhaven College became known as Belhaven. Due to the natural elevation of the area, and its proximity to one of Jackson's highest hills, the neighborhood also became known as Belhaven Heights. By 1900, North State Street had become Jackson's most fashionable address, and elegant mansions ascended the street. Residents who could not afford to build on State Street settled for the less prominent side streets in Belhaven Heights, and just a few years after the opening of Belhaven College, Jackson's residential growth reached the college boundaries on North Jefferson Street and Bellevue Place. Along these, as well as North Street, a multitude of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival residences were constructed within walking distance of the pleasant campus.

Several houses still stand from this era of rapid growth near the end of the nineteenth century, most of them along North or North Jefferson Streets: the two Spengler brothers' houses (of three originally built) at the intersection of Jefferson and Spengler Streets (646 N. Jefferson Street and 654 N. Jefferson Street; the three houses just north of the Boyd House (826-828 N. Jefferson St., 833 N. Jefferson St., and 835, 837, 839 N. Jefferson Street); the Stockton-Pitard House, an imposing Free Classical Queen Anne house with intact art glass (851 N. Jefferson Street); a Folk Victorian cottage at 721 Lorraine Street, which undoubtedly had its beginnings as a "country" cottage; and two houses on the southeast corner of the intersection of Boyd Street and North Street (848 North Street and 858 North Street). Although the most heavily populated area of Belhaven Heights at the turn of the century was the block between North State Street and North Street,[4] no residential buildings remain, all having been lost to commercial development.

In 1905, a quartet of Mississippi and Tennessee businessmen saw the growth potential in the Belhaven Heights area and incorporated themselves as the Belhaven Heights Company in order to subdivide and develop the neighborhood. In 1910, a second fire destroyed the entire Belhaven Campus, and the owner, J.R. Preston, offered the institution to the Presbyterian Church. The Presbytery of Central Mississippi accepted the proposition and decided to relocate the college to its present location outside the neighborhood about a half mile northeast of the original campus. Again, the area around the new site of the college became known as Belhaven (north of Fortification Street), while the original Belhaven area (south of Fortification Street) became more clearly identified as "old Belhaven" or Belhaven Heights.

Belhaven College's removal from the neighborhood left a large block vacant and ready to be subdivided. Some of the resultant houses Colonial Revival, Mediterranean/Mission, and Craftsman — built in the 1910s and early 1920s, still stand along Bellevue Place (927, 935, 942, 943, 945, 947, 960, 963 and 968 Bellevue Place). Because of modern apartment complex development on the block of the former Belhaven campus, many of the homes from this early subdivision era have been lost.

Belhaven Heights continued to grow eastward through the 1920s, 30s, and into the 1940s, until it reached its logical boundaries: the GM&O Railroad tracks (constructed through the area in 1927) on the east, Fortification Street to the north, and Spengler Street on the south. Except for the commercial encroachment on the western edge of the neighborhood, bringing the western boundary from North State Street one block in, to North Street, Belhaven Heights occupies roughly the same area as it has for the last fifty years.

Different eras of architectural fashion are readily evident as one travels through the neighborhood. The early streets, North and Jefferson, demonstrate the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles. Bellevue Place, Morningside, Spengler, Madison, Harding Streets boast a large Bungalow and Tudor presence; and Whitworth, Riverview, Lorraine, and Monroe show the transition from Tudor/Craftsman to less ornate styles such as Minimal Traditional. The neighborhood acquired diversity as it moved eastward as well, eventually coming to include the small frame workers' cottages, duplexes, and shotguns near the railroad, a section that historically had been African-American.

Because of its downtown proximity, Belhaven Heights has been threatened by encroaching commercialization both historically and recently. Much of the original Belhaven Heights neighborhood located close to State Street fell with the wrecking ball to make room for modern office buildings. A rejuvenation of the remaining areas in the late 1970s, initiated by older residents and incoming urban pioneers, held the demolition line at North Street. This informal group of neighborhood preservationists organized themselves as the Belhaven Heights Conservation District, Inc., in 1980, and in 1983, successfully opposed a move by the Jackson Redevelopment Authority to annex Belhaven Heights neighborhood in the Authority's redevelopment district.

Today, the Belhaven Heights Community Association carries on the constant battle to preserve the neighborhood. In 1997, the group won a significant victory when the City of Jackson agreed to change the area's zoning from the highest residential development (R-4) to single-family residential (R-1). It is hoped that this move will reduce the pressure on property owners to sell their lots to commercial or apartment complex developers. With the listing of the new Belhaven Heights Historic District, the Association also hopes to encourage owners of rental properties to use of the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program to rehabilitate their properties.

Endnotes

  1. Note the City Directories for the City of Jackson, which have the notation "(c)" indicating "colored" beside addresses on Monroe, Moody, and Quinn Streets those streets closest to the railroad.
  2. For example, 820 North Street and 858 North Street — both buildings have been converted to office use. For a detrimental example, notice 848 North Street (White House Restaurant), which has had several additions which have altered its historic character, in its present use as a restaurant.
  3. Jackson Evening News. July, 1899. p. 23.
  4. Note the 1900 Sanborn map.

References

"Belhaven College." Subject file. Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi.

"Belhaven Heights." Subject file. Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi.

"Belhaven Heights Company." Subject file. Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi.

Jackson Evening News. Mammoth Illustrated Edition, July, 1899. On microfilm at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Jackson, Mississippi. City Directory, 1916. Ashville, North Carolina: Gulf States Publishers, 1916.

Jackson, Mississippi. City Directory. Jackson: Tucker Printing House. For the following years: 1922, 1925, 1927-28, 1930, 1935, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1943, 1947, 1948, 1950, 1954-55.

Maloney's Jackson, Mississippi. City Directory, 1904-05. Memphis: The Maloney Company, 1904.

Maloney's Jackson, Mississippi. City Directory, 1907. Memphis: The Maloney Company, 1907.

Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Subject File. Belhaven College.

Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson. Historic Preservation Division. Historic Resources Inventory for Jackson, Hinds County.

Sanborn Insurance Maps for Jackson, Mississippi: 1900, 1904, 1909, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1946, 1962. On microfilm at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson.

† P. Ana Goron, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Belhaven Historic District, Hinds County, Mississippi, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

‡ Jennifer, V. O. Baughn, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Belhaven Historiic District, Hinds County, Mississippi, nomination document amendment, 1997, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

See Map

Street Names: Bellevue Place, Boyd Street, Fortification Street East, Harding Street, Jefferson Street North, Lorraine Street, Madison Street, Monroe Street, Moody Street, Morningside Street, North Street, Riverview Drive, Riverview Place, Spengler Street, Whitworth Street

**Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. You should independently verify any information you use for decision making.
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