The Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
Sloping gently down to the west, the Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District comprises the commercially developed center of Holly Springs (pop. 5,728), the seat of Marshall County, Mississippi. The identity of the Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District is derived from the intersection of two east-west and two north-south streets around a central courthouse square. The outer square is bisected by a central north-south street (Center Street), a configuration which provides a strong visual axis for the courthouse (inner) square.
Buildings on the square are representative of typical nineteenth century revival styles of architecture: the earliest, transitional Late-Federal-Greek Revival row buildings (109, 127, 129A, 129B, 131A and 131B Van Dorn Avenue), date from the 1837 incorporation of the town, as do two frame structures (154 Market Street and 154 South Memphis Street) and two brick structures (150 Market Street and 104 East Gholson Avenue). The more picturesque Romanesque, Renaissance, and High Victorian-Italianate revival modes, characteristic of the post-Civil War building boom, are the most common stylistic influences on the square. The structures also possesses interesting similarities in plan and elevation, such as central storefront entrance stairs to second-floor halls and offices (119, 125 Market Street; 133A, 133B and 135 Van Dorn Avenue; 120-128 College Avenue). The application of limestone veneer clearly distinguishes the Beaux Arts influence evident in the design of the two banks (103A Market Street, Merchants & Farmers Bank and 114A South Memphis Street, Bank of Holly Springs). Colonial and Neo-Classical revival modes are used successfully to establish a monumental quality for the city hall (160 South Memphis Street) and the Marshall County Courthouse (128 East Van Dorn Avenue).
The structural density of the Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District has remained constant since the earliest development period of the town, from 1835 to 1860. At that time buildings typically consisted of Late-Federal-Greek Revival flanking-gable brick structures, such as the extant grouping on the south side of the square (127, 129A, 129B, 131A and 131B Van Dorn Avenue). Prolonged skirmishes from 1862 to 1864 during the Civil War caused the burning and destruction of all buildings on the east side of the square, and considerable damage on the north and west sides, culminating in the incineration of the courthouse by Union soldiers in 1864. Following the Reconstruction era, new growth and prosperity was reflected once again with the construction of a new courthouse and several two-story brick row buildings decorated with stamped-metal window cornices and imposing roof parapets (119 and 125 Market Street, 133A, 133B and 135 Van Dorn Avenue, 116 and 122 South Memphis Street, 114 College Avenue, and 120-128 College Avenue). The cross-axial emphasis of the courthouse was improved by the inclusion of a ground-floor north-south walk-through; new storefronts restored the scale and rhythm of the four sides and provided added textural interest.
Today the focus of commerce and civic affairs in Holly Springs remains on the square, though the physical condition of most structures in the vicinity has greatly deteriorated over the past forty years. Restoration projects have been undertaken at the Seale Drug Company (132 College Avenue), and along a portion of building 148-156 College Avenue. Restoration plans are now  underway for the Marshall County Courthouse. During the 1960s a continuous line of metal storefront canopies was installed around the entire square as part of an urban renewal project. While the canopies detract from the architectural integrity of individual buildings, the historical presence of their frame counterparts on the square after 1870 is documented in nineteenth-century photographs.
The cohesiveness of the Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District is evidenced by the existence of only one vacant lot and six incompatible intrusions. Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District boundaries correspond roughly with the overall limits of the central business district. Of the fifty-nine structures in the Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District, all are commercial with the exception of one residence (145 North Memphis Street), one church (164 South Memphis Street, First Presbyterian Church), and two civic buildings (128 East Van Dorn Avenue, Marshall County Courthouse and 160 South Memphis Street, City Hall).
The Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District comprises a group of commercial buildings possessing considerable architectural and historical significance for the state of Mississippi. The variety of architectural styles corresponding with the town's most important development periods are represented in the district, thereby forming a microcosmic representation of the town.
By 1836, a year before the town's incorporation, a public square was planned and laid out one block west of Spring Street, site of the earliest commercial activity during the settlement period of the town, between 1830 and 1835 (William Baskerville Hamilton, "Holly Springs, Miss., to the Year 1878," M.A. thesis, University of Mississippi, 1931, p.30). After the construction of a courthouse (1837) and surrounding commercial row buildings, the square served as a public meeting place for the town and county. In 1846 the square was designated the recruiting and assembly point for volunteers later known as the Marshall Guard, a militia which served in the Mexican War (Hamilton, p.30).
After its seizure during the Civil War by Union forces Holly Springs was used as a base of operation by General Grant, upon whose departure for the march on Vicksburg in December, 1862, Confederate General Van Dorn raided the town, capturing and destroying Union munitions. The old Masonic Hall on the courthouse square (site of 109 Market Street), used by Union troops for storage of high explosives, was exploded during the raid. In 1864, following the recapture of Holly Springs by Union troops, Union soldiers who were imprisoned in the courthouse by their own officers set fire to the courthouse bell tower and the entire structure was burned. Political and social conflicts continued during the era of Reconstruction and were manifested on the square. Writing seventy-five years later, a local partisan historian recorded: "Between the carpetbaggers, the collaborating scalawags and the ignorant freedmen so easily swayed by them, the Democratic patriots of the town were hard put to salvage white supremacy from the chaos. Torchlight parades by freedmen and their carpetbag advisors began and ended here on the lawn. Race riots were organized and thwarted by opposing factions; silent, white-robed Klansmen sent terror to many a traitor heart on the public square and the Court House was the scene of the ultimate return of white rule when the Democrats triumphed in the election of 1875 (Olga Reed Pruitt, It Happened Here [Holly Springs: South Reporter Printing Company, 1950], p.9)."
An intense rebuilding period on the square during the 1870s was coupled with renewed commerce and the exchange of agricultural commodities, specifically cotton, brokers for which still  remain in operation on the square (155 South Center Street and 107A Van Dorn Avenue). The benign neglect of district buildings begun during the Depression continues to the present. The lack of significant alterations of storefront facades, however, has maintained the architectural integrity of the area. Local interest in historic preservation and commercial area revitalization has increased. A historic preservation steering committee and a local historical commission have been established.
The architectural significance of the Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District is derived both from the extant pre-Civil War row buildings, and from the more eclectically inspired courthouse and commercial buildings constructed after the war. The courthouse, designed by architect S. Boling who also designed the Lafayette County Courthouse in Oxford, establishes strong associations for both the Italianate and Colonial Revival period influence on the square after 1870. The later Italianate and Renaissance Revival influence on the square is clearly distinguished from the Late-Federal-Greek Revival period through the application of high, blind-paneled roof cornices, stylized metal window cornices, and more formal floor plans with central storefront entrance stairs leading to second-floor halls and offices. After 1900, construction in the Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District was limited primarily to financial institutions, which followed the popular Beaux Arts stylistic influence characterized by limestone-veneered facades with applied classical detail.
De Bow, J.D.B., ed. De Bow's Review. New Orleans, 1859.
Hamilton, William Baskerville. "Holly Springs, Miss., to the Year 1878," M.A. thesis, University of Mississippi, 1931.
Pruitt, Olga Reed. It Happened Here. Holly Springs: South Reporter Printing Company, 1950.
Wyatt, Mary Eleanor Kerr. "Marshall County Historical Society's First Walking Tour in Holly Springs, Miss." Unpublished manuscript, 1969.
‡ Jack A. Gold, Architectural Historian, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Holly Springs Courthouse Square Historic District, Holly Springs, Marshall County, MS, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Center Street South • College Avenue East • Gholson Avenue East • Market Street • Memphis Street North • Memphis Street South • Route 178 • Route 4 • Van Dorn Avenue