History of Yazoo
Founded as a shipping port in the 1820s, Yazoo has a rich history that has spawned literary powerhouses, a wide variety of preserved historic architecture, traditional Southern eateries, and legends that speak of otherworldly beings.
Ricks Memorial Library and Yazoo’s Literary Landmarks
The Ricks Memorial Library opened in 1901 at 310 North Main Street, making it the oldest public library building in continuous service in Mississippi. Operated by the Yazoo Library Association, this historic building was funded in 1900 by Fannie Ricks in honor of her late husband, General Benjamin Sherrod Ricks, a wealthy planter from Yazoo. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is also designated as a Mississippi Literary Landmark due to its association with Willie Morris, former editor in chief of Harper’s Magazine and author of several books, including the best-selling North Toward Home, an autobiographical account of Morris’s childhood in Yazoo and adult life in New York, where he yearned for the Southern life he knew. Morris's My Dog Skip and Good Old Boy were also popular novels by Morris which detailed his childhood in Yazoo City. These two novels, and the film adaptations of them, made famous the legend of the Witch of Yazoo
From the Ricks Memorial Library, stroll along the Henry Herschel Brickell Memorial Yazoo Literary Walkway. Brickell grew up in Yazoo in the late 1800s. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, he went on to a successful career in the literary world as an editor, writer, and critic, working with several well-known authors, including Eudora Welty. To honor his accomplishments, the Yazoo Historical Society, the Brickell Family Foundation, and the Ricks Memorial Library created the walkway to remind residents and visitors of the important contributions more than 100 Yazooans have made to the literary world.
Triangle Cultural Center
At the other end of the walkway is the Triangle Cultural Center. The building at 332 North Main Street, once a city school, was built in 1904, was purchased by the Yazoo Library Association in 1977, and is currently owned by the City of Yazoo City. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse remaining in the state. The large portico of Ionic columns on the front of the building welcomes visitors to the various museums, classrooms, art studios, and performance spaces within. Visit in the Sam Olden Yazoo Historical Society Museum to learn about the history of the city and its people, from 45,000-year-old fossils to artifacts from the Native Americans who called this land home, Civil War history, and the role of African Americans in building this Gateway to the Delta. Attend a performance of the Yazoo City School of Dance, stretch your artistic skills in an art class, or tour the gallery and studio spaces within.
Town Center Historic District
Yazoo’s entire Town Center Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places, was the largest area to ever be added at the time, and includes both commercial and residential areas. The residential area was selected by This Old House Magazine as one of the “Best Old House Neighborhoods” in 2012. Take a self-guided walking or driving tour through the streets to see various architectural styles. On Broadway, you’ll find the Beaux Arts courthouse and the Lightcap-Holmes House, with its triple windows, Tuscan Doric porch, and Palladian arched doorway, complete with the etched monogram of the builder, Harrison Lightcap. On East Madison awaits the Greek Revival Bowman House, and the Swayze House, with its conical turret roof. The Wilson-Gilruth House, also on Madison, is the largest surviving pre–Civil War structure, likely constructed around 1846.
Of course, all the sightseeing is going to stir up an appetite. Stop in for some traditional barbecue at Ubon’s on Jerry Clower Boulevard. Pick up a bottle of the restaurant’s sauce, from a family recipe that goes back five generations, so you can take a taste of Yazoo home with you. Dive into a pile of crab claws, boiled shrimp, or a luscious fried oyster po’boy at P’Reaux’s Cajun Mudbugs & Shrimp on West Broadway. Pick up a souvenir at the Downtown Marketplace on South Main Street, a collection of nearly 100 vendors of antiques, artwork, furniture, crafts, and more. For whimsical home décor, check out the Dogwood Blossom, also on South Main Street.