Greenwood Mississippi Introduces You to the Mississippi Delta

January 27, 2012 · 0 comments

in Excursions and Day Triips, Mississippi River Delta

Greenwood is the primary city on the eastern side of the Mississippi Delta Region

US Hwy 82 is a 4 lane road across north-central Mississippi. Driving west, Greenwood is the first major town. The Delta begins and finds its definition here in this robust city.

To appreciate the Greenwood, MS history, you need to understand a little about the Mississippi River Delta Region. A road trip in the Miss Delta has the unique feature that roads in the delta have few curves. There is no need to veer around hills because there aren’t any hills. There are delta regions alongside other rivers, but the Mighty Mississippi River has created a delta as unique as the river itself … Mighty Mississippi River = Mighty Mississippi Delta.

Leaving Winona, MS, driving west on US Highway 82 you drive through the most stark red clay hills imaginable, covered with Kudzu. Just past Carrolton, MS you reach, what locals call Valley Hill. As you descend this 3 mile long hill, the terrain changes so dramatically you almost feel you have gone through some kind of time warp zone. The beautiful red clay hills disappear and lying before you is a flat seemingly endless stretch of farmland unequaled anywhere in the world. You have just entered the Mississippi Delta Region and left the Mississippi Hill Country.

Friendly In-State Prejudice Exists Between Hill folks and Delta folks

Folks who live in the hills believe that God lives in the hills with them, and that He resides nowhere in the delta. An amusing story is told of a small girl whose family was moving to the delta. Clutching her home-made rag doll beneath her arm, she ran to the back porch of her hill-country home and called out to the space up the hill and into the trees … “Goodbye God, we’re moving to the delta.”

Folks who live in the delta jab back at the hicks who live in the hills. They sneer at the scant topsoil in which the red clay hill dwellers try to raise a measly crop. One delta native bragged to me: “Anything will grow in the delta.” He said: “You can take a handful of rocks and throw them out in the field and come back in a couple of weeks and you will find a pile of boulders.”  I’m not sure I believe him even though on other points he seems to be a honest man.

Things do grow in the MS Delta, which in fact do not grow anywhere else in proportion to the way they grow here. Greenwood, MS is an example of a town that would never have grown to its size or prominence in any other location. The bountiful cotton growing region attracted farmers of unusual talent. These early white settlers built plantations and wealth which were nothing less than small kingdoms. They built self-sufficient communities with stores, homes, churches and in some cases even schools. City dwellers operated governments, banks, clothing and hardware stores and public service facilities.

The Viking Range Corporation Is Transforming the Downtown Area

A visit to Greenwood is just a day trip as for us. It is only 70 miles from home. If you are traveling a greater distance you may want to stay

Viking Cooking School Classroom Greenwood, MS

overnight. The hotel of choice is the Alluvian Hotel in downtown Greenwood. The world class Viking Range Corporation which operates the Viking Cooking School purchased the Alluvian Hotel and made it part of its operation. In the complex are the hotel, the cooking school, a top class Spa, and Giardina’s Restaurant. People come from all over the world to attend the classes at the Viking Cooking School and usually stay in the luxurious, 50 room, boutique, Alluvian Hotel and Spa.  Guests enjoy the spa, a gym facility. A gourmet breakfast is served each morning on the 4th floor. You can choose indoor dining, or on favorable days, you can dine on an outdoor patio overlooking the city. Off the lobby on the first floor there is a very attractive courtyard with a fountain and trees. This is a beautiful hotel.

The presence of such magnets as the Viking Range Corporation and the Viking Cooking School have made Greenwood a genuine culinary destination and local entrepreneurial chefs have taken full advantage. In the hotel complex you can eat in Giardina’s, a remarkably interesting restaurant setting. Each table is in a private room. Your server is the only outside person you will see while you dine on excellent Italian Cuisine.

Don’t ignore the shops in the downtown area. You will be pleasantly surprised as you browse your way down the street. Some of the nicest antique shops in the state are found right here. One of the most unique gifts shops I’ve seen is operated by Cindy Tyler. The Mississippi Gift Company sells only authentic gifts from Mississippi. You will be pleased to experience the work of skilled artisans from this gentile state.

Bring Your Appetite with you

There are plenty of good places to eat in Greenwood. My all time favorite is the Crystal Grill. I have been eating here since 1960 when I was a young, single preacher boy living in nearby Winona, MS. A group of guys would drive to Greenwood to bowl at Leflore Lanes. Bowling works up a hearty appetite, so we would go downtown and eat pie and drink coffee in the Crystal Grill which was then an all night diner with a counter near the steel grill cooktop. The diner-grill has evolved into a fine restaurant that serves lunches and fine dining selections in the evening. The Crystal has devoured the empty stores which once surrounded it and has become a true destination eating place.  The seafood here rivals that found in coastal cities for freshness and flavor. The homemade pies are out of this world and the cup of coffee tastes the same as 50 years ago. Many visitors love an old downtown favorite called Lusco’s, (about 2 blocks from the Crystal Grill). Lusco’s serves steaks and seafood and daily specials. There are other good restaurants, but these few are some of the oldest and best known. I have never eaten in Lusco’s but it gets high marks from those who have tried it.

Hollywood Noticed the Scenic Beauty of Greenwood, MS

“THE HELP” the recent box office smash hit movie, which was spawned by a blockbuster novel of the same name, was filmed in Greenwood. The beautiful homes and streets, the cotton fields and scenery all were filmed here. Only a small portion of the movie was actually filmed in Jackson,

Leflore County Courthouse

MS. Jackson was the setting for the story in the novel. The movie pictures people entering the Robert E Lee Hotel in Jackson, but the actual building they are entering is the Leflore County courthouse, in Greenwood. The homes of the black ladies in “The Help” are actually homes located in an area of Greenwood known as Baptist Town. Some money from the movie is being donated to renew this depressed, but historical section of the city.

Greenwood Is Not a One-Trick-Pony

One of our favorite place is Cottonlandia Museum, which has been renamed Museum of the Mississippi Delta, is located on the west side of Greenwood on the north side of the Hwy 82 bypass. This is a wonderful, well managed museum that features stories of blues musicians, cotton plantations, farm implements and Greenwood Leflore, the Indian Chief whose first name was taken by the city  of Greenwood and whose last name was taken as the name for Leflore County. You can read an earlier post of mine on Cottonlandia Museum.

Downtown Greenwood houses The Greenwood Blues Heritage Museum and Gallery at 222 Howard Street. Howard Street is actually main street in Greenwood.

Yazoo River in Greenwood, Miss

The museum is dedicated to the memory of world famous blues musician Robert Johnson and houses the largest collection of Robert Johnson materials ever assembled. My post on Cottonladia has some information on Robert Johnson.

The Yazoo River flows though downtown Greenwood.

Both Howard Street which is downtown and Park Avenue offer a large variety of shopping venues and beautiful, sometimes historic, buildings. Howard Street is a great place to shop for Antiques and genuine Mississippi Made souvenirs. You will also enjoy browsing in the cooking store next door to the Alluvian Hotel, which is adjacent to and part of the Cooking School.

I hope I’ve told you enough to pique your interest. At any rate, I believe you will enjoy a trip to Greenwood, MS. If the old downtown section of the city does not interest you, there is a unique countryside and lots of chain hotels and restaurants on the bypass.

Well that about does it for now. Y’all keep on driving and I’ll try to catch up with you. Until next time, keep rolling up the miles and dialing up the smiles.

Bill Taylor

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