City of Oxford
The City of Oxford, with its charming downtown square, tree-lined streets, 23 historical Mississippi landmarks, and dedicated population of advocates of preservation, is steeped in tradition and Mississippi heritage. But, despite good intentions, Oxford is on the cusp of losing its special character with the pressure for new development to service the Southern-savvy tourist, increase student enrollment, and draw retirees. This new wave of pressure undermines the unique charm visitors and residents alike hope to experience when in Oxford.
2015 Update – In Progress
In 2007, in an effort to ensure historic preservation remains a top priority, the City of Oxford created the Courthouse Square Historic Preservation Commission and the Oxford Historic Preservation Commission in order to hold on to the city’s charm and qualities that continue to attract residents, businesses, and tourists alike. When the City of Oxford recognized the threat to its historic structures, it sprang into action to protect this beloved, charming town. The two commissions effectively monitor projects in and around the historic areas of Oxford using measures such as a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA), a requirement before any exterior feature of a property located in Oxford’s historic districts is constructed, altered, relocated, or demolished. The commissions issue and hear out the cases for COAs in compliance with the Historic Preservation Ordinance and the Oxford Design Guidelines which are based on the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
Since being listing on MHT’s endangered list in 2000, much progress has been made in the City of Oxford. The restoration and use of the Oxford Depot won a MHT Award of Merit in 2004. The 1870-era Lafayette County Courthouse has been completely restored and renovated recently using federal, state and county funds. The original main courtroom, which had been significantly altered in the 1970’s, was restored to its original condition. The 1889-era Burns Belfry building has finished its first phase of construction and stabilization. A Mississippi Landmark, it is the site of the Burns United Methodist Church, the area’s first church built by freed slaves. On the University of Mississippi campus, eight buildings have been designated National Historic Landmarks, including The Lyceum and The Circle. This designation was announced in October 2008.