A love letter to Vicksburg

Published 8:09 pm Saturday, June 30, 2018

Tennessee Williams once said that there are only three unique cities in America: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. As someone who has lived in all three I can easily state that Vicksburg is more inviting to me than any of them.

I discovered Vicksburg three years ago and with several years of flatland Delta living behind me, the elevation was a revelation. Almost from the start I began thinking of Vicksburg as “Sanfransippi” and it wasn’t long before I brought my wife from our other home here in Louisiana’s lunatic-circus-below-sea-level to see it for herself.

One can tell a great deal about a place by the caliber of the Real Estate people who introduce you to it. I can say without reservation that Vicksburg has probably the best group of professionals I’ve ever met and although my wife and I ended up buying a historic house directly from its owner, I will always appreciate the welcome we received by the Real Estate professionals in Vicksburg.

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Now if I may, let me reel off only a few of the many things that have endeared my family to Vicksburg since we happened to find our home here:

A beautifully bricked and newly thriving downtown free of parking meters! The best tamales in town 4 minutes from my front door. An “Art House” movie theatre that would be a shining star in New Orleans were we lucky enough to have one like it here. Antique shops, gift shops and a charming new book store along Washington Street that would be welcome in any town. An art gallery with one of the widest selections of Southern art west of Savannah. A legendary coffee house always busy hosting a friendly gathering of local folks and visitors alike — the first place I go as soon as I return to town. A confident and progressive city government that takes obvious pride in the beauty of its surroundings and the Mississippi history that draws people from every corner of the U.S. And when I return to Vicksburg, a graceful street I am proud to live on that boasts gas lights and flowering trees.

I now divide my time between a city that shames its history by tearing down landmarks and one that recognizes its historic importance in our national story with neither condemnation nor self-serving division.

I am honored to live directly across from the Old Courthouse staffed by wonderful and dedicated folks, sadly suffering from a neglect of responsibility from the unresponsive “Historical Society” entrusted with its care.

One can witness the sad outcome of this abandonment along Jackson Street down to Monroe where pieces of crumbling Courthouse walls often lie on the sidewalk.

And so as I look forward to spending another Fourth of July in Vicksburg I will continue a personal ritual of sorts, something I started since being fortunate enough to own my home here.

At 8 a.m. I set up a chair, a candle and an antique engraving showing the parade that took place down Monroe Street on that day in 1863 and I toast the courageous people of Vicksburg, black and white, who emerged from 47 days of brutal siege to see the Courthouse still standing.

I’ll lift my glass in hopes that the disgraceful neglect the beautiful edifice suffers from now will not bring to bear what General Grant’s cannons could not accomplish 155 years ago.

I humbly invite anyone of like mind to join me. God Bless Vicksburg!

Skip Henderson is a Vicksburg resident and preserver of Mississippi blues history who also splits his time in New Orleans.