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VanLandingham discusses the Greensboro Historic District

August 13, 2011

By GWEN SISSON
sdnlife@bellsouth.net

His father was a contractor, and when J.B. VanLandingham returned from service in World War II, he began building.
VanLandingham lived in what is now the Greensboro Historic District for 20 years in his early life. His parents moved to the district before he attended the Naval Academy, then when he returned from the service, he and his young family lived there as he launched his contracting business.
He began his business by building the home he and his family would live in at 519 Greensboro. The home is described as a one-and-a-half story, side-gable roof, frame residence with a Tuscan-columned portico, built in 1946.
Later, he bought the lot behind his house and built two "spec" homes.
"It was nearly impossible to get materials back then," VanLandingham said. "If I heard there was a truck of sheetrock or lumber headed to Starkville, I would go and ask if I could buy supplies."
But people were building homes all over town, mainly because there was no other place to live, according to VanLandingham.
"In 1946, my banker said Starkville was already overbuilt with condos and apartments," VanLandingham said. "Can you imagine! Overbuilt in 1946!"
Michelle Jones, of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and resident of the Greensboro Historic District said VanLandingham's early twentieth century influence on the architectural character of Greensboro Street is impressive. 
"The homes he built are distinctive and continued the tradition of compatible new construction each decade of the neighborhood from 1870-1960," Jones said.
And while he was building homes and helping to form the architectural distinction of the area, it is the people who stand out for VanLandingham.
• VanLandingham remembers a farm at the end of Greensboro Street, and the farmer would drive the cows into the barn twice a day to milk them.
• Betsy Stark's home was built by her uncle.
• Henry Reynolds lived in the next house. A relative may live there now.
• The Overstreets lived on Greensboro Street. He was the school superintendent and his daughter lived there.
• The next brick house was known as the Mose Shaw house, and he worked with Mississippi State Extension Service.
• There was an old house — a painted wood shack — where the Gunns lived.
• Frank Cooper lived in the next house. He was VanLandingham's scout master. He was a cashier at a local bank, and VanLandingham thought a lot of him.
• The next white house was once owned by the local sheriff.
• Col. Swan lived in the Greensboro District and was once stationed in Hawaii. His daughters learned to hula and they were admired for their dancing abilities.
• On the north side of Greensboro, Judge McGruder loved in the district. He had a son that painted houses.
• The Clarks, with Coca-Cola, lived next door to the VanLandinghams.
• Growing up, there was a vacant lot across the street from his parents home. One summer, he and his brothers built a tennis court and VanLandingham said "we liked to have died in the summer heat." The next year, his dad got the contract to build a house for the mayor, Grady Imes.
• John and Mary Beal lived in the next house. They had a workshop out back and did a lot of work on the house.
• The McKroskys lived in the next house. He remembers Mr. McKrosky wanting to expand the attic because he could not stand up in the space.
• The Lindleys lived in another house on Greensboro Street. VanLandingham remembers them having a son or a grandson who would come over and play with the VanLandingham children.
• A Starkville High School band director named Barton lived in another house. He made "excellents" in competition every year.
• A lady named Pattie was the mother-in-law of the President of Mississippi State University and lived in a Greensboro District house at that time.
• A house with columns was built 50 years before VanLandingham's home. He said it was a beautiful home at one time, but the house had not been repaired over the years.
• Mrs. Walker lived in the house next door. Buzz Walker Jr. was the son of a president of MSU.
• Beth and Bill Batson lived in the Greensboro District, but moved to North Carolina.
• On down the hill, the Woffords lived on Greensboro. He was a plumber and they had six or seven children. VanLandingham said Wofford’s grandson is one of the best plumbers in town.
• The Country Club was on Greensboro Street at one time.
• What is now the Greensboro Center was once the Junior High and High School. It was only the high school when VanLandingham's children were going to school.
• VanLandingham built the Armstrong Middle School building. He said at first, they did not want the inside walls to meet the ceiling. They wanted classroom walls to have about two feet of open space at the top. Only after a little while of children in the halls, the district decided those walls needed to go all the way to the top.
• The Bryans lived in the Greensboro District catty-corner from William Saunders and Lewis Mallory.
• Judge Green sold his two-story home to the Parvins. VanLandingham's son David, helped remodel the older house behind it on Whitfield Street.
• The organist at the Episcopal Church, Leigh Ann Fazio lived on Greensboro Street.
• Will Thompson is now the oldest Starkville Rotarian (now that VanLandingham has resigned his membership). The 90-year-old Thompson lives in the alley on Whitfield Street.
• Carl Reynolds lives on the next hill on the left. The house was originally owned by Tenny Reynolds who owned a service station on College Drive.
• The VanLandinghams were the first family to have central air conditioning in their home. He was a Fedders dealer, but his first wife, Joan, was nervous about the new addition. "She thought the kids would all get sick coming in to a cool house after being outside all day," VanLandingham said. It didn't take her long to decide she liked central air conditioning. "We couldn't get them in fast enough."

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