West Point, MS
West Point’s trademark windmill along the Kitty Dill National Memorial Parkway and the still-standing Waverley Plantation Mansion, circa 1850, are clues that West Point, Mississippi, is a Deep South city. With its small-town feel, southern hospitality and age-old attractions, the Northeastern Mississippi town has become a magnet for retirees and for vacationers looking for a traditional vacation.
Get away to a lingering piece of West Point’s past at the four-story Waverley Plantation Mansion. Its antique chandelier and piano set the stage for a trip back in time. Elaborate canopy beds, carved wooden chairs and tables, elegant vases and other furnishings from the 1800s and early 1900s are neatly kept within the stately rooms. The atmosphere recalls a time when agriculture and plantation life prevailed, prairie lands rolled on, trains ran to and fro, and signs of war were in the air. Those visiting West Point can tour the mansion, which is located on Waverly Mansion Road.
Ten miles west, on Commerce Street, stands the Ritz, a theater built in 1931 that harkens back to days when theater going was a major entertainment. Today the Ritz Theater and Conference Center, revitalized several times since 1931, is where visitors still gather to watch films and sample shrimp cocktail. Nearby, on Highway 50, the Battle of Ellis Bridge War Monument preserves the memory of those who fought and died in the American Civil War. Reading the engraved names of soldiers who took part in the 1864 Civil War battle at Ellis Bridge reminds visitors of the cost of war in the days before modern strategies and weaponry. Five miles north of this monument is the unassuming Payne Field, on Payne Field Road, where pilots trained for World War I.
West Point is defined by its blues music and native musicians, notably Chester Arthur Burnett (Howlin’ Wolf), who took Mississippi (and the world) by storm in the 1930s and played into the 1970s. In honor of the late Howlin’ Wolf, West Point’s annual Howlin’ Wolf Festival keeps old-school blues music alive for enthusiastic audiences.
Because much of West Point’s railroad traffic has given way to street traffic, one of West Point’s old railroad pathways has been preserved for those who travel not by train but on foot. The Kitty Dill National Memorial Parkway is a four-mile, tree-scaped path where trains once chugged and where sightseers can now walk.
Those visiting West Point tend to flock to its parks. Throughout the city, residential and retail developments have popped up yet do not encroach upon precious prairie lands, public green spaces and outdoor West Point attractions. Across from the public library, the aptly named Bryan Reading Park invites bookworms to bask in the sun with a book while their kids run through the fountain. In September, the Prairie Arts Festival showcases Downtown’s outdoor ambience with live music and one of the largest arts and crafts expos in the nation.