I visited Mississippi State University, located in Starkville, Mississippi during late April to give a talk. These are my observations.
The airport serving Starkville is shared with the Golden Triangle with West Point and Columbus, Mississippi, and is basically an adjunct to Atlanta, with three flights a day. It is convenient enough, and really small, so there is no need to arrive much before the flight departs.
Sidewalks are hit or miss, and probably too often miss. While Main Street does have them, as well as a new bike lane to campus, and a transit line (S.M.A.R.T.) running to campus, other streets require pedestrians to walk in the street or along the side of the road. While I understand conceptually complaints about new sidewalks in places which require adjacent property owners to clear snow and otherwise maintain, Mississippi doesn’t get much snow. The problem is either that landowners don’t want to pay for sidewalks (why should they want to?), or they don’t want people walking by their property.
In any event, much of the pedestrian environment looks like this, with the shown ironic marked crosswalk leading to the side of a hill or a mulched planting area.
Starkville’s Main Street is a classic early 20th century model with a very wide path so that it could store cars diagonally on both sides. While only a few blocks long, it was rented out (one of the advantages of being a college town). It is the County Seat, and thus has a second economic anchor as the home of local government. There is plenty of competition from nearby strip retail centers though.
The Cotton District in Starkville is an area where visionary Dan Camp recreates a number of traditional southern architectural styles, as detailed in this blog post at the Architecturalist. The Rue du Grand Fromage is one of the important examples in this area. The buildings include residential as well as some ground floor commercial activities. I was not aware of this experiment, and was surprised when seeing this collection of buildings emerging out of nowhere.
The campus itself has a traditional quad, and the more modern suburban-business park like research center, named for living Senator Thad Cochran (The Thad Cochran Research, Technology, and Economic Development Park). Like the Post Office of yore and the US Board on Geographic Names, I feel things should not be named for the living. At any rate, the park did have a nice automotive research center, including a driving simulator I was privileged to test. As with all such simulators, I am too perceptive to its flaws and thus get nauseous.
The MSU Library is home to the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library (surprise), as well as an excellent collection of early 20th century musical devices.
Mississippi State is an SEC school. While the nickname “bulldogs” might not sound too imaginative, (the so-called “University” of Georgia’s team is also nicknamed the “bulldogs”) in fact this is a case of independent evolution, since the names were developed before both teams were joined in the Southeastern Conference (founded 1932), Mississippi State in 1905 (though they were apparently known as the Maroons) and Georgia in 1894.
This matters because the most prominent feature on the campus, and in the town is the stadium. The football club at MSU irons the grid at Davis Wade Stadium, named after an athletic supporter. I could only think of the Wade-Davis bill, which was a proposal for radical reconstruction of the confederacy, of which Mississippi was a part, which likely would have delayed the post-bellum re-ascendency of white southerners by a generation.
It was a good visit. I had never been to the state of Mississippi, and am unlikely to go again any time soon, but it was a pleasure to meet with colleagues and co-authors, some of whom I only knew second hand.
My full set of photos from Starkville is on Flickr.