Story by Amanda Wells | Photos by Laurel Donahoo
In Central Mississippi, there’s been buzz for quite some time about the re-emergence of the Town of Livingston. NOW, A CENTURY AND A HALF AFTER ITS HEYDAY, PASSERSBY AND PATRONS ARE SEEING LIVINGSTON BREATHE NEW LIFE. None are quite as in awe as developer David Landrum, who says seeing the town, and his vision, come to life makes him just have to pinch himself.
In 2006, David bought 480 acres in rural Madison County. This land was the old town site of Livingston, which, in 1829, was the largest community in the county. Built around the springs, Livingston was home to the county’s first courthouse and became a vacation spot known for art and taverns. Like many towns of that time, it met its demise when the railroad went an opposite direction and Livingston lost its charter in the 1940s.
Enraptured by the beauty of the land and location, David set out to make Livingston have an encore unlike any other. David enlisted the help of Atlanta architecture and planning firm Historical Concepts to recreate the nine-block town at the end of Livingston Church Road that once stood.
To start the buzz, the Livingston Farmer’s Market was launched in 2010, bringing together local growers, featured chefs, Mississippi craftsmen, live music, good food and children’s activities on the town’s site. This year’s market kicked off its fifth season on Thursday, April 16th, from 5-8 p.m., and will continue through mid July.
“We’ve lived out this way for 30 years and you have to go a good distance to get to a store,” says David, who remembers a visit over a glass of wine with his friend and neighbor Bowen Eason. “I told Bowen about my plan for this property and he casually said, ‘If you do that, I want to be a part of it and open a mercantile store.’” Just this year, Bowen opened the Livingston Mercantile and The Gathering to rave reviews. “Bowen didn’t let up,” laughs David. Livingston Mercantile is home to The Gathering Restaurant and Bar, a gourmet grocery, gifts, provisions and an upscale convenience store offering full-service gasoline and hearkening back to days gone by.
From The Gathering to the newly opened County Seat, food reigns supreme at Livingston. Chef Jeremy Enfinger says his new restaurant wouldn’t have fit anywhere else. “Coming to Livingston for the market, meeting the people and seeing what they had planned, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” says Jeremy. “This concept just wouldn’t work elsewhere.”
Jeremy set out to create a spot that paid homage to the era honored in Livingston. “I LOVE CURED MEATS AND WANTED TO CREATE A RESTAURANT THAT WAS A LOT LIKE A BUTCHER SHOP WOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE 1850s,” he explains. “Butcher shops then used every part of the animal without refrigeration. You would have salt cured or smoked or cased and fermented. That’s how I decided to focus on charcuterie.” Jeremy has paid special attention to honor the area’s heritage with his menu. “My food is simple food done right. There’s nothing cutting edge, it won’t scare people. It’s just good ingredients raised in this community used to make really great tasting food.”
Taylor Yowell, who operates The Farms at Livingston, located on the town site, provides fresh, local goods to the town’s restaurants. Composting is coordinated throughout the town and used to fertilize the farm’s crops.
At the Farmer’s Table Cooking School, Chef Matthew Sheeter showcases his appreciation of fresh ingredients learned from growing up with a large family garden. The farm to table education is a fun opportunity for couples, groups or families. Farmer’s Table offers indoor and outdoor cooking classes, wine tastings, corporate team building and special events.
Also now located on the town square is Livingston Barber, where stylist Kim Brown is bringing back old school barbering with hot razor shaves, haircuts and even custom cocktails. Livingston Barber makes “keeping it neat” easy and enjoyable!
While many exciting businesses are popping up all over Livingston, there’s even more on the horizon. Livingston Sweet Shoppe will be coming soon, offering old-fashioned candy and confections for the whole family. A microbrewery is in the works, and will house Livingston’s own beer. There are also plans for an “art barn” where artists will have the opportunity to rent out stables to showcase and sell their work. Residential real estate around the town’s 30-acre lake is also set to break ground this year with cottages offering a permanent taste of the Livingston life and an inn will make the Town of Livingston a surefire destination.
“WE WANT THIS TO BE THE TYPE OF PLACE PEOPLE WANT TO GO, A REAL DESTINATION,” says David. “It can be what it once was, but even better than ever.”