Livingston – Where everything old is new again
The place where Highway 463 and Highway 22 meet in Madison County was a fairly nondescript place just a few short years ago. Woods on both sides of the road, a pasture straight ahead. Typical country landscape. But developer David Landrum saw something more. A history buff since childhood, he was told the area, once known as Livingston, was the original county seat for Madison County. Intrigued, he got out of his truck one day and took a closer look. A distinct raised square surrounded by a stand of cedar trees told him there was more there than met the eye.
Landrum did some research and sure enough, that exact area was the county seat of Madison County from 1829 to 1833. There was a courthouse, and a bustling little town that gradually grew, then gradually disappeared.
“The railroad moved from Livingston to Clinton and Madison, and by the 1940s everyone moved away and the town lost its charter,” explained Landrum. Intrigued, and fueled by the beautiful land and strong demographics of the area, Landrum began to dream, then to plot and plan. “I wanted to rebuild the town.”
The Town of Livingston now sits where those two highways intersect, and to happen upon it feels like going back in time. The 500-acre Town of Livingston development features period buildings that look like something straight from the 1830’s.
“One of the first things we did was to hire architects out of Atlanta who have experience with restoration,” said Landrum. “They came up with a design to put the town back, including putting the roads back where they were before.” The town is a nine-square grid of blocks and each street in the development is laid atop the place where the original streets once ran.
To encourage people to drive out and look at the area, a weekly farmer’s market was established. Live music, cooking demonstrations and fresh, local produce, grass fed beef, farm eggs and more drew patrons to the property where they could see the sweeping landscapes for themselves.
The first phase of building included 73,000 square feet of restaurant, office and retail space. The Gathering, an upscale family-style restaurant run by Bowen Eason, is supplied with fresh produce from the Farmacy, a small farm on the development run by Taylor Yowell.
A mercantile store features the typical convenience store fare along with fresh produce and a wide selection of craft beers along with fishing tackle, bait, gardening supplies and gifts. There are gas pumps out front, but not self-serve. Instead, attendants pump the gas for you and they’ll check your tire pressure and clean your windshield if needed.
Also open in the Town of Livingston is a barber shop, sweet shop, florist, spirits shop, and the Farmer’s Table cooking school. There is office space as well, including Landrum’s office for the Town of Livingston development and Primerica.
The farmers market is still open each Thursday evening in the spring and fall from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., with live entertainment weekly, cooking demonstrations by area chefs and a wine garden tucked under the towering cedar trees. As the sun sets, twinkling lights illuminate the area as old friends catch up and new friends are made. “It’s our goal to have one of the top farmers markets in the Southeast,” stated Landrum. A concert series was established a few years ago, with big name entertainment coming in for concerts on the property.
As you drive west on 463, the first thing you see before approaching the intersection with Highway 22 is a quaint white church. The 1907 chapel was first built as a United Methodist Church in Camden, then ended up on the campus of St. Andrews school in Ridgeland. A major expansion on campus didn’t allow enough room for the chapel, and Landrum was contacted about the possibility of moving the chapel to Livingston. The chapel is put to use each Sunday with a non-denominational services, and it’s popular as a wedding venue, as well as for corporate events.
Another building seen at the development is a shotgun house with office space. It features a porch for gathering on both the front and back of the building. One of the newer old-looking buildings features retail space, office space and tapas and wine bar. Regional Drywall, Inc. has leased the office space and Tulip Floral has moved into the retail space from their current space at Livingston. Life, a boutique fitness facility and a preventative medical clinic, is located upstairs.
The plans for the Town of Livingston continue to unfold. Future plans include a brew pub where Livingston’s own beer will be brewed. Construction on the residential cottages planned for the development should begin soon. “There are several other things on the horizon,” says Landrum.
The economic impact of the Town of Livingston exceeds $100 million. Over 200 jobs have been created and the number continues to grow as the development grows.