HISTORY OF LAUREL, MS
The City Beautiful
First settled by renegades and those on the fringes of society, this little village in the “Free State of Jones” would soon find a place in history all her own. As the Eastman, Gardiner, and Rogers families came down the rail lines from Iowa, they would settle in what would seem like just another stump-riddled encampment dotted with flowering Laurel bushes, deep in the Yellow Pine forests of South Mississippi.
Through their ingenuity and the support of the local settlers, they would build on the back of a sawmill a bustling city that would come to boast her place as the “Yellow Pine Capital of the World.” Crafted brick by brick and sapling by sapling into a shining beacon of arts, music, culture and the epitome of true southern hospitality, the little town in the woods became something else altogether.
Today the “City Beautiful,” whispers her tales of inventions and innovations that would transform industries, and of citizens who continue to shine a light all their own through the branches of the towering pines.
A Historic Past & A Bright Future
How Laurel became America’s “Home Town.”
For those who identify as small-town folks, the allure of oak-lined streets, quiet afternoons on the porch and lives lived among kindred spirits who know your name as well as your lineage, is both undeniable and ingrained at birth.
For Erin and Ben Napier, this innate sense of place and purpose led to a desire to bring others into the simple way of life that is deeply cherished in their small town in South Mississippi. From the porch of their beloved, craftsman home on one of the most beautiful streets in Laurel’s historic district they dreamed of a new era of prosperity and growth for the “City Beautiful.”
On January 24, 2016, their dream came sparkling into view as they told their story, and the story of their beloved city, through a national HGTV pilot called “Home Town.” Their goal was not to simply provide artistic inspiration, but to help others to see the beauty of small-town life and to encourage them to seek out opportunities to make an impact on the world, starting in their small town.
For the Napiers, the show is a natural next-step in their journey to bring their home town back to her former glory as a bustling sawmill town of the early 1900s.
Laurel, Mississippi is a town like no other, yet it tells a story that speaks to the heart of every small town across America. Many young people, seeking big opportunities, are abandoning the small town life in search of new possibilities.
Erin, an artist, and husband Ben, a woodworker, have spent their adult lives working to counteract this trend by contributing to their community through entrepreneurship, assisting in community development projects, and actively seeking out opportunities to improve the perception of their home town of Laurel, as well as their state. To them, and others like them, the intensely beautiful culture and people of Mississippi were simply waiting to be unveiled to the world.
Now, they are able to shine a light on the people, culture, architecture, natural beauty, and most of all, the small town spirit of Laurel, Mississippi and all of those who choose to call her home.
About Home Town on HGTV
“Home Town” tells the story of finding the perfect, historic home and the following transformation brought about by local architects, builders, and craftsmen under the direction and guidance of Erin and Ben Napier.
Erin and Ben have set out to introduce folks, one by one, to the benefits of purchasing a home in a small town and to highlight the opportunities available to them, no matter where they live. By introducing the newcomers to the local community, helping them to become involved in local initiatives, and by telling their own personal story of international entrepreneurial success attained from their Downtown Laurel studio, the Napiers help each new family find the tools, connections and hope they need to build a prosperous life in their beloved small town.
Watch Home Town on HGTV as they show us that “you don’t have to leave your small town to make a big difference,” or click here to apply to be on the show!
MEDIAN HOME VALUE
WHERE IS LAUREL?
INTERSTATE 59, HWY 84, HWY 11 & HWY 15
30 Miles North of Hattiesburg, MS
60 Miles South of Meridian, MS
- Home to MS’s oldest museum.
- Cost of living is 20% less than the national average.
- Unemployment rate is one of the lowest in MS.
OTHER FAMOUS FACES
Behind the scenes of Visit Downtown Laurel
Every day we see folks like you traveling through Laurel – stopping to eat, shop or play here in our very own “City Beautiful.” You stop us on the street to ask for directions or for tips on the best places to go, and the “can’t miss” spots for fans of Home Town.
Because of you, we decided to put together a guide to help you on your way – created by folks born and raised right here in Laurel, Mississippi, to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the awesome experiences our town has to offer. Have a question or want more details? Follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter – or send us an email!
Our Creators & Writers
Bethany Byrd is a Laurel & Jones County native, active adventurer, and lover of all things creative and handmade. She enjoys bringing together creative souls and encouraging those around her to “make it matter” in everything they do. Mother of 2 and wife of a fellow adventurer and creative, you’ll usually find her telling stories and guiding entrepreneurs in the heart of Downtown Laurel at The Shop Co.Work.
Keri Rowell is part of Downtown Laurel’s most historic business, Lott Furniture Co. A Laurel native and Historic District resident, Keri enjoys exploring all of the beautiful spaces and places in her Home Town, discovering the hidden tales buried deep within its history, and sharing them with the world. When you visit Downtown Laurel, you might just spot her out exploring, dreaming up the next story to share with you.
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