(Oxford, MS) A piece of Oxford and North Mississippi history is back open to the public to tell an important story.
Burns Belfry traces its origin to 1869 and was built by freed slaves after the Civil War.
This building came later, in 1910, and became an icon for African Americans in the region.
When the congregation outgrew the chapel, it fell into disrepair, until a famous citizen stepped in.
Years later, preservationists began their campaign to restore it.
”The first challenge was to get it donated. John Grisham owned it,” said Darlene Copp of Burns Belfry.
But the famous author saw developers making big changes to Oxford and put it in the hands of those who would restore and preserve it.
The job took ten years.
Today, it houses historical exhibits and will become an active part of the community once again.
”We’re gonna start operating it as an event center for non-profit organizations to have meetings and for people to have receptions,” Copp explained.
The Oxford-Lafayette Heritage Foundation joined with the Oxford Development Association to bring Burns Belfry back to life and give it a new mission to tell an old story to a new generation.
”It’ll be open as many days as we can find volunteers to staff it."
The congregation of the Burns Methodist Church moved to a new location in 1973, leaving this location to tell the story of the history of that congregation.