Jackson: Then and Now
JACKSON, Tenn. — In a WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News exclusive, reporter Josh Robinson takes a look at all the changes that have taken place in the City of Jackson over the years.
Downtown Jackson used to be the epicenter for shopping, eating and all sorts of entertainment.
“All the businesses were down here. There wasn’t anything else. I caught a Greyhound to the bus station and came right here,” Mitch Carter, who has worked in Jackson for 60 years, said.
Some pictures prove just that, but as time has gone by, the city has had to change.
“Retails started moving from downtowns into suburb areas and as that happened, downtowns either died or found ways to reinvent themselves in other ways,” Stan Pilant, the planning director for the City of Jackson, said.
So how has downtown Jackson reinvented itself?
Let’s start on Lafayette Street. Now, you can find city court and, just a few buildings down, TLM Associates. But before that it was a Dollar General, and before that it was a JC Penney.
“Our town is an old town but it’s a new town, so many new things are going on right now, it’s just an exciting time to be in Jackson, Tennessee,” Carter said.
Just a block over, on Main Street, is the Madison County Courthouse. At one point, it had a steeple, but today it’s just a flat roof.
Across the street is Jackson City Hall, which has been there since 1998, but before that it was a Woolworth’s and other buildings.
“I remember the day they imploded the bank building, which is something you don’t see often, but it was pretty amazing to see them, see the charges, and see the building just fall down, and it fell down with pretty much any consequences,” Pilant said.
And further down Main Street used to be a Jaco’s, and James Shoe Hospital is still there today, but the ComeUnity Cafe and Jackson mural are there now.
“There’s still room to grow, there’s still things to do, but for the most part it’s in the best shape it’s been in in years,” Pilant said.
But downtown isn’t the only place that’s changed.
Here’s a picture of the Highway 45 Bypass. The top right corner is where Walmart is now, and the left is Vann Drive.
And the bypass isn’t the only place causing a little road rage in Jackson.
In 1922, there was a train trussel over Highland.
“There was very low clearance, so 18-wheelers, when they came in, would have to let the air out of their tires so they could get under that,” Pilant said.
Carter also remembers some sadder times in downtown.
“The smoke was coming through here and out, and we walked through the front door and I really thought my studio was going to burn down. That’s a long time ago, but that’s a really a hard, hard, hard feeling,” he said.
Both men have some high hopes for the future of downtown Jackson.
“We also know change is inevitable, so if you’re going to be viable in the future, you have to adapt to the changing needs of people,” Pilant said.
“Right now, our New Southern Hotel. I’d love to see it open back up as a hotel and maybe a convention center downtown by the civic center,” Carter said.
And you can go on your own little history adventure in downtown Jackson. Several of the buildings have black placards that tell you what’s been in the space over the years. If you have a free Saturday or you’re just looking to kill some time, take a stroll downtown and learn more about the Hub City.