History of Main Street

National Main Street Center

Established in 1980, the National Main Street Center is an outreach program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation which was established in 1966, as part of the National Historic Preservation Act. The National Main Street Center was formed in order to help save historic downtown commercial districts throughout communities in the United States.


Before World War II, our Main Street Districts were the economic and social hub of our communities. With the introduction of the interstate highway system and the growth of suburban development, more and more people moved away from the downtown area. In order to accommodate this migration, local business began moving from downtown to the shopping centers that adorned these new connecting highways and interstates. Across the entire country, downtown boarded up as Americans moved into shopping malls.

Changing Market

In order to mitigate the effects of the downtown exodus, many business owners tried to emulate what could be found in these turn of the century shopping malls. Soon downtown was covered in aluminum siding and over-sized, modern signs, but still no people. While focusing on the shift in appearance, downtown business owners had failed to focus on the shift in market, and downtown districts fell into even more disrepair.

Community Change

Left with neglect, downtown became even more lost in the shuffle in the economic boom in the 1990's where urban sprawl and cookie cutter architecture provided neither a sense of place or pride for local community members. One community looked just like the next along the interstate.

Start of the Center

With the start of the National Main Street Center, over 1,600 communities began looking back to the historic downtown as a source of community character, place, and pride. Main Street has once again returned as the cultural, economic, and social hub of many American communities.

Source: The National Trust for Historic Preservation

Main Street Program

The first attempts at creating a statewide Main Street Program began in 1984. After a few bumps, turns, and lessons learned, The Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) was launched in 1989, when the Mississippi Downtown Development Authority partnered with the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development (now Mississippi Development Authority). Scott Barksdale was hired as the first director and in 1990, six communities were selected as demonstration communities. Under the direction of Beverly Meng (1993-2007), the number of Main Street communities increased from 16 programs to 40 programs. As of 2011, under the direction of Bob Wilson, the Mississippi Main Street Association has 51 different communities participating in the program.

The MMSA continues to be the state's most effective economic development tool. Since 1993, there has been:
  • $4 billion in private and public investment
  • 4,688 new businesses
  • 27, 727 new jobs
  • 3,611 buildings rehabilitated
Source: Mississippi Main Street Association

Main Street Greenwood, Inc. was formed in 1995.