One of the largest and most important collections of country music memorabilia is finally going to get a permanent home, and it’s part of much bigger plans for a historic building in Marty Stuart’s hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi. The singer’s large archive of country music stage costumes, instruments, music, and other important artifacts is planning to be put on display in Philadelphia in a proposed Marty Stuart Center to be made out of a historic Coca-Cola building on Center Avenue in the central Mississippi town.
The Marty Stuart Center won’t just be a museum however. Marty’s “Congress of Country Music Hall” will include a theater for musical performances, and classroom space. Public and private funding has already been allocated to renovate the building, and restoration and construction work has begun on the outside, including revitalizing the building’s large Coca-Cola sign—a landmark of the town.
The historic building was originally built in 1926, and housed the town’s Coca-Cola bottling facility, and the offices of the local newspaper, The Neshoba Democrat into the late 1950’s. The original Coca-Cola bottler for Neshoba County also was the publisher of the newspaper. The Coca-Cola plant was eventually shut down in 1985 and the building housed a furniture store for a short period before eventually ending up in the hands of the county in 2003. The building was set to be demolished in 2009 to make a parking lot, but those plans were put on hold. Then in 2013, ownership of the building was transferred to the Industrial Development Authority of Neshoba County.
Project Approved, Funding Secured
A $1 million grant for the project was secured from the State of Mississippi in 2013, and an additional $500,000 worth of funds was approved this year. Along with local and private funding, plans for the Marty Stuart Center are moving along as planned. A $320,000 bid by Tyler Construction Group in Philadelphia to begin construction and restoration was accepted by the County, and work was begun on the building.
On April 2nd, Marty Stuart met with the architect for the project, Skip Wyatt, as well as Philadelphia Mayor James Young and other local officials to talk about the future plans for the Marty Stuart Center. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the day will come when a ribbon will be cut and the doors of this center will be open to the world,” Marty Stuart said. “I will count it a joy when Philadelphia takes its rightful place along side of the other Mississippi towns on the museum trail, opening day will be a great day. thank the state of Mississippi, the city of Philadelphia and all the Neshoba County officials who have worked so hard to bring this to pass.”
According to Mississippi State Senator Giles Ward, the fact that the project was able to receive state funding with so many other projects vying for state dollars speaks to the diligence of Marty Stuart and the local leaders involved in the project, and the importance of the project “It is a testament to Marty Stuart and the residents of Neshoba County that the leadership of this state recognizes the remarkable contributions of our native son and what this magnificent center will mean to our area and, indeed, the entire State of Mississippi. I couldn’t be more excited and feel honored to have played a part in helping get this project underway.”
Not Just Your Average Country Music Collection
Marty Stuart’s 20,000-piece archive of country music collectibles, clothing, instruments, and other memorabilia is not your average private collection. Aside from the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, it might be one of the largest country music memorabilia archives that exists, and Marty regularly lends the Hall of Fame items from the collection for the museum’s displays. As Marty Stuart told Country Weekly in April of 2013,
When I was in John’s [Johhnny Cash’s] band, the first time I went to London, I ran into a guy named Issac Tigrett who was the co-founder of Hard Rock, a Southern guy. And I went to the first Hard Rock and I saw The Beatles, The Stones, Otis Redding, The Who, all their stuff on the wall. And in my mind I went, “Well that’s just as important if it’s Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams, George Jones, and who on.” And so when I came back to America, I made it a mission. I mean it became my whole focus at that time. Get a record deal, start a band, make them look cool, and get all of the country music artifacts you possibly can and preserve them, lock them down, because they’re getting away fast.
Everything was changing in country music. The look of it, the sound of it, and this stuff was just a throwaway”¦The ultimate mission is not just to preserve this stuff, protect it, promote it, save it, but to get the music into the hands and hearts of young people that are coming through and [saying), “Well I want to do that, but they tell me I have to be like so and so.” But we’ve already got one of those. Be who you are, at any cost.
Marty Stuart’s collection is currently being kept in a warehouse facility and is not available for viewing for the public. Though most of the outside of the Coca-Cola building in Philadelphia, Mississippi will remain relatively the same as it is now, just upgraded, part of the facility will have the windows shaded to protect the vibrant colors of many of the artifacts, including the stage costumes.
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Construction and restoration on the outside of the building is expected to be completed by August 1st. Though no date has been given for when the Marty Stuart Center may open, the hope is that it will become a destination for country music fans from all around the country and world, and will make Philadelphia, Mississippi an important country music epicenter.