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Visit Oxford Moves Into Historic Building Near the Square

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For the first time since the Civil War, the historic Freeland-Stone law office will not be housing a law firm. It will become the city’s visiting center for tourists in September.

Visit Oxford will be moving from its location at 415 South Lamar into this building by September 8, according to Mary Allyn Hedges, director of tourism.

She said, “This office will be the perfect place to start tours and will provide a facade that will generate much more foot traffic than our current location allows. The history of the old Freeland law Building is a great tie-in to tourism and using the space for a visitor’s center is the perfect way to show visitors and residents alike a first-hand look of the history of Oxford.”

L.Q. C. Lamar's stepping stone.
L.Q. C. Lamar’s stepping stone.

The building is undergoing some renovations such as new roofing. Its structure is reminscent of the Ventress Hall on University of Mississippi campus.

This building was constructed well before the Civil War and is one of the few buildings to survive the August 1864 burning during the Civil War. Noted lawyers such as L.Q.C. Lamar held office in that building. L.Q.C. Lamar’s stepping stone that he used to get up on horses remains in the front lawn.

Among these influential men was Phil Stone who encouraged William Faulkner’s literary career; he had his secretary type and send Faulkner’s early works to magazines. Below is a documentary of the friendship between William Faulkner and Phil Stone by Sarah Simonson.

Phil Stone & Faulkner from Sarah Simonson on Vimeo.

In 1959, Stone began working with Hal Freeland, father to Tom Freeland who too held office there. Hale Freeland, his son who also practiced law with him for a few years, said, “Several of Faulkner books were typed there, I understand, and Faulkner would visit Stone in the building appreciating the fact that little ever changed with the building.”

He recounted how their father started working or Stone in law school and became his law partner. His father enjoyed mentoring law students as they worked as law clerks in the office.

Tom Freeland and his wife Joyce Freeland were the last practicing lawyers in the building.
Tom Freeland and his wife Joyce Freeland were the last practicing lawyers in the building.

“Like Stone, my father loved law books, and, as a result, the books still go from floor to ceiling, an anomaly in the computer age with online legal research,” said Freeland. “At one time, the office had a better law library than the law school.”

Stone passed on to Hal Freeland his philosophy that if one takes care of his clients, the law business would take care of itself. Freeland said this led to expensive, risky cases that created new laws including a case his constitutional law professor George Cochran chided him in class about.

“Notwithstanding, George Cochran helped prepare the case through which school districts in north Mississippi received better funding,” said Freeland. “It was a case which was brought to the firm by a graduate student in the school of education, which my brother and Father argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and won. It was one of their proudest moments and I was glad to be there along with my mother to hear the argument.”

That case was Papasan v. Allain, decided July 1, 1986.

William Faulkner, picture by Jack Cofield
William Faulkner, picture by Jack Cofield

Freeland also remembers how like Stone, Tom Freeland loved the Southern culture and literature. He led the Faulkner Conference attendees on a tour through that office and the North Mississippi hills and the Delta.

He said, “My brother’s identity was caught in the love for Oxford, the law office and its history. He enjoyed sharing until his recent death. He insisted on coming home, probably too soon, after a major surgery in New Orleans.”

To him, the building holds personal memories just as much as it has historic stories.

He said, “I have mixed feelings about it not being used as a law firm, having grown up in the office. It was the oldest law office in continuous use as a law office until my brother’s death in February.”

Stone roofing is rare on most buildings, and this valuable roofing will be added to the new visitor's center.
Stone roofing is rare on most buildings, and this valuable roofing will be renovated on the new visitor’s center.

Dave and Anne Fair purchased the building from Joyce Freeland, Tom’s widow. They restored the building to its glory when Dave’s ancestor, William Van Amberg Sullivan, built it and practiced law in there since 1870s. Tom had kept a framed copy of the correspondence related to their family in the office.

“The building has a long history, connected to the University, the practice of law and the culture of the area. I suppose that is what draws people here and which is why Faulkner, Phil Stone, my brother and Father thought of Oxford as the center of ‘their’ Universe,” said Freeland.

Visit Oxford’s location on South Lamar was the starting point of Double Decker bus tours with Jack Lamar Mayfield telling the city’s history. To Mayfield, a longtime native and local historian, the location change is positive.

Mayfield wrote in his column “A Sense of Place” in the Oxford Eagle yesterday: “I cannot think of a better building in Oxford for the home of our tourism office. Many other buildings in Oxford do not surpass the history of this building in Oxford.”

By Hedge’s estimation, Visit Oxford is scheduled to move in by September 8. It will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony there in October.

For more information, see Visit Oxford’s website.


Callie Daniels is the senior managing editor at HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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