Cowan Music building site

The tiling for the Smith Grocery Store, located along the Cowan Music building’s vacant lot on Main Street, is one marker of the building’s long history.

Whether you thought of it as an asset or a detriment, the City of Greenwood lost a bit of its history this week.

The former Cowan Music building at the corner of Main and Market streets was demolished Monday by a construction company hired by the city.

Now all that remains is a vacant lot, the ghost of the building that once was. People who live and work near the vacant lot hope it’s a new beginning for 100 W. Market St.

“That corner was part of the integrity of downtown,” said Mary Carol Miller, an author and local historian.

“You don’t want to lose any of those buildings,” Miller said, referring to a block of buildings  downtown that have maintained a long presence.

Though the outside of the former Cowan Music building appeared fine, the building had degraded inside and posed a danger to the structures to either side.

Given its historical longevity, the city had first tried other options before eventually demolishing the building.

The exact date the building was constructed is unknown. Donny Whitehead, another local historian, said the building had been in existence since at least 1892, when it appeared in a map by the Sanborn Map Co., which made maps for insurance companies. Digital copies of Sanborn maps are maintained by the Library of Congress.

The building  was “quite a few things” in the 20th century, Whitehead said.

Residents and workers of nearby businesses are hoping the vacant lot will be put to good use.  On Facebook, some have suggested the lot be turned into a pocket park, an area of green space among pavement and buildings.

That idea of a green space, or a general public gathering space, has been embraced by some of those who work nearby.

Taylor Bowen Ricketts, owner of Fan & Johnny’s restaurant  across Main Street from the vacant lot, said, “I think that it would be a great space for public art.”

She suggested the lot could be used for a monthly maker’s market for artists and food vendors.

Dale Riser, an architect and partner of Beard+Riser Architects, also across Main Street, suggested several ideas: “I think some sort of public space, like a garden space or an area with some shades. A mini-Rail Spike pavilion-type thing where you could have a smaller music venue, a one-act play.”

“We just don’t need dead empty spaces in town, anywhere,” he said. “We certainly don’t want it in the core part of downtown.”

Rebecca Touchstone, the owner  of Howard & Marsh Exchange, a home decor boutique on Main Street, was also thinking green.

“I would love to see green space, some plants, some trees,” she said. Her mother, Barbara Perry, who works at the store, agreed.

The lot is still owned by Brenda Cowan Smith, even though the city demolished the building. Neither Smith nor her brother, Bertron Cowan, could be reached for comment about plans for the lot.

The city maintains that  Smith is responsible for the city’s cost to demolish the building.

Riser is concerned that the corner lot may remain vacant.

“It’s unfathomable to me that a city has no power to do something in a situation where an owner basically walks away,” he said.

Touchstone is more optimistic, saying that either Mayor Carolyn McAdams or Brantley Snipes, executive director of Main Street Greenwood, could persuade Smith to sell the lot or have Smith revamp it herself.

“I know something good is coming,” she said.

The structure at 100 W. Market St. housed quite a few businesses over the years.

In 1936, the corner building was A. Davidson and Sons, a clothing store. The corner building was Smith’s Cafe from 1942 to 1950 and Mavic Grill from 1954 to 1957.

For a short time in the 1960s, Dr. Tracy Moser, a dentist, operated a practice there.  Throughout the 1970s, it  was the hub for Short Street Realty.

It was in 1984 that Bertron Cowan, an instrument repair technician at Mississippi Valley State University who is now retired, opened his music store in the corner building.

It’s unclear when the building began to deteriorate.

“We’ve been dealing with them probably seven to eight years,” said Victor Stokes, the city’s community development director.

•Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or

(2) comments


Too bad we can’t move this quickly on the old Midway hotel. How many years will the taxpayers be denied the use of the Street next to it? Also, what about the eyesore of the half demolished old Mississippi Printing building? What a lovely sight to view when leaving the public library.

Old Buffalo

There is a relatively easy fix for this. Since Mrs. Smith has already essentially walked away from the lot convince her to sign a quit-claim deed to the city. Then the city can do what it wants with the lot. The city gets the lot and Mrs. Smith is off the hook for the demolition costs.

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