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Hattiesburg American

Have you met Larry? He keeps watch over this newly restored downtown Hattiesburg building

By Lici Beveridge, Hattiesburg American,


Meet Larry. He's been keeping an eye on Main Street in Hattiesburg since he arrived downtown this summer.

He may be a quiet guy, but he stands out to passersby who might give him a nod or a smile.

Larry, you see, is an elk. Or rather, Larry is a bust of an elk. A similar elk bust had once graced Main Street over the former Elks Hall.

The elk head was an important part of the renovation of the building at 623-625 Main St., which was renovated during the pandemic by owners Keith Starrett and Mark Shows.

"We both had wanted to live downtown," Starrett said. "But it's not going to work out where either of us are living down here."

Condominiums were in the original plan, but the two men changed their minds as the cost and availability of materials rose sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic, when renovations were underway.

"The building was in really good shape," Starrett said.

The new plan included fewer changes and the building became office space for a couple law offices, which occupy the second and third floors. A church rented the first floor, but is in the process of moving to another location.

Larry the elk is named after architect Larry Albert, who has been involved with much of the restoration of historic downtown properties and creating new ones throughout the city and state.

Albert also worked with Shows and Starrett on the former Elks Hall.

"Larry (Albert) has been watching over downtown for a long time now," Starrett said. "And we wanted Larry (the elk) to continue watching over downtown Hattiesburg. This Larry takes over where the other Larry leaves off."

The quest to find a replacement for the original elk head became important when the markings for the original elk could not be erased, even though the building was pressure-washed.

Starrett found a place in Colorado that could recreate the bust and had it delivered to Mississippi. It was mounted on the building in August.

While the original brick remains above the building's former storefronts, a unique design was handpainted on the first-floor facade by Hattiesburg artist Kym Garraway. The black-and-gold marble gives the building a fresh new look.

The elk was the final touch the building needed. Elk Hall was built in 1900 and was home to Elks Lodge 599 until the Elks moved to their current location on Elks Lake Road, taking the original elk with them.

The building was home to different businesses over the years, including offices for Hood Industries, which was in the building when Starrett and Shows bought it.

A second building was included in the purchase, which originally was a livery stable and mule barn. It later was a savings and loan. Other businesses also occupied the barn building over the years. That building is undergoing repairs.

Shows and Starrett were recognized in February by the Downtown Hattiesburg Association for the restoration work done on the building.

They were presented with the Outstanding Historic Rehabilitation Project award, given to "an individual, business, or municipality that has completed a historic rehabilitation project that continues the use of the building."

Do you have a story to share? Contact Lici Beveridge at . Follow her on Twitter @licibev or Facebook at .

This article originally appeared on Hattiesburg American: Have you met Larry? He keeps watch over this newly restored downtown Hattiesburg building

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