Lecturer Wilkie wraps up front porch conference

Published 2:02 am Sunday, October 23, 2016


On the second day of the Conference of the Front Porch in Taylor, speaker Carter Wilkie delivered a speech entitled “Front Porch Sprawl: Where Are We Going? Where Have We Been?,” which included passages about Oxford’s past, present and potential future.

Wilkie, who was born in the Delta, has now lived in Boston, Massachusetts for 28 years.

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In 1997, he authored the book “Changing Places: The Search for Community in the Age of Sprawl” which details how towns and cities can maintain their identity while still pursuing growth. He brought some of the ideas from this book into his lecture, including thoughts on how Oxford can expand and maintain its charm.

In keeping with the conference’s theme of front porches in America, Wilkie compared the locales in the South to their Northern counterparts, particularly in his current home of Boston. He noted that porches are used for more social purposes in the South.

“Porches aren’t really used in Boston,” he said. “You won’t see people on them. People are more attracted to the idea of having one than actually using it.”

Remembering old Oxford

Moving into the Southern realm, Wilkie waxed nostalgic about the Oxford he remembers from his past which included people sitting out on their porches and talking to one another.

“I don’t yearn for the past, but I would like to preserve (the town),” he said.

Wilkie then suggested ways in which Oxford can maintain its past while still looking ahead. Keeping in the spirit of the conference, he spoke about building more front porch communities to foster social neighborhoods. He also said that since the University of Mississippi is a driving force in Oxford they can determine the growth and spread of the town.

“Include neighboring towns that are worth preserving,” Wilkie said, citing Water Valley and Holly Springs as towns where Oxford’s sprawl can grow into. He praised Oxford for having destinations such as stores and restaurants that are destinations for tourists.

“Restaurants become a place to eat, which becomes a place to visit and eventually a place to stay,” he said.

Wilkie also noted that since he is no longer a resident of Mississippi he has no part in how the future of Oxford will play out.

Concluding his lecture, he said to the conference, “Those who live here need to shape the community.”