Almost two hundred years after John Williams first laid claim to this special corner of the Mississippi Delta, the Winery at Williams Landing honors his vision with a new venue for fine wines and legendary hospitality. Located in the restored Fire Station #1, it sits just a few blocks south of the Yazoo River, hearkening back to the days when Williams Landing meant a warm welcome and a good time for all.
The Winery at Williams Landing is a small batch artisanal winery specializing in wines made from locally sourced fruits grown in Mississippi. Owners and winemakers Lonnie and Debbie Bailey carefully oversee every step of the process–from the crush, to creative blending, to the bottle–ensuring that their wines reflect the charm, dignity, and character of the old south. Even so, they utilize state-of-the-art techniques and equipment that allows their boutique fruit and grape wines to rival those of larger upscale wineries.
Lonnie is a life-long Delta native who has practiced law in Greenwood for 30+ years. Debbie was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but succumbed to the charms of Mississippi as a freshman at Ole Miss. Her “day job” is as a lab facilitator at the Mississippi Delta Community College Greenwood campus.
Lonnie began making wine several years ago as a hobby, and Debbie quickly developed the same passion for winemaking that Lonnie had and learned the processes. When they would share their wine with friends and family, it was almost universally suggested that they should consider a commercial venture. Eventually, that dream started moving toward reality. One Sunday afternoon the Baileys were casually scouting for a location that could potentially house a winery and discovered the former Fire Station #1 at 500 Howard Street in Historic Downtown Greenwood. Despite its run-down condition, they envisioned what it could be with a lot of TLC, and after months of restoration their vision has been realized. You're invited to stop by and taste the fruits of their labor (pun definitely intended), tour the facilities, and enjoy this character-filled setting.
Tasting Room open by appointment only. Call 662-455-5174, 662-299-8092 or 662-299-3164 to schedule an appointment for groups of four or more.
Twice in the 1890s, Greenwood’s downtown district was ravaged by fire, with entire blocks of businesses and homes vanishing in a few hours. Those who could rebuild did so with brick and stone, but the ever-present threat of flames and financial ruin remained.
As the 20th century dawned, this once quiet Mississippi Delta riverboat landing was poised to become the state’s fastest growing city, propelled by cotton fortunes and its ideal location in the midst of plantation country. Howard Street bustled with fine stores and new buildings and River Road and Grand Boulevard filled with columned and towered homes. Private and public investment was reflected in these proud structures, and all was well as long as their coal fireplaces didn’t cast sparks onto the rug or a stray cigar ash didn’t land on oiled hardwood. When the worst happened and the fire bells rang out, all hope rested on a primitive fire cart, pulled by volunteers on foot. A 1906 newspaper article described a frequent occurrence: “A house in Gritney was entirely destroyed. Several [men] tried to pull the hose cart through the streets, but gave out before they reached the scene.”
If Greenwood were to fulfill its potential, this sort of inefficiency simply wouldn’t do. In April of 1906, Mayor W.S. Vardaman headed for Memphis to pick up two “iron gray” horses, trained for the specific purpose of pulling the city’s new fire wagon. That cherished vehicle, costing $1530, would sport hoses, chemical tanks, ladders and everything necessary to furnish “a first class fire department.”
The new Fire Chief, Mr. Dauphin, and his two assistants, driver Fred Hill and chemical operator Tony Spencer, hitched up the horses and cantered about town, practicing their skills in anticipation of the inevitable calls for help. But each evening, they stabled the horses at Johnson Street’s Southern Stables and went home to their own families.
A nocturnal blaze meant someone had to roust them out of bed, gather the horses from their hay, hitch the wagon and hope for a water source when they finally arrived. A true firehouse was needed, and in September, 1906, the city advertised for bids. The lot chosen for Fire Station #1 was on the south end of Howard Street, just where Carrollton Avenue ended. It would be close by all the commercial enterprises and barely a block from the C&G depot and Greenwood Light & Gas. In 1907, contractor S.L.McGinnis began work on the two-story building, a solid brick edifice with massive arched doorways opening onto the street and the rear alley. The spacious downstairs housed the big fire wagon, its ladders and hoses. The three firemen slept in comfortable apartments upstairs, ready to slide down the brass pole when an alarm was sounded. The horses were stabled behind the Fire Station.
For 23 years, Fire Station #1 served the city’s emergency needs, along with Fire Station #2 on Carrollton Avenue, which opened in 1913. When the fire alarm rang, the horses were hurriedly hitched up and the huge wooden doors swung open onto Howard Street. It must have been a sight to see the stallions thundering east on Carrollton or north up Howard, the fire wagon careening behind them as the firemen hung on for dear life. In its first few months, Fire Station #1 answered 16 alarms and saved 50% of the property threatened, not a bad percentage for that day and time. The next year saw the number of alarms rise to 45. At the end of each call, the tired horses would pull the wagon back through the rear archway, where it would be washed and polished and ready for the next run.
By 1913, Model T’s filled the streets of Greenwood and the fire department obtained its first motorized American LaFrance “hose car” for $4500. The old horses and their wagon were moved to Fire Station #2, where they were frequently called upon when winter’s storms left the dirt streets so rutted that the heavy fire engine would bog down. In 1930, a new Fire Station #1 was added to the rear of the Art Deco City Hall at Church and Main Streets. The Howard Street station was deemed redundant and rented out to Greenwood Tin and Sheet Metal Works.
In the mid-1940s, the local chapter of the American Red Cross moved into the old building and the firemen’s bedrooms upstairs were leased for office space. For the next fifty years, those in need found help from the kind ladies behind the huge L-shaped counter in the Red Cross. When the Red Cross closed its doors in 1998, the future of Fire Station #1 looked quite dim. Many downtown storefronts were empty and traffic had moved out to Park Avenue and the highway bypass. Talk of a fire museum never developed into a viable plan. The years took their toll on the century-old station, as the bricks crumbled and the trim paint peeled away. Entire generations saw it, not as a local icon, but as a derelict structure, a shabby eyesore at the end of Howard Street. Even as the restoration of downtown Greenwood reclaimed the Irving Hotel, the Elks Club and numerous commercial structures, the Fire Station sat forlorn and sagging.
But not everyone had given up on the Fire Station. Local lawyer Lonnie Bailey, along with his wife, Debbie, bought the building in October of 2012, with plans to reconfigure it as a local winery and event venue. Holding their breaths as structural engineers examined the ancient nuts and bolts and beams and posts, they were rewarded with an “all clear” and proceeded to transform the Station into the Winery at Williams Landing. Old pieces of abandoned office furniture were refinished and pressed into service. The Red Cross’ long counter was topped with granite and rehabilitated for future patrons. The fire wagon’s arched entrances were restored, walls were freshly painted, lights and plumbing replaced, and, bit by bit, Fire Station #1 returned to life.
The sound of corks popping may have replaced the clang of the fire bell and the clatter of hooves and hurrying boots, but this special space that has meant so much to so many in Greenwood has come back, ready to welcome locals and travelers with a friendly atmosphere in a fascinating venue.
The Delta Series consists of wine made from locally grown blueberries. Delta Blue is perfectly crafted to let just enough of the essence of the fruit shine through.
These four wines–two red and two white–celebrate America's most unique musical genre, the Blues, that were born deep in the Mississippi Delta. Their names are a nod to this mysterious land saturated with harmony and blues legends.
Three Forks Red is a bold blend of red muscadines and cabernet sauvignon.
Highway 61 represents the best of the Deep South and the Pacific Northwest as a delightful blend of Mississippi white muscadines and pinot grigio that pairs well with grilled salmon, blackened redfish and Gulf seafood.
Barrelhouse Red is a fruity blend of red muscadines and merlot that pairs well with steaks, hamburgers and ribs.
12 Bar White is a crisp blend of bronze muscadines and chardonnay that pairs well with traditional Southern food such as smoked oysters, fried catfish and shrimp and grits.
Named for the three rivers that course around Greenwood, these wines are each muscadine-based and evoke an air of timelessness and palpable history tied to the waters that once carried steamboats laden with cotton from the nearby fertile fields.
Tallahatchie Red is made from 100% Noble muscadines grown in Mississippi. Noble grapes are the standard for red muscadine wine, which pairs well with traditional Southern dishes such as venison steak and smothered pork chops.
Yalobusha Gold is made from bronze muscadines grown in Mississippi. Known for their tart sweetness, these muscadines yield a white wine that rivals the best of the west coast whites in fruitiness and robust flavor.
Yazoo Rouge is made from a hearty blend of dark muscadine varietals that pairs well with traditional Southern dishes such as roast beef, pork, venison stew or spicy chili.