The asphalt expanse of Interstate 59 runs through Laurel, Mississippi, but Tom Landrum taught his children the most interesting things are found on the smaller roads. One destination he loves sits along a two-lane state highway (MS 15) about 4.5 miles south of Laurel. There, you’ll find a long brick building under a “Landrum’s Country” sign and a cluster of metal-roofed frame structures. Look closely and you might spot a windmill and the steeple of a small chapel.
This is Landrum’s Homestead & Village, a 30-acre attraction in Pine Belt country that pays tribute to the region’s history – and to the vision of Tom Landrum, who passed away in 2019. Tom’s family continues the business that he started in 1984, though it looked much different back then, according to his daughter, Deborah Upton.
“My parents had always taught us how important history is,” Upton says. “The homestead started as a family project for the grandchildren. My dad said that the grandchildren just wanted to play games and watch TV and didn’t realize how people had to work. So, Dad took the grandsons into the woods to cut trees, and then he had a portable sawmill come in and saw the logs into boards.”
They started out manufacturing handcrafted pine furniture for every room in the house. But, while the product reflected Laurel’s history in the timber industry, the store lacked much of a reason for customers to linger. The first building project, a cabin, coincided with a store holiday promotion.
“We had a big Christmas event that started the weekend after Thanksgiving,” Upton says. “Dad raised the sides of the cabin that day, and that was the start of the homestead.”
One project led to another and soon exploring the new buildings became part of the customer experience.
“People would say, ‘I’m going out back to see what Tom has done,’” Upton recalls.
The homestead began to grow and evolve into a unique tourist attraction.
The Landrums also relocated and restored existing structures, including several cabins over 100 years old. They decorated the completed buildings with antiques from their own collection.
“Mom and Dad had always collected old stuff,” Upton says. “Dad had some blacksmith tools that belonged to his father, so he built a blacksmith shop.”
Over the years, the family added other working features to the property, including a water-powered gristmill, a wind-powered well, and a barn stocked with chickens and other farm animals.
The homestead became so popular that the family could no longer treat it as a hobby.
“We had schoolteachers that wanted to bring students, but our insurance company said we needed to get amusement park insurance first,” Upton says. “At that point, we decided to make it official.”
The family scaled back the furniture production and now specializes in handcrafted farm tables, sideboards and chopping blocks.
Today Landrum’s Homestead & Village comprises more than 85 buildings and displays. Visitors of all ages find something of interest to explore. There’s a one-room schoolhouse, a nature trail and wagon rides, gem mining, a laser shooting gallery, antique farm equipment, a maze, a fire tower, a general store and trading post, and a “mystery house” where guests appear to defy gravity. The chapel, reception hall and other pavilions can accommodate practically any gathering, from weddings to corporate events.
Learning opportunities are everywhere. Scheduled groups watch demonstrations of blacksmithing, steam-engine operating, corn grinding and biscuit-cooking on a woodstove. Partnering with U.S. and Mississippi forestry agencies, Landrum’s also features exhibits about the local timber industry and the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps in reforestation.
With three major events – Christmas at the Homestead, Christmas Day Camp and Christmas Candlelight Tour – happening between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the holiday season is a particularly enchanting time to visit. Tiny lights illuminate the buildings as guests experience live entertainment, handmade crafts, caroling, candlelight tours, hot chocolate and visits from Santa.
Whatever the season, Tom Landrum’s vision remains very much alive.
“He wanted a place where families and individuals could come together and have a great experience, learn something and have fun,” Upton says.
Upton and her family – including her mother Anne, brother Bruce, sister Susan, and son Josh – continue welcoming guests from all over the world. And the homestead shows no signs of going away.
“All these years later, we’re still adding to it,” Upton says. “It’s a project with no end.”