A Daddy’s Girl, A Southern Wedding, & Displaced Pigeons
When Flora’s last operating cotton gin shut down in the late 1990’s, it ended an era where the roadsides leading to the downtown were no longer painted white by the overflow of the cotton trailers. That’s when Our Story began. For decades prior, one could tell when fall had arrived by the constant hum of the machinery that processed Flora-area farmers’ cotton. But during those same decades, crop land was being turned into tree farms and subdivisions. Eventually, the owners of the gin, known as the Flora Gin & Mill Company, decided that there was not enough cotton being grown nearby in order to maintain operations. The equipment was then sold to a broker that moved it to South America, and the buildings were left vacant with no particular use other than provide a shelter for pigeons.
Chip Estes, who’s family had moved to Flora in 1968, returned in 1991 to live after moving to Texas upon graduating from Mississippi State University (MSU) in 1981. As a parallel to his energy career, he began acquiring several of the empty buildings in downtown in an effort to maintain the architectural uniqueness of Flora by preserving “Main Street”. The Gin property was acquired in July 1999, and it was basically used for equipment storage until his daughter became engaged in 2011. Without any forethought of an architect, a budget or a business plan (lesson learned), he mentioned to her that the building might be transformed for her reception. Thus began the eviction of the pigeons.
As the October 2012 wedding date loomed closer while construction continued, it became apparent that converting of an old cotton gin into an event venue was not an easy task. From pressure washing decades of cotton lint to installing essentially new everything while preserving the original “look”, it became quite an undertaking. And everything wasn’t operational until the day before the wedding and reception.
Since that day, we’ve continuously upgraded and added more amenities, including a bridal room. Plans are being made and implemented for other enhancements, including an outdoor live entertainment area. But the best part of creating The Gin at Flora Station has been providing a family-oriented venue where we’ve been able to meet thousands of awesome people. From weddings to proms, fund-raisers to class parties, and movie locations to business events, we’ve all had a great time in a restored historic building that was the first cotton gin in Flora.
Stay tuned for even more amenities at The Gin, as its future is just beginning!