Entrepreneur/antique dealer saves historic area

A few years ago, Virginia Bouroughs, now 83, sensed a unique opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream and make a difference for a Mississippi River Delta town. Never hesitant to meet a new challenge head-on, this was her biggest project to date. Her eyes light up and the enthusiasm in her voice is contagious when speaking about the historic property she brought back to life – Carriage Square.

Borroughs’ background equipped her to embark on the renovation of the historic area in the Mississippi River Delta town of Helena, Ark.

In 1955, Borroughs and her family were victims of the Yuba City, Calif., flood. Borroughs went to the bank to apply for a loan, and was offered a job. She rose through the ranks to become, at that time, the only female senior vice president of a bank. She developed a program of seminars that were given throughout the country.

Borroughs retired from banking to open the Antique Gallery on Main Street in Seal, Calif. In her 2,500-square-foot shop, she carried fine china, rare jewelry, sterling silver, vintage clothing and many other collectibles. Collectors, auctioneers and families that were downsizing or settling estates sought her expertise. She sold the shop and retired in early 2005.

Borroughs booked a cruise on the Mississippi Queen, both to satisfy the need to relax and her desire to drink in the history that lies on both sides of the Mississippi River, from New Orleans all the way to St. Paul, Minn.

Borroughs says, “One of our stops in Arkansas was the town of Helena. I took the shuttle into town to check out the local antique shops. Even though I’d sold my shop, I’d been bitten by the antiques bug.

“The bus driver was delightfully describing the town as we drove. As we rode down Perry Street, he pointed out a home dating from 1895, filled with antiques and now used as a bed and breakfast, that was for sale.”

At that time, Borroughs was 81 years young, retired and living in California, but she couldn’t get the little Delta town of Helena out of her mind. “Everything I had seen and heard was still nagging at me, telling me to do something. So I did.”

She made an offer to buy the historic home she had fallen in love with. In October 2005, the Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast opened for business, with guest rooms furnished with the wonderful antiques that came with the house.

Borroughs had the opportunity to acquire the remainder of the block, four unattended, overgrown vacant lots and another historic home – the Solomon house – situated on three lots. The area was rezoned to “historical commercial” property, allowing the entire block to come alive again.

On two of the lots, she created the Victorian Gardens. The garden features a fountain, gazebo, stage, walkways and a formal lawn.

The Solomon House is a Queen Anne Victorian home. It is on the National Registry of Historic Homes. It is used and enjoyed for weddings, receptions, luncheons and other events. The entire second floor is devoted to shops featuring antiques, collectibles and gifts.

The entire block is now known as Carriage Square. Borroughs saved the neglected historic property, and brought it back to vibrant life. She was named a finalist for the Henry Awards, an annual award that honors individuals and organizations that have made important contributions to the state’s tourism industry in the preceding year. She was also named a finalist for the Arkansas Delta Byways 2007 Entrepreneur Award.

Borroughs says, “Though honored by the awards, my greatest reward is to have seen my dream become a reality and to have experienced Helena, its people, its culture and its dreams.”

For more information, visit www.carriagesquare.net.