Hattiesburg, founded in 1882 and incorporated in 1884, is the fourth largest city in Mississippi, with a population of about 50,000. Early settlers to the area, who were of Scottish, Irish, English, and African descent, came from Georgia and the Carolinas, attracted by the vast acreage of virgin pine timberlands.
The "Hub City" is the educational, retail, and medical center for more than a quarter of a million people who live throughout the southeastern Mississippi region, and is home to the University of Southern Mississippi.
The city and many local organizations are committed to preserving the historic heritage of the downtown area and city neighborhoods while promoting economic redevelopment. There are four historic districts and a number of individually designated historic resources.
Among other projects, the City of Hattiesburg has recently worked to restore the 1929 Art Deco Saenger Theater, which was unveiled with a gala reopening in November 2000. Now used as a performing art venue, the Saenger is one of the anchor projects for downtown revitalization that brings the public into the downtown area after business hours.
The city is also working in partnership with the 2003 Leaders for a New Century Class, sponsored by the Area Development Partnership, and with University of Southern Mississippi faculty and staff and other community leaders to establish a Freedom Summer driving tour.
Hattiesburg was Mississippi's largest Freedom Summer site in 1964 for civil rights activities, including registration drives, rallies, marches, and demonstrations, and Freedom Summer Schools, which at the time enrolled 600 youth. The Freedom Summer Trail was officially inaugurated on January 22, 2004, the beginning of the 40th-anniversary year of Freedom Summer.
In 2000, as a part of its economic strategy, the Hattiesburg Downtown Association created an arts and entertainment district in the historic downtown. A bottling company factory was recently restored and has reopened as The Bottling Co., a music venue large enough to bring in top road shows. Arts Walks also bring visitors Downtown.
Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2008.