MissPres News Roundup 12-21-2009

Since I skipped the News Roundup on Friday in favor of a bunch of King Edward pictures, and since this Friday is Christmas, when I hope all of us will be spending time with family and/or friend(s) instead of checking out the latest news on the internet, I thought I’d throw in a little roundup on a Monday so y’all don’t start feeling like you’re not getting your money’s worth.

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A new chapter in the Arlington saga–according to the Natchez Democrat (“Arlington owner files police report“) the City of Natchez has started cleaning up the property, and the owner Dr. Thomas Vaughn, who has neglected the property for many years starting even before the devastating fire in 2002, has some interesting things to say now that he’s been hauled into court for demolition by neglect:

“I didn’t get any phone calls or letters before the notice,” Vaughan said. “When you have someone being robbed and vandalized, it’s easy to pick on the one that’s being robbed.”

Vaughan said the house’s deteriorating condition is cause for distress.

“There is a venal, criminal element here,” Vaughan said. “(Vandals) are bent on destroying something they don’t own. It’s just sickening.

“We need a conviction. They’re destroying craftsmanship and history and that cannot be tolerated.”

I hate to be so unsympathetic in this time of peace and love for all mankind, but . . . one way to avoid being “picked on” would have been to fix the house, or if that wasn’t possible for whatever reason, sell it to one of the many people who have offered to buy it over the years so they could deal with it. Thank goodness the Historic Natchez Foundation helped get a roof on the house after the fire and salvaged everything, including contents and architectural details that could be salvaged before they were stolen or destroyed by the elements. Otherwise, this National Historic Landmark property wouldn’t have lasted even this long.

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Well, speaking of landmarks that have struggled and been vacant and deteriorated over time, there’s much ado in Meridian about the Threefoot Building project or lack thereof. As you may remember, the same company that has developed the King Edward Hotel, Historic Restoration Incorporated (HRI) has signed on to re-develop the long underused Threefoot Building, Meridian’s Art Deco skyscraper (designed by C.H. Lindsley, the same architect as Jackson’s Standard Life Building), with financial backing in the amount of $14 million from the city. There’s a reason I’m neither an accountant nor a developer, so I’m not completely clear what this backing means–it’s not a grant of actual money, but I think it involves the City acting as signatory to the loan, which means if the project goes bust, the City will have to pay up to that amount. The project would renovate the office tower into a hotel tower to give Meridian a downtown hotel that would work in conjunction with the magnificently renovated Grand Opera House.

This agreement was signed back in the early months of this year, significantly, before the elections, and before the current administration. The new mayor doesn’t want to be responsible for the loan, maintaining that the City is already in financial trouble because of cost overruns on the City Hall project and other woes from the financial crisis. So, this last week, the City Council held a public meeting to discuss the possibility of voiding the contract with HRI and the consequences of such a move, both for the City and for the Threefoot Building. According to the press reports, the majority of the audience was in favor of continuing the project, while it seemed a majority of the Council wanted to nix it.

Read all about the brouhaha in the Meridian Star, including the article about the public meeting, with a title that makes me very uncomfortable: “City may trash Threefoot” and the follow-up that seems more positive: “Smith: Threefoot could soon have full support.”

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The newly opened King Edward Hotel was the basis for another article in the Clarion Ledger, this one about the rapidly expanding opportunities for urban living in downtown Jackson, “Possibilities growing for urbanites.”

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The antebellum Ceres Plantation is once again facing demolition by its owner, Warren County, according to the Vicksburg Post in “Plantation house in disrepair, near demise“:

The structure has had a variety of uses since 1986 when the Warren County Port Commission won grants to create sites on the land for manufacturing plants, but now it’s in disrepair.

“If somebody wanted to move it, we’d be happy for them to do it,” said Johnny Moss, one of the five people appointed by Warren County supervisors to manage industrial properties and development. “All our options are open because of the cost of trying to maintain a house there.”

Planks are missing from the once-sturdy porch and several windows are broken. Commissioners believe tearing it down would be cheaper.

The two-story, six-bedroom house was built in the 1830s on land granted to Uriah Flowers, according to land records. It was a haven for women and children after the Siege of Vicksburg, then passed down to later generations of the Flowers family. In 1954, it passed to U.G. Flowers Jr. and was renovated most recently in 1978.

Man, it’s a wonder it’s still standing, seeing as how it has some broken windows and missing planks on the porch!

According to the article, the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History has looked at the building for possible designation as a Mississippi Landmark but tabled the issue. There is also an inaccurate assertion that such designation “would keep it from being marketed for commercial use”–this is not at all true. For instance, the King Edward Hotel is a Mississippi Landmark, and it’s pretty doggone commercial. Oh, the Standard Life Building in Jackson is also a Mississippi Landmark. Commercial? You betcha! Now, if by “commercial use” you mean that it might prevent the building being torn down and replaced with a metal warehouse, then yes, that might be a problem.

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Speaking of Mississippi Landmarks, it looks like someone over at Wikipedia has been a busy beaver, because they’ve got a list of the designated landmarks, along with links to the listed properties that give a little background information and sometimes a picture (see for instance, the entry for the King Edward). Not every property has a link, but many do–what a nice resource, although, if I might be permitted a slightly critical comment, wouldn’t it have been nicer if this sort of thing were from the very source itself, MDAH, instead of the not-easy-to-find static pdf listing on their site?

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An interesting article in the Clarion Ledger taught me something about the Civil Rights era in Jackson. I had always heard that Medgar Evers’ NAACP office was in the Masonic Temple on Lynch Street, near JSU, but apparently, his first office was on Farish Street, in the building more well-known as the longtime location of the Big Apple Inn. According to the article “City seeking grants to save Evers’ office,” Evers rented a few rooms in the building when he first started in his position as field secretary in 1954.

I’m glad there’s interest in preserving the building, and it looks like a fine building, but I also see the point of one of the commenters, who wonders why the Masonic Temple office isn’t receiving this kind of attention, when it was the site of the important years of Evers’ work. I assume the City is hoping to have a museum of some sort in the building, so that when Farish Street becomes a tourist hub, there will be some recognition of the history of the place, but I hope that in so doing, the more important site doesn’t get forgotten.

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Ok, to send us all off laughing, I’ll throw in this one. Seems that the folks in New York City who run the famous Lincoln Center have gotten all up in arms about the civic center in Brookhaven, county seat of Lincoln County, being renamed “Lincoln Center” from its old and incredibly boring as well as too-long “Lincoln Multi-Purpose Facility.” Read Gary Pettus’ “B’haven vs. NYC: Battle of the Lincolns” for a good laugh that will start your Christmas week out right.



Categories: Civil Rights, Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Jackson, Meridian, Natchez, News Roundups, Vicksburg

1 reply

  1. I have a love/hate relationship with Wikipedia. When I just want the bare bones quick info – I love it. If I want to follow the links on their sources to find dig deeper, I hate it because they don’t usually link you to the best sites to do further research.

    Thanks for the “Battle of the Lincolns” article. I like the author’s use of “local” with the “real meaning” following (hick, yokel, etc). Plus, the whole issue is one of those “truth is stranger (and, in cases like these – FUNNIER) than fiction”

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