Should auld acquaintance be forgot

Well, we’ve gotten to that season when we make lists of things that have happened over the past year in preparation for the new year. To start off the week, we’ll take one last look at old friends we have lost around the state. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, I’m sure, but it contains the major landmarks that have been destroyed (I should just say “demolished” since in fact all on the list have been demolished–I didn’t see any major fires or tornadoes this year). Not all of them were listed on the National Register, but most of them were recognized enough to merit attention in the local papers. Their loss shows how far we have to go as preservationists to educate public officials and private owners and also to help them find a viable use for these properties and a way to pay for maintenance and repair.

*** If you know of important buildings I’ve missed, let me know and I’ll add them to the roll call.

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(old) First Baptist Church, Natchez 
(1921-Oct 2009, Bost & Moss, architects/builders).
Listed on the National Register, this building sat vacant for a couple of decades with new hopes raised for its future on a regular basis. The last owners stripped the building of almost all of its architectural details under the guise of repair and then sold the building to St. Mary’s for demolition when the city came after them.

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George University Commons, USM, Hattiesburg
(1961-Aug/Sept 2009, Biggs, Weir & Chandler, Stephen H. Blair, archts.)
I understand this building probably wasn’t loved, and it’s not a spectacular building, but it held some interest on the campus of USM as a modernist structure in the midst of neoclassical buildings. I have no doubt that it will be replaced with a neo-neo-classical complete with Dryvet columns.

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First Methodist Church, Biloxi
(1949-Spring 2009, Landry & Matthes, archts.)
The latest church to succumb to the lure of mammon in Biloxi. First Baptist was the first to sell out to the casinos (or a middleman who they were shocked, shocked! to hear turned around and sold the property to the casinos) back in the 1990s, so at least the Methodists held out longer and had the excuse of Katrina and higher insurance rates.

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House, 112 Edgewater Drive, Biloxi
(1920-July 2009, Thomas Sully, archt.)
Designed by the same New Orleans architect as the 1891 Church of the Redeemer in Biloxi and the Gulf and Ship Island RR Offices in Gulfport, this sweet little Spanish Colonial bungalow had already had a monster addition at the rear and major damage from Katrina, but there was still hope it would be saved until this summer when it finally came down.

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Mississippi Hospital & Medical Services Building [Blue Cross-Blue Shield], Woodrow Wilson Ave., Jackson
(1954-Mar 2009, Powell S. Hall, archt.)
This was an interesting combination of classical with modernist design. I especially like the concrete awnings shading the windows, but I understand the interior was nothing, and the space was needed for the ever-expanding UMC/Health Dept. complex. Not the greatest loss of the year, but still a building I miss seeing when I drive past the site.

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(former) Abbeville Presbyterian Church [later Abbeville Town Hall]
(c.1920-Aug 2009)
I don’t have a picture of this building, but I thought it was a enough of a small-town landmark to warrant a place on the list.

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Speed Street School, Vicksburg
(c.1894-Apr 2009, William Stanton, archt.)
Listed on the National Register. I’m still in counseling about this one, and I’m not allowed to talk about it anymore. You can read my previous rants in “Speed Street School Demolition“, “Just to Clarify: Demolition ≠ Preservation” and “MissPres News Roundup 12-4-2009

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Yazoo River Bridge, Hwy 61, N of Vicksburg
(1950-June 2009)
A two-lane through-truss bridge in the way of MDOT’s 4-lane expansion of Hwy 61. I’m not sure why they couldn’t build a second bridge to supplement this one, but they didn’t. Ours is not to reason why . . . .

Yazoo River Bridge, Hwy 61 (photo courtesy MDAH)

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Lakefront Cottage, Sanitorium
(1922-Fall 2009, Link & Trueblood, archts.)
Congratulations to the Dept. of Mental Health for destroying one of only a couple dozen buildings in the state designed by Theodore Link, architect of our landmark New Capitol and the National Historic Landmark Union Station in St. Louis. This little gem was one of the finest buildings on the campus of the old state sanitorium, which is gradually being torn down by Mental Health (this makes three historic buildings in the last decade). Unfortunately, the building’s fate was sealed in the fall of 2009 when the Dept. of Archives and History issued a demolition permit for the building. Oh well, we can at least be thankful that the crummy little vinyl buildings Mental Health plans to build in its place won’t last 20 years and can thus be considered temporary structures.

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Finlay House, Greenville
(c.1872-Jul 2009)
Listed on the National Register. Demolished by the South Delta Regional Housing Authority, an entity whose mystery has yet to be solved–is it private or public or semi-public or quasi-public or none of the above? I’ve already had my say on this subject a couple of times, which you can read at your leisure (“Shame on the South Delta Regional Housing Authority” and “A Little Tidbit about the South Delta Housing Authority“)



Categories: Biloxi, Churches, Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Greenville, Hattiesburg, Hospitals, Jackson, Natchez, Schools, Vicksburg

8 replies

  1. While most of these are sad losses inded, I’m most surprised and shocked to see the Lakefront Cottage demolished without a whimper. One would think this could have been adaptively reused without too much trouble!

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  2. “Without a wimper” is a good description. Word on the street is that Mental Health had abandoned the building for pretty much the last 15 years or so, and now came to MDAH saying it was so deteriorated they couldn’t do anything with it.

    BUT as you say, was there any publicity about the demolition request or permit? One thing I think would be helpful with very small effort would be for MDAH to post the agenda for its Mississippi Landmark committee meetings and for its Board of Trustees meetings. This would at least allow people who care to be informed about possible demolitions or alterations to our landmark buildings.

    The whole thing is really strange.

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  3. I recognize the house on Edgewater Drive in Biloxi. It belonged to a friend of mine from high school. We had many great times there. The “guest house” out back was our favorite place to hang out and have slumber parties on Friday nights after football games. The addition wasn’t great, but was of particular necessity for this family as they had eight children! The family moved away many years ago and I didn’t realize it had been so badly damaged. I have a few interior shots of the house, though they probably all include teenagers doing silly things for the camera.

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  4. Well, eight children does explain it! Whew!

    As for myself, I was a very serious teenager, always studying and thinking about philosophy and the Great Works of Literature, so I can’t imagine what kinds of silly things y’all might have been doing.

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  5. Whatever happened with the Abbeville town hall? I drove through there the other day and was shocked to find it gone. There is so little left in that place that its demolition really makes a huge difference. On a more positive note, however, the old Ruth and Jimmie’s grocery there looks like it has a new tenant, at least for the time being.

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  6. Well, huh, for some reason I thought I had posted an article back in the summer about this demolition, but looking back, I don’t see anything. I’ve failed, completely failed as a news roundup go-to-guy!

    Anyway, from what I recall, the town got a $100,000 grant from MDA (MS Development Authority) to restore the building, which was an old church, as I recall. Then when they got into it, they decided it was too termite-ridden to proceed, so they tore it down with the intention of using the money for a new building.

    Not sure how I feel about that–I’ve heard lots of stories about how bad the old building is and then when I go in and there’s like one or two spots that need repair. Architects and builders usually don’t want to deal with an old building either and can often turn an owner against a perfectly repairable old building by saying “termites.” But on the other hand, maybe it really was that bad.

    I can’t judge from here, only raise unanswerable questions. :-)

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  7. No, not the Yazoo bridge!!!!!! It’s all so horrible!!! Negativity totally warranted, esp. about the sanatorium building.

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  1. Auld Lang Syne: Friends We Lost in 2011 « Preservation in Mississippi

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