As you may recall from a few News Roundups back in December and January, the University of Southern Mississippi, which now owns the beautiful old Gulf Park College campus in Long Beach, wants to use its FEMA money to demolish the old administration building, one of the three remaining historic buildings on the campus. When I posted those, I didn’t have any pictures of the administration building to show you, but Mark Davis, who lives nearby and is involved with the Pearl River County Historical Society, volunteered to share some photos with the rest of us, and here they are.
As I mentioned in one of those two previous news roundups, the administration building sits behind the two front dormitories, forming the apex of a triangle and terminating the sightline from the beach road. I have seen all three buildings since Katrina, and to assert–as USM is–that the administration building is more badly damaged than Hardy and Lloyd simply defies logic and rational explanation. All were washed through by the surge, but the force of the surge was much more devastating on the two front buildings–washing out their entire first floors–than it was on the administration building.
Gulf Park College was also one of the first junior colleges in the state, organized in 1919 and opened in 1921, thus pre-dating the public junior college system, which was the first public junior college system in the nation.
My understanding is that both FEMA and MDAH have agreed that the three remaining Gulf Park buildings are eligible for the National Register. Now USM, FEMA, and MDAH are all in “consultation” as defined in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, in which everyone tries to talk USM out of demolishing the building. My prediction is that USM will listen and “take into account the effect of their action” but will end by saying, “But we just really have to!” and then tear the building down, using my tax dollars, which is such a stupid and useless destruction of a building that represents the very beginnings of the junior college movement in the state and which survived with aplomb not one but two massive hurricanes in the last 40 years.