Well, other than an ongoing gusher of oil spilling into our Gulf, destroying wildlife, killing my redfish, fouling beaches and marshes, and an early-season hurricane washing it all in faster, what else has been going on in our Magnolia State this week?
I should have known that right after I said something nice about the Hattiesburg American, it turned around and published an editorial that I would have thrown down in disgust if I had read the actual paper copy. As you recall, last week I gave credit to the HA for sticking with the Eaton School story even though city officials seem strangely unconcerned about the roof being left off the building for weeks on end because of contractor and/or architect negligence. But now the American (“To save or not to save“) is questioning whether the building just needs to be demolished because of the structural damage caused by the LACK OF A ROOF when the contractor got the first roof pitch wrong and tore it off without making any arrangements to protect the building.
The question at this point–the most obvious question that I can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s not being asked–is not how much money has been or should be spent on the project, the question is, what is the name and phone number of the contractor’s bond company? That question should have been asked back in January or February when the contractor’s first error was discovered, and failing that, it should definitely have been asked when city officials drove by the school for weeks and weeks and saw no roof on the building, no progress, no workers, no nothing. This kind of situation is exactly why contractors have bond companies who can pay up when they mess up on a project. Getting a roof pitch wrong is a major screw-up, not a little minor “historical requirement.” Leaving a building unprotected is a second major screw-up. I don’t know the politics in Hattiesburg, but something ain’t right here.
Over in Meridian (and I almost hate to say this now that I’ve been burned by the American), the Meridian Star has run a two-part series by Jennifer Jacob Brown called “Threefoot Building: Looking at all our options” that is perhaps the most comprehensive and even-handed look at this particular historic building and its future but also a good example of how to think through difficult preservation challenges and get your facts right. In Part I, the Star examines the what demolition would involve, the various historical listings and designations (including the recent National Trust 11 Most Endangered List) and what they each mean, and delves into the he-said-she-said about the Meridian mayor’s calls to MDAH and MHT about possible demolition. Part II looks into various opportunities for developing the building, including tax credits, grants, and developers. There’s also a helpful Threefoot Timeline to keep dates and facts straight. Thank you, Meridian Star, now please don’t turn around next week and say you think we should just get rid of the building.
I forgot to mention this article and the follow-up letters to the editor a couple of weeks ago but wanted to pull it in here before it goes into the Clarion-Ledger archives. “Once-sickly children recall Preventorium” tells one of the many stories of the tuberculosis sanitorium established in the 1920s down near Magee. Now operated by the Dept. of Mental Health (who tore down the Theodore Link-designed Lakefront Cottage last year), the large campus took in patients including children who were thought to be at risk of developing tuberculosis:
Between 1929 and the early- to mid-1970s, the sanatorium’s sister facility was the Preventorium, an institution yoked to a national movement to halt the spread of tuberculosis, or TB, in children – often those with relatives who had the disease.
. . . .
In the 1930s, Mississippi’s Preventorium kids rose at 6:30 a.m. to a daily regimen of “personal hygiene,” exercises, meals, rest in bed, milk breaks, school, outdoor play, story hour, and bedtime by 7:30 or 8 p.m.
There were frequent encounters with cod liver oil.
“But you got peppermint candy as a chaser, so that was good,” said author Patti Carr Black of Jackson, a Preventorium child in the late ’30s to early ’40s.
Patti Carr Black, many of you will know, was for many years the director of the Old Capitol Museum and was the author of Art in Mississippi, published in 1998.
Follow-up letters-to-the-editor from alumni of the Preventorium flesh out the importance of the place in the lives of many Mississippians:
“Petunias, potholes–Raymond mayor handles it all” is a really nice profile of Raymond mayor Isla Tullos, who, in addition to sprucing up the sweet little community college town of Raymond, has also served on the board of the Mississippi Heritage Trust (and I believe was president in the early 2000s. Congratulations, Isla!
Williams & Williams auction firm of Tulsa, Okla., hosted a commercial and historic real estate auction at the Eola in November.
The Eola, 110 S. Pearl St., sold to a high bidder for $4.8 million. The Guest House, 201 N. Pearl St., and the Prentiss Club, 211 N. Pearl St., sold to a high bidder for $800,000 each.
. . . .
Closing was to occur within 30 days of Dean’s acceptance of the bids. The bidders’ identities were not revealed since the sales were not final.
For more about this hotel and the auction see Tom Barnes previous post “The Gavel Pounds for the Eola.”