For Auld Lang Syne: Friends We Lost in 2010

It’s traditional here on MissPres to use the relatively quiet week between Christmas and New Years to look back over the events of the year, both good and bad. Hopefully this will help us take stock and get ready for the new year and new challenges ahead. The first list of the week is the saddest. Here we enumerate the old landmarks of Mississippi that we lost, sometimes due to accidents or acts of God, but mostly by acts of man.

This obviously is not an exhaustive list of historic buildings that were lost in 2010. The list was gathered from newspaper articles throughout the year, as well as word of mouth from friends around the state. If you know of other landmarks that should be included, just comment below and I’ll add those to the list.

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Hoopes House, Port Gibson, Claiborne (c.1845): This antebellum hall-and-parlor Greek Revival house sat behind the Methodist Church, just off of Church Street in Port Gibson, a town that loves to trumpet its love of architecture and especially its antebellum past. Unfortunately, the Methodist Church, which I’m told can’t fill its sanctuary due to the declining population, decided a couple of years ago that it needed a prayer garden behind the church instead of the old Hoopes House, so they went to the preservation commission, which said, “no, not really,” and then they went to the Board of Aldermen, which said, “Sure!” After an unsuccessful effort to find someone willing to move the house off, the house was demolished in the summer of 2010. So far, the site sits vacant and bears no resemblance to a prayer garden.

Beverly Drive-In, as it appeared in 2008

Beverly Drive-In Theater, Hattiesburg, Forrest (1948): One of the last and certainly the most impressive remaining drive-in theater in Mississippi, the Beverly was much beloved by the Hattiesburg community, but the owners failed to repair the damage caused by Katrina and the structure went into a steep decline. The Mississippi Heritage Trust included the Beverly on its 10 Most Endangered Properties list in 2007, but the increased attention from around the state and even around the country was unsuccessful in preserving this piece of mid-20th-century Americana. The Beverly succumbed to fire of unknown origin in October 2010.

Capitol Street Church of Christ, Jackson, Hinds (1947): I happened to stop and take pictures of this Gothic Revival style church on Jackson’s West Capitol Street in the fall, following up on a story about a fire in the building in June. At the time I posted the pictures, I still had hope that the building would be repaired, but a trip down Capitol Street in November revealed that the building had already been torn down and a new concrete-block structure was taking its place.

St. Paul Catholic Church, Pass Christian, Harrison (1970): A Modernist landmark along Scenic Drive in Pass Christian, this steel and stained-glass structure was built after the old St. Paul’s was destroyed in Hurricane Camille. Damaged in Katrina, but not, in my opinion, to a level requiring demolition, the building was left open for five years and then became the subject of great community contention when the diocese applied for a demolition permit. The permit was denied by the preservation commission, the denial was overturned by the Board of Aldermen, which action was overridden in a veto by the mayor, whose veto was then overturned by the Aldermen. Apparently there was also a lawsuit by congregants that moved more quickly than lightning through the justice system all the way to the state supreme court, which declined to get involved. The church building was demolished last week. Merry Christmas, Pass Christian!

Ebenezer Baptist Church (c.1880-2010), Holmes County

Ebenezer Baptist Church and Cemetery, Ebenezer, Holmes (c.1880): Built sometime in the 1870s or 1880s, this vernacular frame church building served its rural Holmes County community until it was completely destroyed in the devastating tornado that swept through from Warren and Yazoo counties up to the north central parts of the state.

Avent’s Gin, Oxford, Lafayette (c.1930): A landmark in downtown Oxford, the old cotton gin turned bar went down in flames in early March. Several MissPresers have admitted to either dancing on the tables here or observing others dancing on the tables.

Griffin Chapel [United] Methodist Church, Starkville, Oktibbeha (1926): Maybe I’ve just missed it, but I’ve been surprised to not see anything about the demolition of this major African American landmark right in downtown Starkville sometime this summer or fall. I happened to take a few pictures of the building back maybe two years ago on a quick trip through town, and I had noted at that time that the main sanctuary was apparently no longer being used. A large, and frankly ill-conceived, metal structure had been built on the back part of the property, and it seemed that all church functions had been removed there. A few months ago, I decided to swing down that side street, and saw that the old sanctuary, a sturdy and serious presence on the corner parcel, had vanished. I don’t know the history of the church, but the cornerstone noted that it was built in 1926, and given that it was right downtown, I would surmise that it has historically been the most prominent black church in town. All the more surprising that no note of its passing has been made in the newspaper.

Suttle Hall, MSU, Starkville, Oktibbeha (1967-68): Granted that this old men’s dormitory at MSU was more functional than fabulous, but it was still a repository of many memories and defined the college years for many alumni. It was also of incredibly sturdy construction–steel and concrete–unlike the new dormitories that are filling up this part of campus. Since the building’s demolition in July, I have counted at least three stories in the Clarion-Ledger about the housing shortage at MSU. None, of course, has mentioned how many housing units the university has eliminated in the demolition campaign of the last five years or has asked why those solid buildings were not simply remodeled instead of demolished.

(Old) Inverness High School [Central Delta Academy], Inverness (c.1925): This was personally the most distressing demolition to me this year, as the building’s owners responded here on MissPres to some alumni and other community members who had commented on a post about the building in the summer. For a brief moment it seemed like maybe the trustees of the school, which closed in June, would allow a little time for interested parties to come up with a different solution, but all too quickly that moment passed, and the entire campus was rubble by September when I passed through. The trustees of CDA officially go on my Wall of Shame for inexplicably rushing the demolition of the centerpiece landmark of Inverness.

In addition to those for which I have pictures, a few other lost buildings merit inclusion on the list.

  • Masonic Hall (New Era Lodge No. 13), Okolona, Chickasaw (c.1897)–included in the Okolona Historic District, demolished in April
  • Three downtown buildings in the Crystal Springs Historic District, including the Masonic Lodgedestroyed by fire in October.
  • Five buildings in downtown Grenadademolished for a parking lot in February
  • A number of buildings on the square in Calhoun Citydemolished in March, can’t say for sure why, just because.

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And several buildings that I suspect will be on next year’s list: Ceres Plantation House, whose owners were given an implicit go-ahead for demolition when the MDAH Board of Trustees declined to designate it as a Mississippi Landmark in October; and Cathrine Hall and possibly other buildings on the historic and impressive campus of the old Mississippi Industrial College in Holly Springs. While we can’t save every important building, especially when fire or natural disasters come along, we should be able to do something about buildings like Ceres and MIC. It takes hard work and imagination, but even more importantly, it takes the willpower to stand up to those who would destroy the places that are important to us. If Mississippi’s official guardians of history won’t do that, then who can or will?



Categories: Demolition/Abandonment, Hattiesburg, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Mississippi Landmarks, MS Dept. of Archives and History, Oxford, Port Gibson, Recent Past, Starkville, Urban/Rural Issues

9 replies

  1. A sad commentary on our state’s preservation ethic, where the only natural catastrophic loss was the Ebenezer Baptist Church…and the rest were the intentional result of bad decisions made by owners, local politicians, and probable arsonists. We can at least be grateful that the local commissions in Port Gibson and Pass Christian attempted to do the right thing.

  2. This is a more general comment about stewardship – I did notice that one of the earliest International Style buildings at East Mississippi State Hospital (Meridian) is now being demolished. Which leads me to a bigger question about state hospitals, operational or not – How does the state rate as a steward of these buildings?

    • I would say it all depends on the individual leadership at each site primarily, and secondarily, by the leadership at the Bureau of Buildings, which oversees most state construction projects. Some administrators really love their historic buildings and work to maintain them (most importantly) and ensure that new construction does no harm. While not perfect, MUW has had a strong tradition of caring for its amazing building stock. On the other hand, one arrogant and/or blind president of a college or state institution can do a lot of damage. I think the worst institutional blindness I have seen recently is at Boswell down at the old Sanitorium near Magee, where in the last decade by my count they’ve torn down three historic buildings–one designed by Theodore Link of the New Capitol–and one large farmstead.

      Boswell is the same agency as the East MS Hospital, the Dept. of Mental Health, a behemoth of state government that can throw its weight around with the legislature. This political clout is the only explanation I can come up with for why MDAH would have allowed this demolition campaign, although it’s not an excuse. MDAH has the power to landmark any state-owned building, but it doesn’t have the power to ensure the building is maintained, so a state agency that wants to get around it can just let the building become a safety hazard and then get a legislator to put pressure on MDAH to let the building be demolished.

      Just my two cents, and I hate to hear that about the hospital. Do you have pictures or know who was the architect?

      • The Dr. James T. Champion Building is the structure in question. Commonly known as Building B, it was constructed in the early 1950s and renamed for Dr. Champion in 1983. East Mississippi State Hospital has a photo gallery page on the structure’s demolition, although they state that the structure was demolished August 17, 2009. East Mississippi State Hospital also cut down a historic 1893 magnolia tree a month after demolishing Building B.

        Photo gallery link: http://www.emsh.state.ms.us/index_files/Page2134.htm

        East Mississippi State Hospital Eastern Exposure newsletter: November 2009; Volume 33, Number 3 (PDF): http://www.emsh.state.ms.us/index_files/EasternExposure-2009-11.pdf

        • The Champion Building was demolished by the approval of House Bill 1641, which called for its demolition and replacement with the new Robert Lewis Architects designed Dietary and Laundry Buildings.

          East Mississippi State Hospital Eastern Exposure newsletter: July 2009; Volume 33, Number 2 (PDF): http://www.emsh.state.ms.us/index_files/EasternExposure-2009-07.pdf

          • Actually, the Champion Building was an even earlier demolition than the one I saw last month (unfortunately without camera in hand). The building is (was) at the intersection of 48th Ave. and 20th St. It was looking really bad way back in the mid-80′s when I visited the building, and appeared vacant more recently. I believe it was originally a Women’s dormitory (?).

            It may be local legend, but I remember someone once mentioning that the early international style buildings like the Champion Building were designed by Chris Risher, Sr.

  3. Griffin Chapel was demolished in one day on MSU’s Homecoming weekend and the debris completely carted off the same day. The Starkville Daily News, which has not reported on the demolition of any historic building in at least three years (and there have been quite a few), did not mention Griffin Chapel’s demise. Griffin Chapel was the oldest African American church building in Starkville and is possibly the oldest congregation in Starkville (from what I have read and heard, there is no concensus on whether Griffin Chapel or Second Baptist is the oldest), though Second Baptist is slightly more socially prominant.

    There will be a post about Griffin Chapel appearing in January. I haven’t had the time to finish it with all the Christmas madness.

    Also, you can add some commercial buildings in downtown Corinth. I read a few weeks ago in the Daily Corinthian that a church demolished some structures adjacent to the church for some new construction. For next year, count on the demolition of the downtown Corinth area south of the tracks that the aldermen have moved to de-list from the historic district.

  4. Unfortunately, the preservation commission in Corinth was all in favor of the demolition of the buildings by Waldron Street Christian Church. Most of the commissioners, from what I gather, are in favor of the loss of the four blocks south of the railroad as well.

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