Wow! I can’t believe that we’re already at the end of January. Here’s a look at the news since our last round-up:
Usually, we keep things focused on Mississippi preservation news, but a big story out of Virginia deserves a mention. Preservationists there have been fighting to keep Walmart from building a new store on Wilderness Battlefield. The fight started in August of 2009. Last week, news outlets, such as the Sun Herald, reported that:
In an unexpected development, Walmart announced this morning that it has abandoned plans to pursue a special use permit previously awarded to the retail giant for construction of a supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield. The decision came as the trial in a legal challenge seeking to overturn the special use permit was scheduled to begin in Orange County circuit court.
I always love reading stories where preservationists come out on top!
Moving into the Magnolia State, but keeping ties to Civil War sites, our own Vicksburg made news nation-wide when two unmarked and unidentified graves were found by National Park Service officials in the National Cemetery. The section NPS officials were working in was opened for World War II and Korean veterans. I read the story in several places and at least one of them said that NPS officials will be investigating to find out if there are more. They will also be working to ID the veterans and mark their resting spots.
Up Oxford way, Ole Miss has plans to demolish Miller Hall to make way for a new larger dorm. Miller was built in 1960 to house about 120 athletes. According to the Northeast Mississippi Journal, the building is “a two-story brick-veneered structure.” I don’t know this building, but I do know that MDAH has to sign off on the demolition request. The paper noted this as well, and also reported that the building required asbestos abatement prior to the building coming down.
Up Holly Springs way, the South Reporter informs us that the local Main Street Association is working on a project that would restore a Mississippi Landmark building and find a new public use for it. The “Old Powerhouse and Jail Building” is right near Spring Hollow Park. Although only in the initial planning phases for the project, some early ideas about a use for the building would be an interior venue to tie in with events in the park and/or a tourism and chamber office. They are also considering having part of the building help support a farmer’s market. My only concern reading the article is that there was no mention of MDAH having to review and approve the plans before work can begin, but I’m going to stay positive that the Main Street group knows this.
In Jackson, the Clarion Ledger reports that the first part of the Farish Street Entertainment district project may not be opening on time next month. The current economic climate and the fact that the major developer behind the district has changed since it first started are both cited by the story as reasons for the delay.
Unfortunately for preservationists, the historic status of the buildings is also getting some blame. The Farish Street area is both a local and National Register district. Plans have to be reviewed by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. Any building that wants to take advantage of the preservation tax credits also has to be reviewed at the state and federal level. The Clarion Ledger reports that “[d]evelopers have said historic-building codes necessitated changes to things like windows and doors on some of the buildings, lengthening construction.”
Although Farish Street is a fairly high profile project pointing fingers at historic preservation causing delays, it’s not the only one. In nearby Clinton, the Clarion Ledger also reports that the historic preservation review process is causing delays in Olde Towne. A property owner is restoring an 1800s house that had been vacant for a number of years and is converting it into a restaurant. The exterior work he’s doing on the house itself has been approved, but he also requested permission to build a gazebo on the property. His plan is to use it as an outdoor waiting area and/or outdoor seating. The Clinton commission tabled their decision on the gazebo until they could visit the site in order to see how the gazebo plans actually fit on the property and within the neighborhood.
Reading the story, and knowing how commissions work, I disagree with the property owner’s view that the tabling of the gazebo request would force him to delay opening. First of all, the house itself will be the main restaurant. Second, it’s winter time. Assuming all the work is done on the house, the restaurant can still open on time and the gazebo, if approved, can be added later.
At a Meridian City Council meeting earlier in the month, city officials were updated on the new “drop dead” completion date of the city hall restoration project begun in 2006. The article doesn’t say how many times the “drop dead” date has changed, but the last one they were using was sometime in February of this year. It sounds like the crew is working hard to make up for previous delays. The new completion date is in late May.
A couple of stories out of Biloxi since the last round-up.
First, the Sun Herald reports that the restoration of St. Michael Catholic Church is nearly complete and that they were planing a re-consecration service for this past Thursday evening. Although not quite 50 years old, I think most everyone would agree that this is an architecturally unique structure – with its scalloped roof and the stained glass “columns” decorating the circular sanctuary.
An update on a story in Biloxi that earned a special post a little over a week and a half ago. The Sun Herald ran a follow-up story on the fires that claimed three buildings. I had a chance to see the buildings in person and took pictures to share with everyone. While the damage is pretty severe, enough of the bricks are still there – especially in the building that housed the bookstore – and maybe a least one of the buildings can be reconstructed.
Finally, as we prepare to finish up our little blog’s second year online (!) and begin our third, MissPres is taking the rest of the week off. As is customary, we’ll send a postcard back daily to keep y’all occupied, but also be sure to check in on the Natchez poll, which has heated up considerably since we looked at the standings on Friday.
Categories: Biloxi, Civil War, Clinton, Demolition/Abandonment, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Holly Springs, Hurricane Katrina, Jackson, Meridian, Mississippi Landmarks, MS Dept. of Archives and History, National Park Service, News Roundups, Oxford, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Renovation Projects, Vicksburg