Auld Lang Syne: Friends We Lost in 2011

As is traditional in this quiet week after Christmas and before New Years, we look back at the year and recount our wins and losses. We usually start with the “sad list” of buildings who lost their battle against time in 2011. This year’s losses seem pretty significant to me, with a number of recognized and substantial landmarks demolished, many after years of neglect. Others were destroyed in the terrible tornadoes of April 2011. Some we’ll miss more than others, but all contributed to the historic fabric of Mississippi, and the state is a little less interesting without them and the stories they told.

For comparison with previous years lists see 2010 and 2009.

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McGehee Memorial Building, Gulf Coast Military Academy (1921-2011), Gulfport:

From Gulf Coast Military Academy, Gulfport, Miss. Cooper Postcard College, Sysid 93475. Credit: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

The oldest remaining building from the campus of the old Gulf Coast Military Academy–more recently the Gulf Coast campus of Hattiesburg’s William Carey College–the McGehee Building was washed through during the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Sitting vacant this whole time, the building finally fell victim to the college’s decision to abandon the beachfront property and wipe it clean for sale to the highest bidder. While recognizing the argument that vacant property may be more enticing to a certain type of developer, I also feel the need to once again point out that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is awash in clean beachfront property, very little of which is selling. So why not stabilize the building and allow it a chance to attract a different type of developer who might be interested in using the historic landmark as the centerpiece of a new development?

Calhoun County Courthouse (1938-2011), Pittsboro:

I can’t say I really cried over this building’s destruction. Built in 1938, the courthouse destroyed Pittsboro’s courthouse square and wasn’t really much to look at. The building’s demolition was recorded for posterity on NMissCommenter. Our own Jack Elliott provided some historical perspective on the loss of the square back when this proposed demolition was first reported here on MissPres back in 2010:

I suspect that many pass through Pittsboro regularly and never notice that there is (or was) a courthouse square. The current courthouse was constructed to the side of the square–presumably so the old courthouse could continue in use while the new was being constructed. This decision– while certainly expeditious in the short-term–did little for the long-term integrity of the town. Once the courthouse was removed, instead of retaining the square as a park (eg. Pontotoc), the square was destroyed by running the main north-south axis (Hwy 9) through the square from corner to corner while the two triangles that were created were turned into paved parking areas. The result in passing through Pittsboro is that the courthouse rather than appearing as a focal point in the town, appeared more like a mediocre high school gym built alongside a small highway. Many county seat towns have lost old courthouses, but Pittsboro is the only town in Mississippi that I know of that lost its courthouse square.

I could only hope that a new courthouse would be constructed on a restored square. However, I see no cause for optimisim.

Power Memorial Presbyterian Church (1911-2011), Jackson:

Photo by Jennifer Baughn, MDAH, 7-13-2010. Retrieved 12-26-2011 from Mississippi Historic Resources Database.

The last remnant of the old residential section south of downtown Jackson, this wood-framed church had long-ago lost its congregation and been converted into offices by Jackson Public Schools. Abandoned by the district in the last decade, the building came down without so much as a howdy-do sometime this summer.

Capitol Street Methodist Church (1912-2011), Jackson:

Poor Capitol Street Methodist, a grand landmark of West Jackson, has been sitting vacant and deteriorating for most of the last two decades. As we noted in June’s Capitol Street Methodist Is Falling Down, time and gravity finally took their toll when the gable ridge holding up the massive roof broke down and brought the roof with it. From my walk around the perimeter of the building just after the first collapse, it appears that nothing was salvaged from the building, other than the stained-glass windows which were removed several years ago. According to the West Jackson blog, there was hope to salvage the bricks during demolition. Eyewitnesses other than me (I can’t bear to drive out there lately) report that demolition was completed in early December–no reports about the bricks.

Meridian Hotel (c.1910-2011):

I don’t have the energy to go into this example of colossal stupidity and inane “economic development” groupthink. You can read all about it in “Rumblings and Bumblings from Meridian” and “Because for instance, the Meridian Hotel is much older, we feel it’s best to tear it down.” Reports indicate that the expansive vacant lot that the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center desires to turn into a pretty grassy knoll has now been achieved.

RIP Meridian Hotel (c.1910-2011): A victim of vapid stupidity

“Friendship House” (c.1890-2011), Columbus:

A beautiful piece of Columbus’ architectural fabric destroyed by a church that apparently has no interest in the property and could have sold it to buyers who wanted to restore it. They even went so far as to mock the people in town who wanted to save it by offering it for one dollar, but only if the buyer could move it off the property in a thirty-day window, as if most people just have a piece of vacant property laying around and can get a mover on board and a big house moved in one month. I’ve already ranted about this duplicitous so-called church, and I don’t feel like repeating it during this season of good cheer. To read the whole sad and unnecessary saga, see News Roundup 4-19-2011, 5-3-2011, and 6-13-2011, and to see a picture of the house, read the original Columbus Dispatch article.

Agriculture Building, Mississippi State Fairgrounds, Jackson

Built in 1957, the twin barrel-vaulted exhibition buildings at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds called the Agriculture and Industry Buildings (or A&I for short) became the site of a temporary jail for hundreds of civil rights activists in the summer of 1963. This was a tense time in Mississippi’s history, after the assassination of Medgar Evers in his own driveway motivated local people who had previously kept quiet to demonstrate against the oppression of Jim Crow and white supremacy. With so many protesters, Mississippi’s officials cordoned off the area between the A&I buildings, using one for males and the other for females, with the open courtyard between them. The site became known as the “Fairground’s Motel.” But the State, in the midst of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, ignored this tangible Civil Rights site, tearing down the Agriculture building in May 2011, at the same time it welcomed the former Freedom Riders back to the state. At the end of the year, the Industry building still stood, shorn of the space that contributed to its sense of history and providing a bit of irony that Industry has finally won out over Agriculture.

Brownlee Gym, Tougaloo College (1947-2011):

Designed by Jackson architect Emmett J. Hull (son of Francis Blair Hull and partner in Hull & Malvaney, of Eastland Federal Building fame), Brownlee Gym was listed on the National Register as part of the Tougaloo College Historic District. Vacated as a gym at least for a decade, possibly more, the gym had a brief ray of hope of renovation a while back but this was never carried out, and it was down by Spring of this year.

Jennifer Baughn, MDAH, 9-7-2008. Retrieved 12-26-2011 from Mississippi Historic Resources Database.

Graham House, Jasper County (1865-2011):

Photo by Bill Gatlin, MDAH, 12-17-2008. Retrieved from MDAH Historic Resources Database 12-26-2011.

Listed on the National Register in April 2008, the Graham House in rural Jasper County was one of at least three antebellum houses destroyed during the devastating tornadoes that swept the state this last April, enjoying only three years on the Register. This is the write-up for the house on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Historic Resources Database:

The Graham House is an excellent local example of a rural vernacular Greek Revival galleried planter’s cottage. The house, begun c. 1860 and completed after the war, typifies a popular Mississippi house form. Raised on brick piers, it is one and one-half stories tall with a center hall flanked by two rooms on each side. Tall ceilings with full-height windows are common planter’s cottage features. The full-width undercut porch is supported by octagonal columns which, family tradition holds, were shipped up the Chickasawhay River from Mobile. Supporting structures include a barn, smokehouse and chicken coop. Martha Graham Bucciantini, a descendant of the original owner, wrote the nomination.

Elliot House (Gaines Trace Inn) (1846-2011), Smithville:

Photo by Jennifer Baughn, MDAH, 5-16-2011. Retrieved from MDAH Historic Resources Database 12-26-2011.

This two-story Greek Revival I-house was badly mangled in the April tornado that ripped through the small town of Smithville up north of Aberdeen. Photos taken by MDAH after the storm show a building whose roof has collapsed, front portico is on the ground, chimneys ragged without their tops, but the walls somehow are still standing.  The building was torn down sometime in the summer. Google Streeview offers a glimpse of what was before:

Dr. Harmon House (c.1855-2011), Smithville:

Another antebellum victim of the Smithville tornado, I don’t know much about this house other than what’s on the MDAH database, which says it was two-stories tall and built around 1855. Photos of the house after the storm show a heap of building materials that barely resemble a house.

Other victims of the Smithville area tornadoes were East Webster High School in Cumberland and the Smithville School. East Webster has apparently been torn down, but Smithville, which sustained much less damage, according to reports, is still standing although rumblings of demolition have continued.

5 Faculty Houses, MSU (1900s):

Photo by Michelle Jones, MDAH, 3-7-2011. Retrieved from MDAH Historic Resources Database 12-26-2011.

With little fanfare, Mississippi State University continued its assault on its historic housing when it tore down this summer five of the few remaining old faculty houses on the south end of campus. Ostensibly to give them room to put more dormitories, the large remaining open spaces where several 1950s and 60s high-rise dormitories used to stand makes me wonder what the rush was to demolish these still useful and inhabited buildings. While I didn’t like Ole Miss’ decision to get rid of all of their 1930s-1950s faculty neighborhood a few years back, at least they offered the sweet little Colonials to the public and many were moved off for new lives in Oxford. According to anecdotal accounts, no attempt was made to move or even salvage the MSU buildings. For shame, MSU!

LNO&T Offices (1880-2011), Vicksburg:

This brick Italianate remnant of Vicksburg’s booming age as a cotton hub in the late-nineteenth-century sat for many years neglected and abandoned down by the railroad tracks it once serviced. It was a small part of the much larger Louisville, New Orleans & Texas Railroad yard down on south Levee Street. The Urban Decay blog documented its final days in August of this year and the sad site of its vacant lot a few months later.

LNO&T Railroad Offices, photo April 2011

Ben G. Humphreys Memorial Bridge (1940-2011), Greenville:

Ok, I’ll admit that the new Mississippi River Bridge at Greenville is a beauty. That doesn’t stop me from acknowledging the loss of the old Ben G. Humphreys Memorial Bridge, which was being dismantled last time I drove over that way back in October.

“The Greenville – Lake Village Bridge spanning the Mississippi River on U.S. 82 is second only in length to the Bridge at New Orleans. It cost $4,447,000 and is the final link in the shortest all paved – all weather route from New York to Los Angeles.” Postcard dated Oct. 14, 1940.



Categories: Architectural Research, Demolition/Abandonment, Gulfport, Jackson, Lost Mississippi, Meridian, Pittsboro, Starkville

20 replies

  1. fwiw, one of the msu faculty houses was moved about a block away to another site amidst comparable housing.

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  2. a special BOOOOOO for congregations and educational institutions that participate in the wanton destruction of historical properties they should be on the forefront of preserving. cultural institutions should have enough collective intelligence to know better. perhaps the specter of punitive fines would make them act responsibly.

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  3. A big booooo goes out to the destroyers of the Hotel Meridian. Shame on the City of Meridian for allowing this to happen! I can only hope that the Threefoot Building will not follow in its wake.

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  4. A sad commentary on how we treat our great buildings. Here in Tucson several homes in the West University historic district are going to be demolished for more dorms…2 huge buildings were completed this past year, another 2 are in the process, changing the feel of the older commercial and revitalized downtown area, and now they’re going to add at least 2 more 14 story monstrosities. During the summer we have a huge vacancy rate, but they believe that “empty nesters” looking to downsize will want to live in these “convenient to downtown and access to our streetcar” ugly, southwestern-esque stucco junk boxes. Good luck with that, no one wants barely 21 year old drunk neighbors running up and down the halls at all hours. Colleges need to work on their tuition, better teachers, and encourage more local kids to go to school here rather than overcharging out of state residents for school and housing. Only my opinion of course…great job on the blog! Happy New Year!

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  5. Several reasons to be sad on this list. The MSU faculty houses reminds me of a similar loss here– faculty houses behind the old law school were moved (or torn down) to make way for the residential college and a lot of parking spaces. What was lost wasn’t just the houses, but a beautiful tree-lined neighborhood. A number of my friends had a substantial part of their youth in there.

    Thus, the recently installed memorial marker for Jim Silver, located near where his house had been in faculty housing, is located on a retaining pond catching water from those new parking lots. And, just below it, the University has removed a couple of old, non-pretentious entrance posts (donated by 1930s era classes) and replaced them with an entranceway to match the other new one farther down Jackson Avenue, which looks like an entrance to any mediocre suburban office park.

    The other thing brought to my mind are a number of late-Victorian or possibly just later houses (including one that had been a long time boarding house) that were torn down to make way for expansions of First Baptist Church here in Oxford. A major stretch of settled-in pleasant neighborhood were lost to that, and the church got the alderman to waive a height restriction designed to preserve the courthouse as the high-point-of-downtown at the same time the last piece of this was built, over objections by neighbors.

    On the plus side, a number of the faculty houses were relocated to a new housing project designed to provide affordable housing in the north part of town. They were not located on land as well as they had been (and of course don’t have 70 or so year old oak trees all around them in the new place). The real loss is the little neighborhood around Faculty Row that was slowly carved down until it was lost completely.

    Finally, thanks for the nod to my blog post. In addition to being an eyesore, the courthouse at Pittsboro did not function at all well for folks who used it. It will not be missed by anyone, I don’t think, and has to be the only building on this list that was about half built from cinder blocks.

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    • What a beautiful, lived-in neighborhood that was, and I say that having never lived there but only wandered through it when I was on campus maybe 10 years ago! I couldn’t believe it when I saw it next, a huge gaping claypit, no remnant of any of it. I read stories about the moved houses and thought that was at least something, but still, as you say, the neighborhood is gone, and with it, the community of young (and maybe older?) faculty members who it supported.

      Always classy to demolish landmarks established by previous graduating classes, isn’t it? Really makes a class feel wanted.

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  6. I actually know quite a bit about the Capitol Street Methodist Church and ultimately its fate.

    1. It was closed around 1992 and its prominent features removed by 1996. (organ, interior light fixtures, likely tiffany stained glass windows). This seems to indicate the United Methodist conference had no intentions to save the building… or even sell it. (see first methodst church Aberdeen MS).
    2. The church had plans for some type of ministry trough the building… but due to “internal” conflict within the church this was ultimately abandoned and the church sat vacant for 20 years. The church cited “Foundation issues” as why it collapsed… but if anyone ever drove by… it looked more like a leaking roof.
    3. Around 2006 (after noticing the roof condition) I offered to help repair the roof… but my offers fell on deaf ears. No one would even return my calls or emails. This is while the church was the posession of the United Methodist Conference.
    4. The church and its property was donated to Voice of Calvary Ministries approximately 2009 (according to Phil Reed)… long after the roof was severely deteriorated. By the time VOC took possession… most likely the roof was too far gone to be cost effectivley repaired.
    5. After the collapse of the roof… most likely all the church pews in the auditorium space were crushed… but many pews were not destroyed as they were in the back of the church. (VOC actually sold these and the remains of the stained glass windows to a salvage company before the demolition).

    If anyone is interested… go to the link below for some interior pictures of the church. It was an odd plan… but beautiful in its own way (it must have been an amazing space).

    http://www.locationslibrary.com/location_detail.aspx?id=031-10000151&page=104&user=31

    Finally, I absolutely agree that these institutions should be held accountable for allowing things like this to happen.
    Next on the list to be lost will the old First Christian Church as First Baptist seems to have no plans for this building and the roof has a serious leak (hole) right behind the tower. I suspect the plan is to allow the roof to fail… then claim nothing can be done. This is what the United Methodist Conference did with Capitol Street Methodist and likely this is First Baptists plan for First Christian.

    Ultimately this has not caused me to lose faith in GOD… but certainly in the church.

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    • I never was in the church but from the pictures it looks like the floor plan was the “Akron Plan” http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akron_Plan

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    • Thanks so much for sharing that information and those pictures! What a beautiful space that was and what a loss to Jackson and Mississippi now that it’s only a memory.

      I did a post about the First Christian Church a while back, but I hadn’t seen the hole you mentioned until I specifically drove over there today and sure enough, it’s huge. I think you’ve got the situation pegged too unfortunately. There was some amount of pressure exerted on First Baptist back when they bought it and announced their intention to tear it down, but unfortunately, they seem to be playing a waiting game and letting those who desire to re-use the building cool their heels until it’s too late.

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      • I agree and also think its time to reapply pressure on First Baptist and ultimately call them out on this.
        It is absolutely unacceptable for this institution to knowingly allow this building to fall down (especially knowing everyone’s feelings on the matter). This just shows their ulterior motives on the matter… and ultimately another reason I have lost faith in the church.

        There are too many other secular uses for this building than than something for First Baptist. (since the buidling was gutted of anything religious).

        One great example would be condo (Washington DC has some great examples of old churches converted to condos).

        It’s my understanding the Pastor recently changed at FBC so I will likely start there.

        If necessary we should begin another grass roots campagin to draw this to the public attention as most people have probably forgotten at this point.

        Ultimately I do not like getting involved like this…but if someone doesnt… this building will be lost.

        M

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      • I’m going to try to get a picture of that hole and do an update post in the next few weeks. My experience with churches, especially, I have to say Baptist churches, is that the best way is to get people within the church on board and applying pressure from the inside. Surely in a congregation as large as FBC there are history-minded people and architecture-minded people who would be interested in moving forward with something constructive on First Christian? If so, their voice will be 10 times more influential than “outsiders” will be.

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  7. The Meridian hotel is, indeed, gone now. It’s a shame that it could not be saved. I had conversations with a few people in Meridian who would like for it to have been saved, but I heard no public outcry to try and save it. That’s really typical of the mentality around here, tear down history to put up a new metal building.

    One quick note, the Hotel was built and opened in 1907, not 1910. The building that was there before the hotel was badly damaged in the 1906 tornado and the hotel was built to replace it. I have a photo of it under construction from the 1907 Meridian Illustrated Handbook that has the caption “ready for opening in August”.

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    • Thanks for that information about the construction date, Nathan–I always hate having to use “circa” so this will nail it down nice and tight. I have only recently become acquainted with the 1906 tornado in Meridian. I had no idea! The Cooper Postcard Collection has a few images of downtown after the tornado and it’s really amazing to see. I hope to do a post about it at some point in the relatively near future.

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      • Glad to help out. The tornado was a pretty big event here. That Cooper postcard collection is a great resource, there are very few of the tornado photos I’ve seen that are not in that collection. Let me know if you’re ever in Meridian and I’ll be glad to give you a downtown tour of the tornado site. There are still places where the effects can be seen. I’m actually working on recreating some of the tornado damage photos with views of the sites today.

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  8. So I walked the First Christian Church site today to get an idea of the exterior building condition for myself. My thoughts are as follows:

    1. It is my understanding the buidling has “major” foundation issues… but per my review (just visual observation) these foundation issues dont seem to translate to the exterior walls. I did see some evidence of past movement in one of the north walls… but it appears to have been repaired. Also, it does not seem that the building has moved much since the past repair. If this is what is referenced as “major foundation issues”… these people dont live around here. I dont know any buildings in this area without some form of foundation movement.
    2. It appears in several locations of the sanctuary the exterior masonry walls are wicking (leaking) water. This is a minor issue as likely this can be repaired by selectively repointing the problem areas. This is typical of buildings this age.
    3. The roof is the major issue here and should be addressed immediately. My thought is that this is clear evidence FBC has no future plans for the building and still intends to demolish it (when it is too far gone to repair).
    4. It appears the basement / crawlspace is totally flooded. This should be drained.
    5. Overall, the building seems to be in generally decent condition (aside from the disturbing vandalism of the previous congregation). I have not been inside the church to see the interior conditions… which may be much worse…
    6. All in all… some basic repairs would easily stabilize this buiding. (fix roof and drain crawlspace)

    I have been doing some research and know several people at FBC that I can likely get information. If find anything useful… Ill let everyone know.

    Thanks,

    M

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Trackbacks

  1. Is that a hole in First Christian? « Preservation in Mississippi
  2. Dedicated to the People: Natchez-Vidalia Bridge « Preservation in Mississippi

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