You probably read with horror, as I did a couple of weeks ago–in fact, I think my co-workers heard a long anguished “NOOOOOOO!!!” from my office–that a car smashed into the Malt Shop in Natchez, destroying pretty much the whole front of this beloved landmark. Admittedly, the Malt Shop, built in 1955, is no Rosalie, or Arlington, or Auburn, but if you’re like me, no trip to Natchez is complete without a stop for a quick malt shake for the road, or a leisurely burger and fries at the much-carved-on picnic table out front.
Thankfully, the Malt Shop is back in business, according to “The Malt Shop nearly back to normal after crash” in the Natchez Democrat, even though reconstruction is still underway.
The Malt Shop closed when a vehicle crashed through the front of the business–in the second such accident in 15 months–at a high rate of speed Oct. 7.
The Malt Shop operated during the balloon race with plywood boarding up the building, but plate glass was installed Thursday, (owner Gloria) Neames said.
“A huge part of (the shop being open) is due to the diligence of Blanton Construction; they’ve been great about getting everything quickly, as well as the contractors,” she said.
. . . .
Concrete barriers, Neames said, will be installed in front of the restaurant to stop any vehicles that might be headed for the building.
This incident with the Malt Shop reminded me that the building is pictured in the large photograph collection gathered by architectural historians with the Historic American Building Survey (HABS). You can check out its two photos at the Library of Congress HABS site. I know for sure this is the only Mississippi malt shop featured in this illustrious group, usually reserved for biggies like the Old Capitol, Auburn, and the Lyceum at Ole Miss. I wonder if it is the only malt shop in the country featured in HABS? Searching the HABS site for “malt” I find no others.
The story goes that the HABS team came to Natchez in 2007, spent a few after-work hours cooling off with a malt, and took a couple of pictures to commemorate this simple but beloved landmark.
If you’re not familiar with HABS, it began in the Depression as a way to put architects to work measuring and documenting historic (usually colonial or antebellum) buildings. It has continued since then as a small part of what the National Park Service does to preserve the country’s architectural heritage. According to the Library of Congress HABS collection description:
Administered since 1933 through cooperative agreements with the National Park Service, the Library of Congress, and the private sector, ongoing programs of the National Park Service have recorded America’s built environment in multiformat surveys comprising more than 556,900 measured drawings, large-format photographs, and written histories for more than 38,600 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century. This online presentation of the HABS/HAER/HALS collections includes digitized images of measured drawings, black-and-white photographs, color transparencies, photo captions, written history pages, and supplemental materials.
My only wish to make HABS better would be that it include more Mississippi sites, but otherwise, I use it all the time and find all sorts of interesting things there, including our own Malt Shop.
So congratulations to the Malt Shop for picking itself up from this latest disaster and getting back to work making people happy, and congratulations for being included in this country’s collection of important places that make America America!