Here’s a whirlwind view of Mississippi’s preservation news of the last few weeks with thanks to MissPreser Theodore for sending a number of stories my way.
On the Coast, the eighth anniversary of Katrina was commemorated with a memorial service at the new Ground Zero Museum in the Waveland Civic Center.
At the Southern Miss Gulf Park Campus, officials cut the ribbon at 1964 Elizabeth Hall, completing a series of restoration projects on the campus, which unfortunately apparently won’t include the original administration building, which I hear is still slated for demolition.
Biloxi residents Kenneth and Mary Ott were lauded for their restoration of a gargoyle knocked off the People’s Bank Building by Katrina.
WLOX ran a nice piece on the just-completed major restoration of Ocean Springs’ Charnley House, designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright and damaged badly during Katrina.
A whole slew of stories and letters to the editor in the Sun-Herald about the Gulfport Library, which because of FEMA’s inalterable rules apparently must be sacrificed like a pound of flesh for some bureaucratic reason I can’t get my head around.
- Harrison County supervisors vote to proceed with library demolition (Sept 9, 2013)
- “Don’t waste taxpayer dollars on old Gulfport Library building” (Sept. 15, 2013)–let’s ignore the fact that taxpayer dollars numbering in the billions have already been spent on Coast recovery including on a new library and that taxpayer dollars will also pay for demolition, thanks to FEMA.
- “Use the Library as a visitor’s center” (Sept. 18, 2013)
- “Old Library Building should be saved” (Sept. 21, 2013)–The City of Gulfport wants it as a community center, why can’t this be a win-win, FEMA?
- “Will public site be lost to private interests?” (Sept. 21, 2013)
On a brighter note, and one which Suzassippi will be happy to hear, Pascagoula‘s Depression-era post office mural “Singing River Indians” by artist Lorin Thompson has been rehung in the new post office, built since Katrina. Thanks to Liz Ford, chair of the Pascagoula HIstoric Preservation Commission for her detective work in finding the mural after it had been moved to Moss Point for safe-keeping.
Finally on the Coast, Bay St. Louis’s 100 Man Hall will be included in the HGTV series “You LIve in What?” Owners Kerrie and Jesse Loya will welcome film crews to their home and concert venue. Built in 1922, the building was home to the One Hundred Members Debating Benevolent Association, formed by a group of African American men to provide member with burial benefits.
Down in Natchez, the steeple at the antebellum St. Mary’s Basilica is being cleaned and painted.
More townhomes are planned for the Forks of the Road site, according to the Natchez Democrat if advocates or the National Park Service don’t work fast to save the remaining piece of property that was once one of Mississippi’s largest slave markets.
The Clarion-Ledger reported on some restoration projects going on around the state. The August 25 edition had a story about work on Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou. The building will become the Taborian Urgent Care Center and local officials hope the project will trigger more economic development in the Delta community. (sorry, no weblink.)
The former Eastland Federal Building in Jackson, an Art Deco building across from the Governor’s Mansion, has been vacant since 2011 when the feds decamped to their horrid new building. Now Watkins Development has announced plans to turn the building into apartments with a restaurant and bar and hpefully other small shops on the first floor and a commons area in the historic courtroom. No word on what whether the controversial Depression-era mural in the courtroom will remain in place.
The historic Jackson Zoo, dating to the 1920s, is imperilled by declining attendance and rising accreditation standards. Attendance has dropped every year since the recession, and is not stabilizing or going back up. Probably the best thing those of us who care about this historic place is go buy a ticket or even a season pass. You can see pictures of the zoo here.
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported on the establishment of the The Chickasaw Preserve in Lee County. Chissa’Talla’ has been home to the Chickasaw people for 300 years. The Archaeological Conservancy purchased the land from John Ray Beasley and his wife, Lottye Betts, who also donated five acres. The conservancy leases the land to the Chickasaw nation.
In Jackson, the city’s New Formalist auditorium Thalia Mara Hall (1968) may be getting much needed repairs and updates, according to the Clarion-Ledger. The Friends of Thalia Mara is trying to raise $1 million to match state and city funds and they want the work to be complete in time for the next International Ballet Competition (IBC), which is June 2014:
State dollars will address accessibility, egress issues and restrooms at the 45-year-old building while city money will target updating the hall’s heating and air-conditioning system. Private dollars would go toward the aesthetics, including new seating, carpeting, paint and wallpaper.
Also raising money is the newly formed Threefoot Preservation Society in Meridian, dedicated to saving Meridian iconic Art Deco skyscraper, the Threefoot Building. While the comments below this story are discouraging, it is encouraging to see a local group forming to try to save this historic building.
“If we want Meridian to grow, if we want Meridian to have its pride and community, then we need to come together and try to save the Threefoot,” [member Elliott] Street believes.
Street says the group has permission to start cleaning the outside of the building and hope to start doing so very soon. He also hopes that this will soon lead to opportunities to clean up the inside of the building too and have the process of preserving it as a whole going.
According to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, the Tupelo Preservation Society is also in fundraising mode for the Spain House, which was moved last year from its original location on Main Street to save it from demolition by Calvary Baptist Church. The Society held a community open house recently to raise money for a match to MDAH’s upcoming Community Heritage Preservation Grant:
Doyce Deas, president of the Tupelo Preservation Commission, said they hope to raise $40,000 by the end of September in order to apply for a $200,000 matching grant.
“They have a 20 percent match grant and we hope to apply for $200,000,” she said. “That will allow us to rebuild the porches and put in a new roof. We’re ultimately going to take the house back to how it originally looked.”
And finally, the Memphis Commercial Appeal notices that “New owners of historic Byhalia home soaking up its history“:
Once part of a 900-acre plantation, Thistledome was constructed by attorney Joseph Chalmers in 1840. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the two-story, white-columned house is the only pre-Civil War structure remaining in Byhalia, where original owner Chalmers once entertained Jefferson Davis. Originating as a dwelling, Thistledome has served as a boarding house, bed-and-breakfast and most recently as a wedding and special event venue. Owners Jill and Todd Maxwell have opened the antebellum house for lunch on weekdays.
Categories: Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, Demolition/Abandonment, Grants, Gulf Coast, Gulfport, Historic Preservation, Hurricane Katrina, Jackson, Libraries, Meridian, Mississippi Landmarks, Natchez, News Roundups, Pascagoula, Post Offices, Universities/Colleges