This Friday, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees will consider requests to demolish two Mississippi Landmarks and delist another, which pretty much amounts to the same thing.
The Holtzclaw Mansion at Hinds Community College, Utica Campus, was listed as a Mississippi Landmark in 1991. Home of noted black educator William H. Holtzclaw from the 1920s until his death in 1943, the house served as Gin Line Elementary School from 1946 to 1966. Since 1969, it has stood vacant and deteriorating. In 2003, architectural drawings and a condition assessment report funded by an African American Heritage Grant were prepared for the building by Robert Parker Adams. Unfortunately, no action was taken and the building continued its downward slide. By the time the Holtzclaw Mansion was listed as one of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi in 2011, the rear of the building had already collapsed. Continuing the distressing trend in Meridian, the Ross Service Station is also on the chopping block.
Located at 1910 5th Street in Meridian, the Ross Service Station was designated as a Mississippi Landmark in 1999. I’m not as familiar with this building as with the others, but it is located in the Downtown Meridian National Register Historic District and is also locally designated, according to the MDAH Historic Resources database. From this Google Street View image, it looks like a sweet little Mediterranean service station, c. 1925. I’m told that the county wants to demolish it to expand parking for the courthouse across the street, and I also understand that at one time, the county wanted to demolish other buildings on this block for the same purpose.
The Eupora High School Gymnasium is on the agenda to be delisted as a Mississippi Landmark. School officials contend that the gym does not function well for sports, though architect Belinda Stewart has shown how small additions to the building could address this concern. Before the building is delisted, I would hope that the school district would be required to explore all possible options to retrofit the gym to meet the current needs of students, and compare cost estimates for additions to the existing building to the cost of demolition of the historic structure and new construction of a gymnasium. I would also expect that the MDAH Board of Trustees would have to give a justification for why a building that was once elgible for designation as a Mississippi Landmark now suddenly is not.
Also up for discussion is the reallocation of the $500,000 grant to the Webster County Courthouse. After the devastating fire on January 17, 2013, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History was swift to take action and offer financial assistance and support for the restoration of the courthouse. Despite the demoralizing results of the recent non-binding referendum on whether to restore the building or construct a new courthouse, the debate about the future of the Webster County Courthouse is not over. Given the recent disclosure that the insurance company has determined that the building is not a total loss, I hope the Mississippi Department of Archives and History will stand by its offer of funding and technical support until such time as the controversy related to insurance funding has been resolved. This venerable historic courthouse, central to the life of Webster County for a century, deserves every consideration in the hope that it will be restored to serve the community for another hundred years.