The Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees will consider two requests for demolition of Mississippi Landmarks at their Friday, July 18 meeting. The Guntown School in Lee County, designed by Overstreet and Town and constructed in 1937, was designated as a Mississippi Landmark in 2011. Photographs posted on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History website taken in 2010 show a well-used and well-maintained building with lovely brick detail. The request for demolition is accompanied by an engineer’s report saying that the building is structurally compromised and would require the reconstruction of a wall. Based on this evidence, the Permit Committee is recommending approval of the demolition. The other request comes from Eupora, where the school district is requesting approval to demolish their gymnasium, listed as a Mississippi Landmark in 2006. This request was discussed at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustee’s meeting in April, where the need to have a concession area and extended court, a need that could be addressed with small additions to the historic building, were cited as reasons for demolition. The school district also cited condition issues, including a leaking roof and termite damage, but did not submit a structural analysis by an architect or engineer documenting the condition of the building. This building was reconstructed from a building originally located at Camp McCain, so it has a long and rich history.
These school buildings, constructed of quality materials with public funds, have served their communities well for many years. As recently as 2006 and 2011, these buildings were deemed worthy of the designation of Mississippi Landmark. What could have possibly happened in the last few years to change the communities’ desire to protect and preserve their historic school buildings? With potential funding available from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Community Heritage Preservation Grant Program, Guntown and Eupora have the opportunity to follow the stellar example of other communities around the state and restore their historic resources for future generations. I urge the members of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees to give these requests for demolition a thorough review and require that, at a minimum, the school districts provide a current condition assessment along with an analysis of the cost of restoration versus demolition and new construction before giving the green light to demolish these historic community resources.