An interesting article in the Meridian Star on Sunday about the cost of renovating the Meridian City Hall. I like it when writers take the time to point out the complexities of the issue at hand, and it sounds like City Hall has some complexities for sure. This is why, Fellow Preservationists, we should be preaching not just maintenance, but GOOD MAINTENANCE!
For one thing, workers discovered additional problems with the building when they began demolition. Over the years, parts of the building’s basic structure had rotted — rust had destroyed iron rods so fully that they were barely larger than nails.
Some of the damage was caused by previous work on the building. As Skipper put it, “under the guise of maintenance things were done that should never have been done to that building.” Half a marble staircase was ripped out to make way for an elevator, fancy finishes were slathered with lurid blue paint, and the first floor was bricked up for protection from feared Soviet attacks.
One particularly time consuming problem — damage to the terra cotta tiles which cover most of the building’s exterior. The tiles were painted over decades ago, trapping moisture inside and causing the tiles to rot. More than 1,500 individual tiles have had to be reproduced with precise accuracy.
On the other hand, this paragraph gives me pause:
Another cost increasing factor — the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Because City Hall, which was built in 1915, is on the National Register of Historic Places, Archives and History can dictate certain aspects of the renovation, Skipper said. He said that, in some cases, Archives and History has required the city to spend more money than they had planned for the sake of historic accuracy.
Ok, let’s all say this together: the Mississippi Department of Archives and History does not “dictate” anything about buildings that are listed on the National Register. They do, however, review work (so much better than dictating, don’t you think?) to buildings designated as Mississippi Landmarks. There is a distinction between the National Register and a Mississippi Landmark–they are not the same. This is basic fact-checking. Little mistakes like this about subjects I actually know about make me lose confidence in what the newspaper has to say about subjects I don’t know much about. (I know, I know, it’s hard to believe I’m not knowledgeable about some subjects, but we’re talking really hard subjects like quantum physics and why people don’t laugh at my jokes and stuff like that.)
He gave one example: the city, he said, had initially wanted to use relatively cheap windows painted to look like their 1915 counterparts — but Archives and History decreed that the city must purchase more expensive mahogany windows.
Those factors, Skipper said, made what the city thought would be a $5 million to $6 million project into a $14 million to $15 million one.
First: there goes Archives and History again–if they’re not being dictatorial, they’re making decrees.
Second: Wow! those mahogany windows cost 10 million extra dollars?