Just to Clarify: Demolition ≠ Preservation

Speed Street School, VicksburgThe Vicksburg Post has published a follow-up to its earlier story about the impending demolition of Speed Street School (1894), one of a handful of 19th century public school buildings left in the state. I posted previously on this topic a couple of weeks ago. The demolition has now begun, and to add insult to injury, it’s apparently considered “preservation” because they are salvaging the material instead of sending it to the dump.

Here’s a little bit from the article, which you can read in its entirety here (Note: images might be disturbing to some viewers):

One piece of antique, aged pine at a time, a piece of Vicksburg’s history has begun coming down.

For decades an apartment complex, the building at Speed and Marshall streets that was built as a school appears headed for a proper burial — not from a wrecking ball but by a preservationist’s efforts to sell its thick, wooden floor supports and scuffed masonry.

“I’m a deconstruction guy,” said Will Branch, head of a Bogalusa, La.-based Will Branch Antique Lumber. “I’m like a reverse carpenter.”

The company, which specializes in retrieving rare wooden materials such as heart pine and cypress, is in charge of taking down the structure piece-by-piece over the next six months.

Bricks and wood filling its three stories will be treated or pressure-washed and sold to interested buyers, Branch said. That includes relics of the old Speed Street School still inside, such as writing surfaces on the old desks near what was once the school auditorium and now a flyway for pigeons.
. . .
Local construction veterans such as Warren Guider who are assisting in the demolition note the fine details of what made the building so structurally sound when built in 1894 as South Vicksburg Public School No. 200. The most visible are the dozens of pine and cypress boards underneath the edge-grained wood floors.

Please, please, please, kind sir, don’t call it preservation when “fine details” and “structurally sound” are used in the same article as “coming down.” I’m glad they’re saving the pieces, but saving the pieces isn’t the same–is nowhere near the same–as saving the whole. Could we dismantle the Old Capitol, giving a brick to each resident of the state, and call that “preservation”? How about a piece of marble from the Washington Monument for each citizen’s mantel? Rip a page from the family Bible to give to each of the kids? The anonymous owners might be able to preen about how they have really saved the building, but this emperor ain’t wearin’ any clothes. They should be ashamed of themselves for demolishing, tearing down, destroying, erasing (or whatever other word, in whatever other language, means the opposite of “preserving”) this piece of our state’s history without any effort whatsoever to really preserve it.



Categories: Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, National Register, Schools, Vicksburg

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  1. Speed Street School demolition « Preservation in Mississippi
  2. Matty Hersee Update « Preservation in Mississippi

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