The Northside Sun published an article last week about the old Municipal Library in Jackson. Besides being a pretty cool Modern structure designed by the prominent Jackson firm of N.W. Overstreet & Associates, the building is significant for its Civil Rights history, as the site of the 1961 Tougaloo Nine sit-in. The Mississippi Heritage Trust had placed the building on its 2005 10 Most Endangered List because it had essentially been abandoned by the City of Jackson. Later, maybe in 2007 (?) Ted Duckworth had bought the building to convert it into condos. According to the article, the National Park Service objected to the infilling of the main first floor reading room with condominium units, and Duckworth has now sold the property to the Mississippi Baptist convention which owns all the other buildings on the block.
First of all, I’m glad the building is a designated Mississippi Landmark because even though it has now passed into private ownership, the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History will still have to give a permit for any alterations to the building. Presumably, MDAH will take care to respect the history of the building, even though the article says they were ok with the condo plan.
Second, I was never crazy about the condo idea for this building. Not every building downtown needs to be converted to condominiums or apartments, and this building in particular, with its large open spaces that had always been public seems particularly ill-suited to this type of residential development, even without the significant Civil Rights events that took place there. Although the article doesn’t mention it, I have heard that the Baptists plan to use the building as an archives, so even though it won’t technically be “public” in the sense of “government-owned,” I hope it will still be a fairly public library space that will tell its story more effectively than if it had been chopped up into small private residences.