Well, I should know better than to write a positive post because sure enough, there’s always bad news following behind it. That’s why I tell kids, “Be a pessimist–you’ll never be disappointed!” Anyway, after yesterday’s good news about the Mannsdale-Livingston community comes today’s bad news about the old First Baptist Church in Natchez.
The church was built in 1921 by local architects/builders Bost & Moss. It was a lovely building, with its Ionic columns, dominating portico, red-clay tile roof, and beautiful stained-glass windows.
By my count, this was the third First Baptist Church in Natchez. The church moved out in the 1970s, and now occupies its 4th location–is it coming ’round time for a 5th? The old building was still in use over the years but never maintained well after the Baptists left, and it slid into abandonment. In 2005, the roof began caving in.
After several years of ups and downs and dreams of saving the building, which is right on Main Street coming into downtown Natchez, the preservation commission granted a demolition permit on the building last week (Natchez Democrat, May 29, 2009).
Last year, the Preservation Commission declared that the building was being demolished by neglect (see July 2008 Natchez Democrat article)–prior to that, the owner had submitted plans to the commission and been approved to convert the church to condominiums, but had not moved forward, apparently because of the collapse of the housing market. Demolition by neglect is a concept being used more and more by preservation commissions to prod owners who have failed to maintain their property into either fixing their properties or selling them. Unfortunately, sometimes this procedure ends with the actual demolition of the property if the building becomes so unsound that it cannot reasonably be repaired and put back into use.
This has been a long, slow, agonizing battle against recalcitrant owners, time, gravity, and economics. Unfortunately at this point, it looks like we’ve lost.
First Baptist timeline:
Aug. 31, 2005: Historic Foundation, City mull options on old First Baptist building
Nov 13, 2008: Commission presses charges
Dec. 3, 2008: Project now backed, former First Baptist Church developer finds investors
Jan. 17, 2009: Former First Baptist Church developer might be charged