Oh, did I not mention that the winner of last week’s Name This Place contest would win a virtual trip? Whoopsie! Well, it shouldn’t really matter, right? After all, I recently was told by a person with some authority in Mississippi’s preservation world (not because he’s actually preserved anything but because he has political influence) that now that we have the internet, we don’t need to preserve all these old buildings because we can just get online and see a picture. So, by that logic, this virtual trip should be just as good as a so-called “real” trip, only without all the unpleasantness of flying and spending money on gas and getting lost, etc.
Not that I necessarily agree with this theory, but most people who know me remark on what an open-minded person I am, and because of that tolerant nature, I’m putting the “preservation by pictures” theory to the test and tsj1957 is my guinea pig :-)
That said, tsj, you’re trip will be to Port Gibson and Natchez where you will view two of our state’s most well-known Exotic (also called Moorish, but that doesn’t fit into my wordplay) style buildings: Temple Gimiluth Chassed in Port Gibson and Longwood in Natchez.
The best source of information about Temple Gemiluth Chassed (and about any synogogue or Jewish community in Mississippi) is the Institute of Southern Jewish Life’s website, so I won’t re-state all they’ve put together there. The building is the oldest synogogue still standing in the state, and its Moorish style distinguishes it from the many Christian churches along Church Street in Port Gibson. It was designed by the firm Bartlett & Budemeyer, apparently out of Memphis, and built by John F. Barnes of Greenville who later became the superintendent of construction for the New Capitol in Jackson. The temple officially closed in 1986 when the congregation was down to two members. It was endangered for several years, but was bought by a person who apparently believed that “preserving by pictures” was not as effective as actually preserving the place itself (how old-school!). I’m not clear how it’s being used now, but I think it is a religious congregation of some sort.
Longwood was voted Mississippians’ Most Favorite Building last year during the Mississippi AIA’s contest, and it’s pretty much an icon of the state, not only as an amazing piece of architecture but also in the melancholy story of loss that it tells. Begun as the Natchez showplace of Dr. Haller Nutt and designed by prominent Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan, the enormous octagonal structure was completed on the exterior by 1861, but when war broke out, the mostly Northern workmen dropped their tools, picked up and left, proving once again that you can’t ever trust a Yankee. Dr. Nutt died during the war, and his wife and children were left with this huge unfinished house. They made the basement livable, and the family remained there in genteel poverty until the early 20th century. You can see an interior shot of the amzing unfinished dome at http://www.geniecorner.com/HTML/Longwood.html, although don’t pay any attention to the caption below the Spanish Moss, as Natchez is not in the Delta and Spanish Moss is not at all confined to the Delta. You can also see the surprisingly few HABS photos at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.ms0123.
So, how was your virtual trip to exotic locales? Do you feel like the prize was worth all your effort last week? Now that you’ve seen these pictures, what do you think about the “Preservation by Pictures” Theory?