Somewhat of a slow week in the news this week, at least as far as preservation in Mississippi is concerned. Happy Friday!
July 2, 2009: From the Greenwood Commonwealth, “Inferno Consumes Most of Downtown Block”
July 2, 2009: A photographic story in the Madison County Herald about the Fairview School in Madison County, a one-room African American school that has recently been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I’m a little confused because I happened to see the real paper version of this story, and I thought it had more text with it–maybe they decided to post just the photos online. Or maybe my memory is going . . . .
July 4, 2009: A follow-up story from the Greenwood Commonwealth about the downtown fire: “Fireworks could’ve caused blaze”
July 9, 2009: Also from the Greenwood Commonwealth, “Century-old Building Moved Tuesday from Doddsville to Tallahatchie Flats.” Tallahatchie Flats = another re-created Delta plantation.
Categories: Blues Sites, Greenwood, Historic Preservation, National Register, News Roundups, Schools
I was looking at the photo of the Fairview School and it brings up a question that you might be able to answer. It’s a building that looks like every board needs to be replaced. It is more like building a replica instead of restoration. Is there a point with a standing building where there is too much gone that “restoration” is impossible?
That’s a great observation about “restoration” vs. “reconstruction” and it’s a debate that preservationists are always having amongst themselves. It’s a very subjective thing, and it’s not so black and white that “if one more board is replaced, it’s a replica instead of a restoration.” I have definitely seen buildings that have been overly loved by their owners so that the story they tell is more about the current owners and current architectural styles than about the history of the place.
African American resources, in my experience, can be the most sticky to deal with in this regard because oftentimes, especially in these types of institutional buildings, they were built of donated or recycled materials and often donated labor. So the building started life already in need of repair. This is why you so often see the roll-brick siding applied over the clapboards–the clapboards didn’t provide sufficient protection from the weather for one reason or another.
So, the question becomes, what do you “restore” this building to? If you replace and make it all nice and pretty and something a builder would put his mark of approval on, you have created something that never existed and have completely lost the story. The story being that African Americans for a hundred years after the end of slavery had to make do with what they could put together from their own resources, apart from the tax dollars that they also paid. In this particular case, the Jefferson family has already done a good job, in my opinion, of avoiding this drive to over-restore–they’ve moved the building a short distance and put it back on simple concrete-block foundation piers and haven’t started ripping things apart, as some might want to do. I hope that as they move forward to continue repairing the building, they’ll keep this light touch and “keep it simple” so that they’ll end up with a school building that tells its story clearly and also is in enough repair to stand on its own and not leak.