MissPres News Roundup 8-7-2009

Well, get out your event calendars, Ladies and Gentlemen, because we’ve got a lot of ’em coming up announced in the last week or two:

  • August 25, 2009 will find you sitting impatiently in front of the television, with your antenna carefully positioned to pick up Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s premiere of Building Blocks, a documentary about the repair and rebuilding of historic properties on the Mississippi Coast after Katrina. Here’s the tiny little snippet I found about it on the MDAH website:

Don’t miss Building Blocks on Mississippi Public Broadcasting August 25 at 9 p.m. The documentary on the reclamation of historic properties and cultural institutions on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was produced by MDAH with support from a federal Preserve America grant.

  • September 10, 2009 will find you dressed to the nines at Union Station in downtown Jackson eagerly anticipating the unveiling of the latest 10 Most Endangered List from the Mississippi Heritage Trust. There aren’t many details on their website yet, but ol’ Eagle Eyes caught a tiny little mention here.
  • From October 28-31, 2009, you’ll be in your walking shoes and best tweeds with elbow pads as you join the Southeastern Society of Architectural Historians’ (SESAH) annual meeting in downtown Jackson. According to the SESAH website:

 The Southeastern chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians will hold its 27th Annual Meeting in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2009. Mississippi’s capital city, Jackson bills itself as “The Bold New City” and “The Best of the New South” [note: add “City with Soul”]. The meeting’s downtown venue will allow participants to explore 19th and 20th-century urban landmarks in this Deep South city.

Otherwise, it’s been a fairly slow news week, or maybe I’ve just missed lots of things. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • MDAH announces that the Coker House restoration is complete. The Coker House was one of the only (or maybe the only?) antebellum houses still standing on the National Historic Landmark Champion Hill Battlefield. This sentence makes me wonder if the word that should be used here is “reconstruction”:

 The restoration incorporated as much of the original materials of the house as could be saved.

   Well, it shore do look purty in the pitcher anyway.

  • Speaking of events, I noticed as I was musing on the Coker House on MDAH’s webpage that they now have a handy calendar of public meetings that shows when the next National Register review board meetings are–neat! I’ll incorporate those into the even more handy (imho of course) MissPres Calendar.
  • Two similar articles in the Meridian Star, one on July 28, the other on August 1, give a detailed update on the beginning stages of the renovation of Meridian’s downtown skyscraper the Threefoot Building. The Threefoot was designed by Claude H. Lindsley, the same Jackson architect who designed the Tower (Standard Life) Building next to the King Edward Hotel way back in the late 1920s. The renovation will include the conversion of this historic office building into a hotel, and the developer is the same HRI who is doing the King Edward and the Tower Building projects (as well as, it is rumored, planning to tear down a chunk of the West Capitol Historic District to create a parking lot).

j0280475And last but not least, another News from the Grapevine rumor to go along with HRI’s tearing down of part of West Capitol: It is said by sources who wish to remain anonymous that the State of Mississippi plans to demolish a large section, maybe even a majority, of the National Register-listed Naval Reserve Center in Jackson to create a state records center for none other than the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History. I couldn’t believe this, but there is a glimmer of something on the Bureau of Building’s website, where it lists Project #379-001: Naval Reserve Record Center, Professional: Burris/Wagnon Architects, P.A. The Naval Reserve Center, an Art Moderne wonder-to-behold was built in 1949, abandoned as a training facility in the late 1990s, and was on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 2007 10 Most Endangered List.

Say it ain’t so, MDAH–don’t force me to add you to my Wall of Shame along with the South Delta Regional Housing Authority!

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Categories: Civil War, Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Hurricane Katrina, Jackson, Meridian, National Register, News Roundups, Renovation Projects

4 replies

  1. I’m not sure what to think about the Dept. and the Naval Reserve. I’m tempted to just be happy and be glad that it’s being “saved” and used, but that’s usually the way I feel about everything until I see the end result; most recently that happened with City View apartments and I’m trying to keep it from happening with the King Edward.

    What I hear about the project is much disdain (from archivists) for the Naval Reserve building as a records center: it’s too close to the main site, it’s in a flood zone, it’s too historical to be practical for the purpose, etc. It really seems that a lot of higher-up folks in the Dept. just want to preserve it so badly they’re willing to compromise both the building and it’s proposed purpose …

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    • Well, if as you say the archivists don’t like it, and (from my own understanding) the higher-ups don’t either, where is this project coming from? I also hear from developer friends that several developers have been interested in buying the Naval Reserve from the state but haven’t gotten anywhere. This is a really strange project from a number of perspectives, least of all, the extra cost entailed in having to elevate (which I’m sure they’ll have to since it’s in a flood zone) a building that they could build a lot cheaper on a score or more other available lots in the downtown area. I mean, we’re essentially talking about a large warehouse here, right? An air-conditioned warehouse that needs to be kept at a relatively level and low humidity and keep the varmints out, but still, just a warehouse–shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out a better and less-expensive place, especially since other interests are, well, interested.

      I share your disappointment with City View. It looks like a comic book Art Deco instead of the sophisticated Art Moderne it was and could have been again. Granted that it had been vacant and suffered alot, but still, a Dryvet tower that will look good for about 3 years before showing its cheapness is not the option I would have chosen for that building.

      As for King Edward . . . . I’m also trying to withhold judgment, but HRI seems to be showing its true colors by rolling over everyone (including, it is said, some of their own partners in the project) in their desired demolition of part of W. Capitol, and some of the interior work on the Ed. has been a bit disappointing as well. I’m so glad HRI and others took a chance on it (albeit a heavily subsidized chance courtesy of large preservation tax credits and, as I understand, Go-Zone money), and I know it would have sat forever if they hadn’t, but I guess that’s what often happens–the product is less than hoped.

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  2. I don’t know, I guess if it would have sat forever that would have been great, but the alternative was probably that the city would have eventually torn it down. So at least we get to keep the hotel … I hope they don’t get want they want on Capitol St.; the Depot renovation cost us enough old buildings.

    Well, that’s very interesting that you say the higher-ups don’t want it either. I was under the impression that they were who was pushing for it. I’m going to have to do some asking around. I can tell you that the archivists were not asked their opinions and that the head of the section is not happy about it.

    I do know that the plans call for raised shelving rather than elevating the building; they’re only going to use the second floor for the records center and the shelves there would be three feet off the floor (all that just sounds like a lot of work for the records center workers).

    And yes, we’re only talking about a warehouse; there was some talk before about using the abandoned K-Mart building on Beasley Rd.

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    • It would be a special shame if this project went forward without anyone actually wanting it to. I’ve even heard from people in the Jackson development world that a number of people have been interested in buying the building from the state to develop it privately, which at this point is possibly the best option–definitely better than the state tearing part of it down and building an overly expensive warehouse that MDAH doesn’t really want there.

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