MissPres News Roundup 8-14-09

Well, what’s been going on this week around our fair state? Before we begin, let me just put this fact out there: August is my least favorite month, so I’m liable to be especially cranky and hard-to-please, so bear with me if you will.

August 5, 2009: The Northside Sun reports that renovations to convert the old Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church on Main Street to a Welcome Center are almost complete. The building will function as a visitor center and headquarters for the Chamber of Commerce. From the picture in the article, it does look like the exterior has been kept pretty much as it was (well, actually with a new paint job it looks much nicer than it did), but it sounds like the sanctuary has been partitioned up into offices, something I always find disappointing when going into a church that has found a new use. Well, partitions can always be removed in the future, and I’m very glad they kept this historically African American church and have given it a new life.

August 10, 2009: Trust me, there was an article in the McComb Enterprise-Journal on Monday about an exciting proposal to relocate the old and neglected Liberty-White Railroad depot near the Holmesville community to Summit to replace the much larger depot that I believe was torn down back in the 1960s or 70s. The project proposal came from the Summit Historical Society and the newly established Summit Historic Preservation Commission. I would really love to provide a link to this article, written by Matt Williamson, but unfortunately, it’s nowhere to be found on the Enterprise-Journal website, so here’s a little snippet to give you some more information:

The depot, built in 1902, is about 20 by 30 feet and has a main room and a smaller baggage room. It would likely need to be moved in two pieces.

Historical society member Trudy Berger said the organization can apply for a grant to assist with moving and renovating the building, but an oct. 9 deadline looms over securing a title to the land from the town and getting the building.

Presumably the October 9 deadline that’s mentioned is MDAH’s Community Heritage Preservation Grant.

IHOP, I-55 in Jackson

IHOP, I-55 in Jackson

August 11, 2009: The Jack Sunn feature in the Clarion-Ledger notes that the IHOP on I-55, with its familiar blue roof and steep A-frame will soon be closing and moving to a new location up by Briarwood. I’ve really enjoyed seeing this building on a regular basis, and I’ve eaten many a leisurely Saturday brunch there when I should have been doing something more productive like cleaning my filthy house. When I stopped to take a few pictures one day, I googled IHOP to see if there was any information about this obviously standard IHOP building. I found much less than I hoped, but the IHOP website itself has a little bit in its history, mentioning that the “last of the iconic A-frames” was built in 1979. Hopefully, this building will find a new use, one that will keep it around for us to continue to enjoy for many more years.

August 11, 2009: On his blog post “The Loss of a Landmark in Jackson,” Frank Ezelle brings to our attention some construction work behind Bailey Jr. High School (the photo featured as the header of Preservation in Mississippi) that has taken away a large concrete marker that noted the name of the stadium (part of the original school construction in the 1930s). We are still looking into whether any of this work was reviewed by MDAH before it began, which is required because the property is designated as a Mississippi Landmark, and also what has happened to the marker.

Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Station, Vicksburg (1907, D.H. Burnham & Co. [Chicago], archts.)

Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Station, Vicksburg (1907, D.H. Burnham & Co. of Chicago, archts.)

August 11-13, 2009: Two articles in the Vicksburg Post (“Depot’s Future on the agenda for Wednesday” and “Depot’s Future” regarding proposals for the future of the wonderful Levee Street Depot in Vicksburg. Three different entities, Vicksburg Main Street (described unfortunately in the article as a quasi-public trade group, a tendency to forget the origins of Main Street with the National Trust for Historic Preservation that I have increasingly noticed around the state), the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, along with the newly organized Transportation Museum plan to share the building, but city budget constraints may keep the proposed renovation from moving forward because the grants require a local match.

August 12, 2009: The Sun-Herald reports in “Live oak cut down for new building” that the Jackson County Supervisors, in their regular Monday meeting but without any public notice, voted to demolish an old and large live oak tree on a parcel on which they plan to build a new building. In a strategy common to public officials who want to avoid public opposition over demolition of a historic structure, they acted quickly (the tree had been “pushed over” by Tuesday afternoon) so that concerned citizens wouldn’t have time to even know what was about to happen. Pascagoula has a tree ordinance that residents must follow but of course, Jackson County doesn’t have to follow city ordinances even when it’s operating within the city’s limits. Anyone who knows anything about the Gulf Coast communities knows that live oaks are as close to sacred objects as you can get–to say they are beloved by most people is a complete understatement–definitely read the comments that go along with this story. Here’s what one supervisor in his infinite wisdom had to say on the issue:

“It was lose the magnificent oak tree or lose the magnificent building,” McKay said. “We chose the building.”

First of all, yer honor, I think you’ve gotten a little bit tangled in your own grammar: it sounds as if you chose to lose the building–which I think would have been the correct decision–but I think what you meant was that you chose to lose the tree. Second, please define “magnificent building”: is it one of those cool metal buildings with the fancy Dryvet front that looks really good for about one year and then starts looking like absolute crap? Yes, I suspect that’s the kind of “magnificent building” you mean. But you know what? You sure fooled all those dumb Pascagoula people, and that’s something that no one can take away from you.

August 12, 2009: A report in the Oxford Eagle of the extended discussion that took place at the Oxford Historic Preservation Commission meeting on Tuesday before the commission voted to permit the demolition of a contributing structure in the historic district because while it looked fine on the outside, it was all eat up with mold and foundation problems. Meanwhile, the Planning Commission denied several sign requests and a gate request, indicating, perhaps, that aesthetics, not history, is really what’s important in the Bobo’s Paradise that is Oxford.

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Finally, just as a bit of Friday fun, this strange yet intriguing juxtaposition of headlines on the Vicksburg Post’s website last night: 

Alarming: Shortfall signals more dire days ahead

Mississippi started its budget year about six weeks ago. Through next June 30, the state plans to collect and spend about $6 billion through its General Fund. Almost all state operations have as much money or more pledged than ever before. There are no cuts, or at least no significant cuts in the spending plan.
The blame, all of it, belongs to meth defendants

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Categories: Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Depots, Historic Preservation, Jackson, News Roundups, Oxford, Pascagoula, Summit, Vicksburg

4 replies

  1. Which historic house in Oxford is going to be demolished? It’s sad how developers basically took over that town.

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    • According to the agenda, it’s the house at 505 N. 14th Street, part of the North Lamar historic district. I don’t have a picture of it to link to, but it’s a simple c.1935 bungalow, not fancy, but the whole point of a historic district is that it’s composed of lots of simple buildings that make a sum greater than the parts.

      I think it’s more than just developers in Oxford–it’s individuals who buy wanting a mansion, even if it’s a McMansion, and if they have to tear down what’s there, money is no object.

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  2. There definitely are a number of McMansions around Oxford, and I think you are right about their construction due to individual demand rather than development pressure.

    My problem lies more with the rampant condo developments during the housing bubble that took place in some of the areas now considered “historic districts.” I can think of several places where a single older house was torn down only to construct a large, dense condo development completely out of context with the neighborhood. Most of these have garage doors as an entrance, do not front the street, and are owned by absentee landlords who use them for just a few weekends a year. I should add that those are actually considered optimal circumstances, since many of them have never sold.

    Also related to these past demolitions in the historic district is a recent developer-supported plan that I believe passed the Board of Alderman. Historic districts were created for the preservation of the entire neighborhood, so demolition initially was a lengthy process. However, now, all that is required to demolish a building is to have a landscaping plan for its place. This is exactly what the districts were created to combat, as several other houses had also been replaced by vacant lots in the past, and this completely destroyed the neighborhood fabric.

    I do realize that there are good developers, and we would not have wonderful places like the Peabody Hotel in Memphis if somebody had not been willing to take a risk. However, they do not seem to have done much good for Oxford at all.

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    • Completely agree about these developers cramming in 10 townhouses on one residential lot–it’s crazy! I hadn’t been to Oxford for a couple of years after Katrina, and when I was up there last fall I was really shocked to see the level of development in areas that as you say are supposed to be in historic districts.

      I think there are long-term negative consequences too from encouraging development that seems to be geared toward absentees: second or third homes that the owners come to on football weekends and never have any real stake in the town or building a real community. It may be great for a while (building bubble) but when it gets not-great, it gets not-great really fast.

      I think the key is the lack of support from the Board of Aldermen–they can set up a preservation commission but then if they cave every time a developer comes along promising the moon, it all seems a pointless waste of time and energy. I didn’t realize that about the landscaping plan being all that’s necessary–really shocking! Negates the whole purpose of a historic district, which is to emphasize that these buildings that are here now are important and should be given the benefit of the doubt, not pretty landscaping plans that show little popcorn trees and homogenous plantings. Ugh!

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