From “Project Description, Pass Christian Town Library & School,” by the Pass Christian Historical Society, 2003:
‘Mrs. Roosevelt was so much impressed with your library she made me go around to see it myself. You are doing just the kind of work in which we most emphatically believe. Faithfully yours, Theodore Roosevelt (June, 1915)’
The old Town Library & School is Pass Christian’s most historic building and one of the great (and largely overlooked) treasures of the state of Mississippi.
Courthouse documents, [anecdotal] evidence, and architectural details suggest a construction date shortly after the property was acquired in 1853 by one Enewold Jebens, making the building (minus some 1908 renovations) 150 years old or almost the exact age of Beauvoir in Biloxi.
. . . .
The building derives its importance, however, not so much from its 19th century architecture or age, but rather from the building’s state of preservation; its role in community life (as a library, school, and catalyst for civic action); the books it has accumulated; and the visitors it has attracted. It is also important as an historical object because of the records it has retained, and its resistance to change–this is a 20,000+ volume library that, for example, never adopted the Dewey decimal system, or even use of the typewriter, and whose most recent furniture is seventy-five years old or more. Ledgers prepared in the most beautiful handwriting tell us the cost of books entering the collection nearly 100 years ago. And right up to the end in 1996, the library thought nothing of lending its most valuable volumes–books signed by Presidents–to the subscriber who had paid his or her $1.50 in annual subscription fees.
. . . .
To step through the building’s doors is to bring one back to the time when President Woodrow Wilson and later Theodore Roosevelt paid courtesy calls. To peruse the shelves is to discover books that other libraries would have discarded ages ago, and rediscover the reading interests of generations past. In short the building is a time capsule.
The Pass Christian Town Library had just completed a major renovation project in August 2005 and was schedule to be on the Pass Christian Historical Society’s annual Tour of Homes. I don’t know whether the books had been moved back into the building or not, but I do believe they were completely destroyed either in this building or in the Historic Society’s building a block or two away. A brief but incredibly sad statement on the Tour of Homes 2005 listing reads, “the 29th Annual Tour of Homes was cancelled.”
Don’t forget the premier of Building Blocks “the documentary on the reclamation of historic properties and cultural institutions on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina” tonight on Mississippi Public Broadcasting at 9 PM CDT.
This post is the 3rd in the week-long Katrina’s Lost Landmarks series. Read other posts in the series:
See also Katrina Survivors series:
- Katrina Survivors: Beauvoir
- Katrina Survivors: Randolph School, Pass Christian
- Katrina Survivors: Charnley Houses(s), Ocean Springs
- Katrina Survivors: Regular People Saving Their History