Last Thursday night, many people (possibly 400+? I’m a terrible judge of numbers) gathered at Union Station in downtown Jackson to witness the unveiling of the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s latest 10 Most Endangered Places list. This was the 10th anniversary of the list, and the highlight of the event was preview tours of the King Edward Hotel, which was on the 1st 10 Most Endangered list back in 1999 when it was still an abandoned hulk at the west end of Capitol Street.
Although always well-attended, this year the crowd seemed larger than normal, probably because of the excitement over the King Edward tours. Sponsors and patrons got the first shot at seeing the King Edward, beginning at 6 PM, but the line got long fast because only 24 people were allowed into the building at one time, due to ongoing construction and contractor liability concerns. As I understand it, earlier this year when this event was being planned, it was expected that the construction would have been virtually complete by this point, which would have allowed larger tours and more spaces being open to view. At any rate, the tours only got into the first floor lobby area, which gave a decent picture of what was going on in the building, but was a little disappointing because many had hoped to at least see the ballroom on the 2nd floor.
The doors opened at 7 PM for general attendance, and around 7:15 the unveiling took place, with the places being introduced by Walt Grayson. At least I think he was trying to introduce the places–the crowd divided into two groups at this point: one gathered around the exhibit trying to hear Grayson, the other standing around carrying on their own conversations and actually getting louder and louder trying to talk over Grayson. Come on people, I know your mommas raised you better than that! There was plenty of room in the rest of the huge building to go talk on your own if that’s what you wanted to do. Such rudeness is really unbecoming.
In case you were in the non-listening crowd or weren’t there, here’s the list (and you can find more info about each at the Clarion Ledger):
- Alcazar Hotel (1915), Clarksdale
- “Arlington” (c.1818), Natchez
- Church Street, Port Gibson–check out Briar Jones’ really mischievous painting for this Endangered Place, a photo of which I’ve added to the MissPres Church Street page
- Ebenezer A.M.E. Church (1885), Raymond
- Front Street Historic District, Pascagoula
- Hinds County Armory (1927), Jackson–fie on the Dept. of Agriculture for letting this building sit and deteriorate so long!
- The Oakes African-American Cultural Center (1866), Yazoo City
- Teoc Community, Carroll County
- Threefoot Building (1930), Meridian
- Wood College, Mathiston
After the unveiling, people were free to wander looking at the artwork, get in line for the King Ed tour, or just mingle, listen to the music, and have a little food and beverages. I heard tell that they ran out of food at one point, but I never actually witnessed that myself.
I spent my time looking at the artwork, which was very diverse and exciting. Normally, the silent auction includes 10 pieces of art–one for each newly listed place–and several bed and breakfast/tour packages. This time, in addition to these expected pieces, there were also 10 works featuring only the King Edward. In addition to paintings, there were photographs and even glassware depicting the endangered places. It was fun to see each artist’s particular take on the building, ranging from abstract variations on specific decorative details to a very soulful nighttime rendering by new-to-me artist Tony Davenport showing the hotel and the Standard Life building from the other side of the tracks, with a saxophonist playing ghostly notes that haunted the whole scene.
The most eye-popping piece though was Rolland Golden’s amazing painting of Arlington, the Federal style mansion that burned in 2002 and has sat vacant ever since. Not only did he use an amazing yellow for the sky, his image of the house just really caught the idea of abandoned grandeur. The yellow sky shows through the house in its half-opened doors and windows, and he put little vignettes of the graffiti that has been painted on the columns out in the matte that borders the piece. Everyone said how their eyes were drawn immediately to the painting when they first entered the room. Unfortunately, the minimum bid on Golden’s piece was $4,000, which is below what I’m sure it would sell for on the open market, but which was more than I make in a month and also apparently above everyone else’s price range too, since there were no bids on that one. That’s a shame. Hopefully, someone in Natchez will still be able to buy it and keep it in the area, or better yet, it would be great if the Mississippi Museum of Art would buy it to place in their collection–it’s truly an amazing work of art.
In previous years, the bands didn’t seem to understand that they were supposed to be in the background and drowned out any conversation you might try to have. This year’s music was great–just a little jazz group that formed a nice background mood. I vote for the jazz group in future events.
Last but not least, you could buy little preservation-related items at the MHT gift shop or Mississippi history and architecture books at the MDAH History Store set up in the lobby. My favorites are the HABS notecards offered by MHT–for $12 you get 12 large-format notecards with sophisticated architectural drawings of some of Mississippi’s most impressive architectural landmarks. I use these all the time, and I’ve noticed that men in particular think they are exceptionally cool.
I’m sure you’re all dying to see inside pictures of the King Ed–tune in tomorrow, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!