MissPres News Roundup 11-13-2009

Ok, the pressure’s on. Must compete with MHT’s Facebook page. Must compete with MHT’s Facebook page. Must be witty and not grumpy, a beam of sunshine in an otherwise dark and cruel world. And I can do it! Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!!

Today’s MissPres News Roundup is sponsored by the theme song from Rocky.

I was all ready to start off with a really top-notch article in the Delta Democrat Times, not about one building or preservation issue in particular, but about preservation, the National Register, and other interesting general topics along that line. But (and this may be a bad sign for the rest of this news roundup), when I clicked on the link to make sure it worked, I found that after less than a week (it came out Sunday I believe), it’s been relegated to the paid archives. So . . . I could replay it from memory, if my memory remembered it; or I could tell the story with shadow puppets on the wall; or I could say “Hey look over there!” and run away.

I choose the first option: Even though they’re very stingy about sharing it, the Democrat Times gave a good report of a workshop held last Friday by staff members from MDAH about the how local ordinances and local historic preservation commissions are where the preservation rubber meets the road. I also seem to recall that they used correctly terms like “National Register of Historic Places” and other words from the preservation lingo, which I’m afraid I’ve become a bit snobby about. It’s always nice when a reporter gets the easy, verifiable-by-a-quick-Google-search stuff right.

Ok, you’re right, the shadow puppets would have been better:


Alright, moving on from that embarrassing debacle . . .

Trust me, things are about to get better.


E.E. Bass School (this section was built 1929, and designed by the firm of N.W. Overstreet when Hays Town was a designer and not yet a partner.) The section to the left of this auditorium (not in the picture) is the 3-story old Greenville High School, built in 1914 and designed by R.H. Hunt of Chattanooga.

Uh oh. The Delta Democrat Times ran another article this week, “Curtain Rises on Bass,” about the renovation of the old Greenville High School portion of E.E. Bass School located in the Washington-Main Historic District. And again you can’t see it because it’s in the archives. Well, sometimes you learn the hard way: next time I see an article in the DDT, I’m clipping a few relevant sections of the article before it gets moved into the subscription realm. At least I have a picture of E.E. Bass School all ready to show you, except this isn’t really the section of the building that is undergoing renovation. Imagine, if you will, the section just to the left of this photo, the section in gray in the Sanborn map image I have also helpfully found for you:


According to what I remember of the article, the E.E. Bass group, which is a local theater group, has finally raised enough money to begin work on the old high school section, which now consists mainly of the exterior walls, the roof having fallen in a while back. So it’s a huge project for a small group and congratulations to them for keeping on keeping on in this herculean effort.

Well, this next one is from the Clarion Ledger, so we should be ok. “King Edward Reigns Again: $90 million renovation close to finish” gives us some more pictures of the King Ed, which is so close to done we can practically taste it. Be sure to click on the “Photo Galleries” link to see the pictures in a larger format. And amongst the general celebration, I just have to point out this little downer:

King Edward’s status as a historic building added extra layers of scrutiny to the exterior and interior of the building, and developers had to hash out various details with city and state officials.

Watkins estimates 40 percent of the project’s cost was related to meeting historic-building standards. It also added a year to the construction process.

To say that I’m highly dubious about the accuracy of this statement would be the only polite way to phrase it. Doing the quick math, 40% of $90 million dollars is $36 million. So, 36 million dollars was spent on this project that wouldn’t have had to be spent if it weren’t a designated historic building? Really? What exactly are these alleged costs? Would the roof structure not had to have been rebuilt? The interior walls not gutted? The pool structure demolished? Granted, there were some requirements about replicating some of the plasterwork in the 1st and 2nd floor lobby spaces, the beamed ceiling was reconstructed–but $36 million worth? Not buying it.

I even thought that maybe what he’s trying to say is that the building was in such bad shape from 40 years of abandonment that it cost lots more just to get it structurally sound–but that’s not what he said. And I’m generously going to give Watkins the benefit of the doubt that the reporter just didn’t include his comments about how the project got a 51% tax credit only because it is a historic building (along with other tax credits as well I’ve heard). Fifty-one percent is $45.9 million. And to boil it all down to brass tacks, the profit must be good enough to get the same developers intererested in renovating the Standard Life Building next door, and HRI is also the company proposing to redevelop the Threefoot Building.

I know this seems like maybe something we should just ignore because the project has been so long in coming and we’re all so happy to see it this close, but this kind of brazenly negative statement about “historic-building standards” and “adding a year to the construction process” is the kind that sticks in people’s heads when they’re looking at whatever old landmark is waiting for a new use in their town. This kind of random percentage gets thrown in our faces time and time again and turns people who might have pursued their dream of saving that old landmark against the whole idea. These kinds of urban myths need to be questioned and the facts exposed.

And with that, since I’ve recently been compared to Walter Cronkite, let me end by saying “And that’s the way it is.”

Categories: Cool Old Places, Greenville, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Jackson, Renovation Projects, Schools

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