Well, here we are at Friday again–thank goodness! And next week is Thanksgiving, so it’s a short week for some, a long week for those with visitors staying in their homes. But I digress. Let’s look around for some news.
First of all, I see that MHT’s Facebook page now has over 225 fans–I’m sure it’s all directly attributable to my free publicity last week . . . Congrats MHT, and my personal goal for you is to hit 1000 by the end of the year!
We’ve mentioned before that the Eola Hotel in Natchez was up for sale (“The Gavel Pounds for Eola”), and according to the Natchez Democrat it sold at auction earlier this week. My opinion, as I’ve said before, is that this may be a good thing and hopefully will bring a needed updating of the hotel to attract visitors now that there’s that other hotel downtown. At the same auction, the Prentiss Club and the Eola Guest House, both within a block of the Eola, also sold. As of Thursday, the names of the high bidders for these properties, all contributing elements in the Natchez-on-Top-of-the-Hill Historic District, hadn’t been released.
And here’s a classically concise first paragraph for an article: “He showed up.” This also in the Natchez Democrat, referring to Dr. Thomas Vaughan, owner of the National Historic Landmark mansion “Arlington,” who has dodged a court summons for over a year regarding the deplorable condition into which he has allowed the building to fall. Now that he’s been summoned and showed up in court, maybe he will either take steps to secure the property or, better yet, imho, sell it to someone or some organization who has the wherewithal to repair and restore it.
And a classically Southern line, this one from the building inspector:
“Bless his heart. I’m glad to hear he did (show up),” Dawes said. “Apparently he’s going to be cooperative to some extent, but it all remains to be seen how it’s all going to shake out.
“We’ve got a ways to go yet.”
Yes, bless his heart–what more needs to be said here? Except be sure to read the always interesting Natchezian comments for all the things that could be said here.
The Vicksburg Post is running a little featurette each week–maybe they’ve just started or maybe they’ve been doing it forever and I just noticed–called “The View From the Top” with little snippets about the local scene. This week’s was a picture of the Martin Marble Works building and a note saying that the company was founded in 1869 but moved to a new location and has a new name and that the building has just been demolished. These are the kinds of places that get forgotten very easily, and while I’m sorry that the property was abandoned and demolished, at least the newspaper was there to tell the story. Also check out last week’s feature on the Peoples Burial Association building in Edwards.
Also in the Vicksburg Post, historian Gordon Cotton, longtime director of the Old Courthouse Museum in Vicksburg, writes occasional columns about Mississippi history and historic places. This week, he writes in “Moniker misleading for Claiborne estate” about a lost plantation in Claiborne County that I wasn’t familiar with, La Cache, owned by a friend of that scoundrel Aaron Burr. Another article by Cotton tells the story of National Register-listed Yokena Presbyterian Church in Warren County. Designed by Vicksburg architect and master builder William Stanton–not to be confused (as he sometimes is) with his son William A. Stanton, a college-educated architect–the church is celebrating its 125th anniversary and–wow!!–they’re transcribing their session records and putting them online! As one whose done a little transcription, I salute these brave souls!
The Clarion Ledger had a good long article last Saturday about the efforts to restore Robert Johnson’s birthplace outside of Hazlehurst, “Restoration of blues legend’s birthplace eyed.” Strangely, the full article was in the paper version, but only a little snippet made it online. Thankfully, our friends at MHT found the article so that we can all read it at RSS Online. Both articles contain a really nice black-and-white photograph of the house in its early years. The house was listed on MHT’s 10 Most Endangered Places list in 2003, and is in need of lots of work.
Johnson’s birthplace was verified in a letter from his half-sister years ago, said Janet Schriver, executive director of the Copiah County Office of Cultural Affairs.
The 1,500-square foot home now owned by the county has fallen into disrepair, but it still bears evidence of craftsmanship. Johnson’s stepfather, Charles Dodds, was a furniture maker and a prosperous landowner. The house had a double-parlor, a long front porch and a pump that allowed water to flow into the kitchen, a modern convenience unheard in most homes occupied by blacks in the early 20th century, said Schriver.
Schriver said the county is trying to raise $250,000 for the restoration project, which coincides with efforts to get Johnson’s life story to the screen.
The coast station WLOX ran a nice story about the old Woodmen of the World building in downtown Bay St. Louis, as its mostly completed its post-Katrina repair and is receiving a preservation award from the Bay St. Louis Preservation Commission. I saw this building soon after Katrina and there wasn’t a stitch of roof left on it. I seriously worried about its future, but the owners have struggled through the long repair process and from the video at least it looks like they’ve done a good job. Make sure to watch the video because they show before and after pictures, which are guaranteed to impress. Congratulations to the owners and to Bay St. Louis for preserving this wonderful local landmark.
Looking a little more broadly than Mississippi–yes, I know, why bother when we have so many interesting *cough-crazy-cough* people here on our own little postage stamp, but bear with me. Last week’s Wall Street Journal article “Builders Downsize the Dream Home” will be a boon to architectural researchers in the future, as it goes into great detail about how house builders are shrinking their floor plans to deal with the economic changes of the last year and that many of them feel that perhaps things got a little out of hand before the crash. As we all know from Battlestar Gallactica, everything has happened before and it will happen again, and as we all know from our architectural history classes, this has happened before. Look at the size of Victorian-era houses compared to a standard Craftsman bungalow–changes brought about by a lack of servants–and even more dramatic, the size of Depression-era and post-WWII houses like my own 1376 square foot house built in 1950. Standard house sizes are a great way to chart the rise and fall of the country’s economic fortunes, and that’s one thing that makes those of us who love to look at buildings happy beyond measure.