MissPres News Roundup 12-4-2009

As of this morning, the forecast is for snow, snow! in Jackson tonight. The best snow is the kind that comes and puts a nice quiet blanket on everything, and then goes away after enough time for everyone to get out and throw a few snowballs and make a tiny pitiful snowman. Oh, and a Monday morning snow is ideal, since we would all get off work, or should, because ya’ll are terrible drivers on a normal day, much less when it’s snowing.

Ok, off we go.

Jackson:

We’re only a couple of weeks away from the ribbon cutting for the new King Edward Hotel/Hilton Garden Inn (really that’s way too long, and I’ll just keep calling it the King Ed, even though they painted the sign white and it doesn’t stand out like it used to). December 17 at 10 AM, be there or be square!

And I’m not an accountant, so this one was a little bit of a struggle for me, but the Clarion Ledger ran an article about the Hinds County  Board of Supervisors granting a $2.8 million tax abatement for the King Ed.

Across the street from the King Ed is a line of intact although somewhat underutilized and in some cases dilapidated late-19th and early-20th century commercial buildings–these are all a part of the same West Capitol historic district that the Ed and the Standard Life and most importantly the Mayflower Cafe are in. According to the C-L (“Council orders eyesore cleaned up“), the City Council is taking a hard look at the rundown building at 226 W. Capitol and is going to pay to clean up around and it secure it (again) before the ribbon cutting. As you may recall back in the summer, HRI–the developers of the King Ed–wanted to tear down a couple of the buildings in this same line but I heard that idea was quashed in some way. The article tells the story of the owner, who bought the building back in the 1990s after graduating from architecture school, with good intentions of renovating it and leasing it out, but he couldn’t make the project work and it’s just gone down and been vandalized numerous times. My feeling is, these buildings have hung on this long through sometimes severe abandonment, and if they can just hang on another 6-12 months, they’ll be through the worst of it and get bought up and developed into something great. If the King Edward can do it, why not its smaller brothers across the street?

And so, without even realizing it at the time, you have just now been exposed to an unexpected burst of Malvaney optimism.

Speaking of downtown Jackson, the Clarion-Ledger article “Downtown opens doors for retailers” makes me hope hope hope that someday in my lifetime there will be a newstand/bookstore and a drugstore downtown so I can run errands and pick up a book or big-city newspaper every once in a while on my lunch break. Please ya’ll?

Vicksburg:

Ok, I can’t leave this one alone–you know how ticked I got about the demolition of the Speed Street School in Vicksburg? One of only five or six 19th-century public schools left in the state? A condemnation order by the building inspector for plumbing problems quickly became, in published articles (apparently egged on by the owners who wanted to demolish the building to get rid of the low-rent occupants) “caved in lower units” and an “unavoidable” demolition, when in fact the building had a new roof since Katrina and any “caving” that occurred was in the partition walls and dropped ceilings that had been inserted into the building in the 1980s. These walls could have been gutted anyway and the classrooms restored to their full open glory as loft-style apartments. 

But here we butt up against the lack of imagination again. And then to add insult to injury, the owner crowed about how he was preserving the building because he was selling it for salvaged parts. Well, now after we’ve had a chance to settle down and start to enjoy the Christmas season, we get another article telling us how the historic building will be replaced by a “nice landscaped lot” after the salvage operation is complete. Nicely played, Mr. Thames, and may all your plants wither and die.

Natchez:

This from the Natchez Democrat updating us about the ongoing saga of the Demolition by Neglect cased against the owner of “Arlington“:

The trial of Arlington owner Dr. Thomas Vaughan began and ended Wednesday without Dr. Thomas Vaughan.Despite Vaughan’s absence, Municipal Judge Jim Blough ordered Vaughan to pay a $259 fine for demolition by neglect, and a $292 fine plus 10 days in jail suspended for abandonment of a motor vehicle. Vaughan appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to the charges last month.

Seriously?? 559 dollars for all this trouble? That barely pays the gas and time to send the building inspector up to Jackson twice to try to serve papers on the man. Is this like leaving a penny tip, a slap in the face by the judge against the historic preservation commission? Blough did authorize the city to clean and maintain the property, but I thought they already had that right under the ordinance. Unless I’m completely misunderstanding this turn of events, this is very discouraging news–what’s the next step in trying to stop the continuing decline of this National Historic Landmark building?

As usual, the comments are always worth the read, although sometimes both bitter and cryptic at the same time, like this one from the too-accurately named “NatchezEnema”:

These local yolkals around here in Natchezville never stop amazing me with their codes, regulations, and laws. It has destroyed business, made the town known as unkind to business and home owners. You people keep on. You know Fayette was a nice place to live and raise a family at one time.

Hmm . . . I’m sure it was.

Long Beach

And this from the Sun-Herald:

Educators are hopeful that $1.5 million in additional FEMA funds will be available to restore the administration building destroyed by Katrina on the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park Campus.

USM is one of five public entities in Mississippi that have chosen arbitration, established by federal rules in August, to resolve disputes over FEMA funding for Katrina recovery. Disputes must involve $500,000 or more to qualify.

Arbitration appears to have worked well for USM. FEMA initially provided $950,000 for repairs to the administration building, concluding it was less than 50 percent damaged. USM gathered and submitted additional information to show the building was more than 50 percent damaged and would cost $2.5 million to restore.

I’m glad to see the use of the word “restore” after I’ve heard ever since Katrina that USM wanted to demolish the building (in gray on the map), which is one of three buildings left from the original Gulf Park College for Girls/Women. Built in 1921 and designed by New Orleans architect Rathbone Emile DeBuys, the administration building sits between and behind the two large dorms that face the Gulf. All three buildings took the storm surge (and the small kind-of-U-shaped building on the map to the upper left of the administration building got bashed so badly it had to be demolished), but the administration building, sitting slightly to the rear was less damaged than the two front buildings, which were washed out completely on the first floor.

Isn’t Rathbone a cool name?

Finally, if you’re in the mood to get out and see some historic architecture this Christmas, head down to Natchez for their Christmas Pilgrimage events, which I have helpfully placed on the MissPres calendar.

As for me, a snowy night, warm hot chocolate by the fire, a dog snoring, a good book, and the Christmas tree lights glowing might help me calm down about Speed Street. But it won’t make me take back my curse on the plants.



Categories: Demolition/Abandonment, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Hurricane Katrina, Jackson, Natchez, National Register, News Roundups, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Universities/Colleges, Vicksburg

3 replies

  1. I’m surprised that you didn’t include the Old Jackson Christmas by Candlelight Tour (tonight from 5 – 8 pm) on the calendar – I think the possibility of “snow” during it should make it rather festive :).

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  1. MissPres News Roundup 1-8-2010 « Preservation in Mississippi

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