Our impulse to create lists of accomplishments and failures continues today, with a list of the newly designated Mississippi Landmarks in the state. The Mississippi Landmark designation is conferred by the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History (quick, who can name the chair of the MDAH Board?), and the designating authority comes from the Mississippi Antiquities Act (Code of 1972), which states:
(39-7-11) (2) All other sites, objects, buildings, artifacts, implements, structures and locations of historical or architectural significance located in or under the surface of any lands belonging to the State of Mississippi or to any county, city or political subdivision of the state may be declared to be Mississippi landmarks by majority vote of the board. Every Mississippi landmark shall be so designated based upon its significance within the historical or architectural patterns of a community, a county, the State of Mississippi, or the United States of America. Upon such action by the board, the designation of the Mississippi landmark shall be recorded in the deed records of the county in which the landmark is located. All such designated sites or items located on public lands within the State of Mississippi may not be taken, altered, damaged, destroyed, salvaged, restored, renovated or excavated without a permit from, the board or in violation of the terms of such permit.
What that boils down to in the common language: MDAH has the authority to designate any publicly owned property in the state without the owner’s permission, and later on in the act we see that MDAH can also designate privately owned property but only at the request of the owner. Once that designation is made, it is entered into the deed of the property, so that even if the property is sold out of public ownership, the property remains a Mississippi Landmark and changes have to be reviewed by MDAH.
So often I hear people say “Well, that building’s on the National Register, they can’t tear it down.” This is simply not true–the National Register does not place any restrictions on the listed property (not that it’s “merely honorary” of course). But a Mississippi Landmark designation does place restrictions, not on what you can do with the property (see for instance, the King Edward Hotel or the Standard Life Building in Jackson, both of which are Mississippi Landmarks, designated when they were in public ownership), but on what changes can be made to the buildings.
From my perspective, the Mississippi Landmark designation gives more peace of mind about the future of a building, because any demolition has to be approved by MDAH and can’t just be random whims of some public official with a taste for destruction (i.e. the departed Frank Melton who promised to blow up the King Ed). Being a Landmark doesn’t ensure the preservation of the building (see for instance the Lakefront Cottage mentioned yesterday) but it does up the odds for the building.
Ok, so all that said, here’s the list of newly designated sites for the year, courtesy of MDAH–it’s pretty short:
Looking over the list, I notice that while the Antiquities Act emphasized public buildings, this year’s Landmarks are mostly privately owned: I think only the Founders Gym and the Hernando Water Tower are public properties. Does this indicate a trend for MDAH of only designating “easy” properties that won’t generate controversy? Or is this just a fluke of the year? Only time will tell–we’ll re-visit the topic in next year’s wrap-up, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.