While y’all were celebrating the holidays, some even basking in the sun of Trinidad (*cough* Carunzel *cough*), I’ve been diligently scanning the newspapers and other media for stories that might interest MissPres readers. I’ve also been watching with a small amount of pride the Jackson Details photo identification contest, in which I now have a handy two-photo lead–two photos have yet to be identified, and if this keeps up, I might have to declare myself “Person With Too Much Time on His/Her Hands.” That’s a title I’ve always wanted but thought I might already have just by virtue of being a Blogger.
I figured it would be a couple of slow news weeks, but in fact, I’ve got a little pile of stuff to send your way.
The King Edward Hotel story made national news when the Associated Press picked it up. I’ve seen the same stories on several sites, but the most impressive-sounding is Forbes.com “King Edward: Crumbling hotel restored to grandeur.”
The Madison County Herald in its “Old Church, New Life” announced the grand opening of the new Madison Chamber of Commerce offices in the old Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church right on Main Street as you come into town from the interstate. Built in 1936, the church, along with an adjacent masonic hall (demolished), served its African American congregation until the early 2000s (I was about to say “the early part of this decade” but then realized that I might stoke arguments over whether the decade started in 2000 or 2001).
Only in Natchez would a retrospective article be published looking back over historic preservation efforts in the city in the last decade–I love it! The Natchez Democrat headline reads “Historic Preservation sees ups and downs” and carries (at least online) a graphic photo of the demolition of the Natchez Pecan Company, while interestingly, the same article appeared in the Clarion-Ledger with the title “Natchez preservation efforts persist” accompanied by a photo of the National Park Service’s William Johnson House. I don’t know why that interests me, but it does. Here’s a little snippet form the article, which I hope you’ll read in full at the Democrat site, while attempting to ignore the reader comments that cross the line from that lovable Natchezian wackiness into pure venom:
The September 2002 Arlington fire, reportedly caused by an electrical short, destroyed the attic of the antebellum mansion and caused smoke and water damage throughout the then-184-year-old house.
Arlington never recovered, and many of the city’s treasured preservation efforts followed the same path.
This decade saw piece-by-piece destruction of the former First Baptist Church on Main Street and, this year, its demolition.
The historic pecan factory was bulldozed in 2006 on an order of the mayor, despite an attorney general’s stop-work order. The destruction came a year after the city signed a deal with condo developers interested in building on the site.
Though smokestacks gave way to tourism, it wasn’t a particularly good decade for the topic at the heart of Natchez’s tourism market — historic preservation.
I have to admit I winced at this statement from Mimi Miller, director of the Natchez Historic Foundation, “(Madison) is where everyone wants to live, and where everyone wants to live is where business wants to follow.” While her point was that strong city planning offices help create livable communities (Natchez has run through 5 city planners in the last 10 years), I would just like to publicly state that ol’ Malvaney most assuredly does not want to live in Madison.
In the category of “Most Thorough Local Newspaper Article Ever Written About a National Register Nomination,” the award goes to the Starkville Daily News and writer Gwen Sisson for two-part feature coverage of the Greensboro Street Historic District expansion, listed on the National Register in July 2008. Quoting district residents and people who have restored their historic homes, and also taking lots of information straight from the National Register nomination, the articles really explore the listing from several different perspectives, including tourism, marketability, and of course the history of the neighborhood. Check out both articles: “Greensboro Historic District expansion set” and “Historic District Expansion Set, Part II.”
The old Brookhaven City Hall, now the Chamber of Commerce headquarters, is under renovation, according to the Daily Leader’s “Chamber upgrades on the way” and an article in the same paper earlier in the month noted the National Register listing of the local Alexander Teen Center (“Teen center gets historic designation“). In addition to being a Mississippi Landmark, the old Brookhaven City Hall is listed on the National Register both individually and as part of the Downtown Brookhaven Historic District. A sweet classical/Beaux Arts red-brick structure, it was built in 1910. I would show you a picture, but I don’t seem to have one handy–sorry!
Finally, I wanted to note the passing of Buford C. Blount, II, longtime mayor of the little town of Bassfield, down in the Piney Woods. Blount, who returned to his hometown after a full career in the Army that included service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, was a kind and civic-minded Mississippian who loved to tell stories and had a great sense of humor. He also had a sense of history, and a project that was close to his heart was an effort to save the 1820s Wilkes House (listed on the National Register in 2006) by moving it from its abandoned property outside of the city into town to be next to the Long Leaf Trace. I only met Mr. Blount once, but he impressed me as a larger-than-life character, almost Mississippi personified, and I’ll miss knowing that he is around. They don’t make them like him anymore.