As much as it seems hard to believe while watching the human and structural devastation in Haiti, other events that affect our own little postage stamp have been going on this week.
In Hattiesburg, the old high school is coming along (“High school project’s 1st phase finished“), and officials celebrated the completion of the first phase of rebuilding after the devastating arson fire that destroyed a large section of the front of the building back in 2007. The school, built in two major building programs, has an original section at the rear built in 1911, and a fabulous Tudor/Collegiate Gothic front section added in 1921 by local architect/Highlander Robert E. Lee. The fire destroyed most of the third floor of the front section, including of course the roof structure and parts of the exterior walls, so this project, funded in part by the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History, rebuilt the tops of those walls.
According to the Hattiesburg American:
“We have restored the historic integrity of the project and now we have to get proper designation out of Washington to raise the money through some historic tax credits, as well as new market credits, which will be crucial to our efforts to complete the project,” said Holt McMullan, vice president of the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association’s special projects committee.
McMullan said it would probably be another two years before the project is completed. Around $3 million has been invested in the project, he said. About $30,000 of that was money generated through the HHDA’s Cornerstone Campaign last year.
The old Hattiesburg High School is individually listed on the National Register and is a designated Mississippi Landmark.
Speaking of schools, yet another article from December that I missed (ok, seriously people, it’s supposed to be the Christmas season, which means nothing of consequence should be happening in December, right?), comes from the December 8, 2009 issue of the Copiah County Courier. According to the article, (which I can’t get a link to, other than to say go to copiahcountycourier.com and search for “Wesson School”), the Wesson aldermen opened bids for the second phase of work on the historic Wesson School. As you may remember, the old Wesson School is one of only a handful of 19th-century schools left in Mississippi (a number that was reduced by one when the owner of the Speed Street School decided it would be better off as salvaged brick and timber last March, may a curse be upon him), and it is listed on the National Register and designated as a Mississippi Landmark. According to the article “Bids opened for work on Old Wesson School”:
This phase calls for structural modifications to the facility, which will eventually be converted into the St. Ambrose Leadership College–a project which involves Co-Lin. Work on the more than one-hundred year old facility began back in 2004. Nothing has been done in quite some time, as federal monies promised to complete work on the structure have not yet been released.
A total of nine bids were opened on Tuesday. Harris Construction came in as the low bidder at $179,900. The highest bid was $392,000 by Fountain Construction. Orr said that he would study all of the bids to see which is the best based on meeting specifications and cost concerns, and would make his recommendation to the board at the January meeting.
Restoration and repair has started at Melrose, the National Historic Landmark and headquarters of the Natchez National Historical Park, according to the Natchez Democrat’s “Project under way to recreate Melrose exterior.” Apparently, the stuccoed areas of the house, which as I recall are the section under the front portico and possibly the rear facade, were originally painted out with faux finish–the article doesn’t make it clear what kind of faux finish, but does say something about veining–and that finish will be replicated from old photographs and paint analysis. This quote made me laugh because I’ve been in some antebellum mansion whose (original) color scheme gave me a start:
“It is very subtle, soft colors. Nothing too alarming,” Jenkins said.
Yes, sometimes our forebearers chose some very alarming color palettes. It sounds like visitors will be able to watch the decorative painters at their work when they get started in the summer, so I’ll have to make a note to get down there and get some pictures to show off here.
A training session held by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Historic Preservation Division will be held in Columbus at the downtown library today from 1:00-3:00, according to a helpful Columbus Dispatch article “Preservationists invited to Friday meeting.” Primarily geared toward members of local historic preservation commissions, the session is open to any interested citizen:
Each year members of a historic preservation commission in a certified local government are required to receive training on matters related to historic preservation, Carpenter said.
“The Department of Archives and History has a division devoted to historic preservation and offers training to local historic preservation commission members, CLG coordinators and local elected officials at no charge,” she said.
Each year, Jones said, the MDAH has different issues they like to place emphasis on during the training sessions.
“This time, we are offering training on procedures the local preservation committees has to follow,” she said.
Tupelo is one of three new Preserve America communities in Mississippi, according to our friends at NEMS360 (the paper formerly known as the Tupelo Daily Journal), “Tupelo noted for its efforts in preservation.” Tupelo has had some bruising battles this last year, with the Spain House controversy and the on-going talk of elevating the railroad through town (and through the historic districts), so this is a nice boost to preservationists there. Greenville and Hernando were the other two Mississippi towns designated as Preserve America communities in the last year.
Saw this article in the Magee Courier, “Funding cuts could mean jobs at schools,” about a new building program at the Magee High School campus and recognized the strangely askew photo of the Magee Mendenhall Elementary School which the article says is supposed to be torn down. While admittedly “showing wear and tear,” primarily due to poor maintenance and the cutting of holes all over the place in the brick walls, the building is a 1931 design of C.H. Lindsley, the Jackson architect also responsible for the Standard Life Building, Central High School, and Duling School in Jackson and the Threefoot Building in Meridian. The article also mentions that some of the money is coming from the federal stimulus package, which was sold to preservationists in the beginning as a “repair” rather than demolition and rebuild program. Those of you who have been around since the beginning no doubt recall my erudite and now seemingly prophetic “Historic Schools and the Stimulus Package” from my third day as a blogger.
Later update: Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader, I realized I had read “Magee” when I should have read “Mendenhall” Elementary School. Mendenhall Elementary School is an even sweeter building and more intact architecturally than the Magee Elementary School. Built in 1938 in the Art Deco style, we aren’t sure who the architect was but it may have been Emmett J. Hull, husband of noted artist Marie Hull, and architect of many buildings in his long career, including most of the Tougaloo College campus and the Pinola School in Simpson County. I would very much hate to see this building demolished and hope someone will talk the school board out of it. Simpson County has so few interesting buildings besides its beautiful courthouse, it would be a shame for them to short-sightedly tear this one down.
Finally, a hopeful article about the Ceres Plantation House in the Flowers community east of Vicksburg in the Vicksburg Post, “Developer studies saving Ceres Plantation House.” As you may recall, there has been discussion by the Warren County Port Commission about demolishing the antebellum house. Now, a local resident is thinking of moving the house to the south side of the interstate and opening a bed-and-breakfast and bringing her existing miniature horse training business with her to the open farmland. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed on this one and hope for the best for this long-neglected historic house.
Oh, almost forgot this little piece from an article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal called “Mississippi legislators convene with tough budget challenge.” After noting all sorts of challenges, such as legislators losing weight and not talking so much (ok, not that second one, but it is a challenge), it mentions that Barbour used partial vetoes on some of the budget bills from last year’s marathon legislative session. Turns out, the legislature had pulled money from a special fund from the popular NASCAR tags to fund their budget, and Barbour objected:
“I think it is unwise to obligate $500,000 of those available funds to pay for special sessions that may or may not occur in FY10 when the New Capitol, Old Capitol, Governor’s Mansion and War Memorial Building may need repairs during the year.”
Each of those bills would have set aside $500,000 from the sale of NASCAR license tags to finance any special legislative sessions that Barbour might call during the 2010 fiscal year that ends June 30.
The two bills authorize money from the NASCAR tags to be used for repair and renovation of the New Capitol, Ole Capitol, Governor’s Mansion and the War Memorial Building.
“These dollars should be used for historic preservation,” Barbour wrote in his veto message.
Well, knock me over with a feather! I’ve never gotten a sense that Barbour is either pro or con regarding preservation, but I guess he at least see the value in those buildings staying in good repair, and even though I know this partial veto is at least partially political, I’m happy to see such a statement from the governor.