I can’t believe it’s the end of February! I keep thinking Spring should be in the air, but so far, other than the birds that have come back to make their nest under my window awning, I can’t see the signs. This being Mississippi though, we’ll wake up next week or the week after and the azaleas will be blooming, the Japanese magnolias will be all pink, little green leaves will suddenly sprout from the trees, and the roaches and mosquitoes will come out of their winter hiding place.
Well, what’s been going on these last two weeks since the Great Mississippi Snow?
The Warren County Port Commission met last week to review proposals received in response to a Request for Proposals to demolish the antebellum house or move it off the property. The Commission received three bid: one plan, submitted by Deborah Reul–who was mentioned in a previous Vicksburg Post article about the property–envisioned developing the property as it stands now, without moving or demolishing anything. The other two proposals were basically bids for demolition. True to form, the Commission threw out the first proposal because it didn’t meet the “move or demolish” part of the request, and they placed the demolition bids under review. It sounds like the meeting got a little testy after the Commission’s decision not to review Reul’s proposal, according to the Post’s “Alternate Rejected: Ceres plantation house to go“:
As discussion moved to other matters, Reul stood up and asked members if they had read her proposal. When Johnny Moss, chairman, answered that he hadn’t, Reul became irate.
“OK, you need to read the proposal,” Reul said. “This proposal is quite extensive — it requires us to put in $10 million worth of improvements, to make this into a national tourist area, hiring 120 people and bringing in approximately $300,000 to $500,000 a year into the county of Warren. I have extra copies if anyone would like to read it.”
. . . .
Reul’s plans for the house portrayed a structure redone in authentic paint and wood, with 40 full-time artisans reproducing staples of 1800s Americana such as candles and lye soap for sale in a general store on the grounds not far from an RV park and a full-service restaurant serving meals cooked from livestock and vegetables grown on site.
Port Executive Director Wayne Mansfield described the offer of Reul’s holding company, Restored Properties LLC, as “pretty comprehensive” but one that had to be tossed aside because of its centerpiece, a “cultural commercial center, which was not the scope of the ad in the paper.”
The Post article goes on to recount the history of the “industrial park” that surrounds the plantation site, and the account jibes with my own feeling when I visited the site a few weeks ago to take pictures–the industrial park ain’t doing so well, and really hasn’t ever been a rousing success:
After it opened, Ceres became home to McCarty Foods, now Tyson, Simpson-Duravent, which made chimneys, and Yorozu and CalsonicKansei, two tier-one suppliers to the Nissan plant near Jackson. Simpson-DuraVent and the auto companies have since closed. Tyson cooks and packages chicken-based meals at its Ceres plant, and there is a Mississippi Department of Transportation maintenance center at Ceres. A National Guard Readiness Center is also nearby and there is an unfinished “spec” building built by Warren County, which has not been sold.
Doing a little internet research turns up this map of the complex at the Vicksburg Warren County Economic Development Foundation, which also shows how much vacant space (in both land and buildings) is currently at the park, leaving me to wonder why exactly this house needs to be demolished? And why was the previous lessee pretty much kicked out (from what I’ve heard) when apparently he had a pretty successful nursery established there? Something fishy somewhere lurks.
A hopeful article comes from the Oxford Eagle “Abbeville works toward restoration,” about an effort by community and church leaders to repair and re-open to the community the two buildings at the old Abbeville Negro School:
The older, more run-down half of a two-building set on County Road 115, what was once an elementary and middle school serving Abbeville’s African-American community is a tidier space today than it’s been in recent years — although gaps in the roof and holes in the windows make a planned restoration increasingly urgent.
About 40 local volunteers gathered at the site for a work day, planned as part of the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. They hauled out armloads of trash and debris that had been accumulating over the decades the old school has been empty.
Community members hope to have the building restored by the time the Civil Rights leader’s birthday comes around next year. The adjacent building, which once housed ICS Head Start, was cleaned out on Martin Luther King Jr. Day last year.
The community hopes to see the facility restored to host events, exhibits on local history, programs for youth and even professional office space.
Here’s hoping for the best for this project. The pictures show two solid buildings that need attention for sure, but seem eminently repairable, and it sounds like there’s a will to get this done. This is one of several African American schools in the state from the mid-twentieth century that have energetic alumni or community groups determined to preserve them. Thanks to tsj1957, two-time winner of the coveted title Mississippi Preservationist Extraordinaire, for sending these pics, taken with one of those fancy-shmancy iPhones I believe.
The Vicksburg Post in “Work begins for apartments in bank building” tells us about a project to re-develop the old Trustmark Bank building in downtown Vicksburg into apartments:
More than two years after the Trustmark building at Washington and Clay streets was sold for residential development, work to convert it into upscale apartments should begin by May, its business and property manager said Monday.
. . . .
To be called The Residences at The First National Bank, the complex will consist of 62 “exclusive high-rise homes, most with sweeping views of the river,” according to promotional material.
. . . .
First National began in Vicksburg in 1884. Its first office was on the northwest corner of Washington and Crawford streets and it later moved to Clay Street east of Washington Street before the current building was constructed. The building itself was once the tallest in Mississippi and was a hub of sorts for decades in the downtown commerce scene, as medical offices, insurance agencies and barber shops were located on the building’s different levels.
The bank building, designed by New York architect William W. Knowles is listed on the National Register as part of the Uptown Vicksburg Historic District. Knowles designed one other building in Mississippi to my knowledge, the Craig-Flowers House on Cherry Street, built in the same year as the First National Bank Building.
The Clarion-Ledger ran another interesting article about the King Edward Hotel in Jackson, “Inside the King Edward” about an African-American man who grew up coming down to the hotel to fill water from the outside spiggot with his grandfather. Now living in Illinois, the man, Napoleon Harris, drove down to stay at the hotel where his grandfather was not allowed to enter.
“Time’s up for clock-maker in Oxford” in the Oxford Eagle recounts the trials and tribulations of the Board of Supervisors who have been trying to get the clock on the courthouse running again but have encountered a recalcitrant clock-maker. Nothing worse than a recalcitrant clock-maker.
According to the Columbus Dispatch (“A house from God, repaired by human hands“), the Gothic Revival St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, built in the late 1850s, is at the beginning of a million dollar renovation that will replace the HVAC systems, repair the stained-glass windows, and paint the interior.
And this just in . . . Tupelo’s Spain House got a brief reprieve yesterday when the city’s historic preservation commission tabled the demolition application at its regularly scheduled meeting, citing lack of information in the application. Stay tuned on this one, as it’s sure to come back next month. And whoever sends me a picture of the Spain House becomes my new favorite–none of the articles in the Daily Journal, as far as I remember, has had a picture, and I haven’t been up Tupelo way since this issue arose last summer.
Categories: African American History, Banks, Columbus, Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Hotels, Jackson, Oxford, Renovation Projects, Schools, Tupelo
I thought that I would include some extra preservation news from around the state. I have read all of these from the physical, old-fashioned version of the newspaper, so no links to any online articles.
The Greenwood Commonwealth reported on February 14 that the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Greenwood was broken into and ransacked on the eve of its 100th anniversary celebration. The damage was relatively minor except that the intruders broke out a stained glass window to enter the church. The article says that the church has been vandalized and burglarized several times in recent years; the congregation has considered moving because of the break-ins. This latest break-in comes after an $800,000 construction project at the church.
The Greenwood Commonwealth also reported on February 14 that the former commissary building at the James Eastland Plantation in Doddsville has been moved to a location near Greenwood and renovated into Tallahatchie Tavern, a bar/music venue/restaurant. The commissary building is over 100 years old. While the picture in the paper is not clear, it appears that the word “renovate” is more accurate than “restore.” Still, there are very few Delta plantation structures that are being used, most are rotting and returning to the land, so it is good that this building has been saved.
Greenwood had several articles of preservation related news. This final one comes from the February 18 paper. A century-old Victorian at 310 Cotton St. in Greenwood burned. While this house had been used for commercial activities for several years, photographs in the Commonwealth show that the house had retained a high degree of historical integrity (original windows, original front door, original wood siding, etc.). The article does not state whether the house will be torn down due to the damage but the blaze was confined to the first floor of the two-story structure. The house was insured, lets hope that the owner, Jack Johnson III, uses the insurance money to restore the house instead of demolishing it.
In some older news, the Friday, February 5 edition of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that Goodlett Manor (formerly known as the Goodlett House and Aeolian Grove) has been restored as a venue for weddings, receptions, etc. The house is in Downtown Tupelo and is a spectacular Tudor mansion. Amazingly for a house so large and architecturally important, the paper cannot pinpoint a date for its construction. According to a 1992 Daily Journal article cited in the story, the house had its genesis as a 1907 four-square house. Sometime around 1917, that house was moved to its current location and transformed through additions into a 7000 sq. ft. Tudor-style mansion. As the house is now a business, it has a website at http://www.goodlettmanor.com, with some pictures to give people an idea of what the house looks like.
The final piece of news comes from The Mississippi Press. On February 16, the paper printed an article about the impending demolition of Northrop Grumman’s East Bank Shipyard in Pascagoula. All 166 acres of shipyard will be demolished; since Hurricane Katrina damaged the property, Northrop Grumman has not used it. According to the article, Northrop Grumman established the shipyard in 1938. The buildings are, even to a preservationist, what could be considered an eyesore. Yet, despite the fact that they are metal structures seemingly without architectural merit, there is always the idea about what this demolition could look like in the future. Will it be something about which people in the future will lament that it is not there?
That should be enough extra news for one day.
Wow, W, I nominate you to take over the News Roundups from now on! Thanks for pulling all these together. I had actually set aside my copy of the article about the Goodlett house, but it got stuck under a huge pile of other newspapers, which is why I should just bookmark these things so they don’t get lost.
The Goodlett House is listed on the National Register, so presumably something more than that is known about it–just didn’t make it into the article. I’ll try to track down the nomination and see what it says.
I share your ambivalence about the Northrup Grumman shipyard–it has become a blight on the neighborhood, but the history of the shipyard and the neighborhood surrounding it is such a part of Pascagoula that it’s hard to feel good about its demise. If it’s re-developed well, it might end up being a good thing, but . . . if it flooded in Katrina, will it even be re-developed? I guess it could be a park, but a park won’t bring in any property taxes like the previous industry presumably has been paying.
If you want, I could collaborate with you on the News Roundup.
A less than pro-preservation editorial on the Spain House preservation drama can be found in “Finding a path to consensus is rarely easy” in the NE Journal (the fancy smancy iPhone does limitations)
Usually the NEJournal is a little more progressive than this editorial…if anyone would actually look at the $600K figure they would see a number of items that have little to do with the house proper (grounds improvement). From my understanding of the case, the Owner simply wants the house to go away and keep waving the flag of wanting to be a downtown corporate member of the community. At some point the community has to weigh the importance of these institutions against the destruction of the downtown density and built history for the paving of parking lots…sing it Joni!
Thanks tsj–had to do a little editing of your comment to get the link to work.
I do appreciate it!
And btw, the shaky camera at Abbeville was a hand stuck through chained doors to get that photo. I’m nothing if not dedicated to giving the best coverage I can!