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.