MissPres News Roundup 3-12-2010

MissPres readers, greetings from Alabama (the current location of yours truly). And here is the news.

The Calhoun County Journal reports in the February 25 paper that Calhoun City is beginning a clean up effort of the Calhoun City Town Square. I am all for improving a city but the first sentence of the article reads:

“A push is underway by a group of citizens in Calhoun City to get some dilapidated buildings around the square addressed by either making them more presentable or tearing them down.”

Tearing down structures around a town square is a difficult blow for a small town to recover from, in a historical or urban context. The properties mentioned are “ones in the northeast corner of the square, including the old Mart Theater, and the former Davis Insurance building on the south side of the square.” I am not sure which specific buildings these are (except for the former Davis Insurance building, which looks like an old service station) but Google Street View shows a general perspective of the area. According to the article, the saving grace for these buildings may be that they are of brick construction with party walls, very expensive to demolish. The concern with the buildings discussed in the article is that the brick and mortar has weakened. As preservationists know, brick can be repointed, that should not be the factor leading to the demolition of these buildings.

In the old news, but good news category, The Greenwood Commonwealth ran a story in Sunday, January 31st’s paper about the restoration of the stained glass windows at First Presbyterian Church in Greenwood. This was part of a larger restoration effort that removed drop ceilings from the original 1904 sanctuary. This exposed original wood beams, as well as stained glass windows hidden from view by the drop ceiling for over fifty years. The existing stained glass windows, which had survived damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (an entire section of stained glass windows was destroyed by the storm), were repaired and joined by twelve new stained glass windows. The Greenwood Commonwealth’s online archive is not free, so unfortunately I cannot provide a link to the great pictures seen in the print edition.

The Greenwood Commonwealth reported on February 22 that the last brick building on the west side of Lexington St. north of the Carrollton square (no name for the building is given in the article, just the rambling location) is being dismantled and rebuilt. This building does not match the Carrollton Town Hall but is a similar two-story brick structure dating to the 1800s (according to the article). Carrollton is not covered with Google Street View and The Greenwood Commonwealth story is not online so no pictures for this building. The information provided in the article is that this structure was formerly used by the Carroll County Extension Service during the 1960s and 70s while a family lived upstairs. Likely the structure has been vacant since the 1970s as the flooring is gone, pine trees are growing out of the roof, and the upstairs has become inhabited by owls. Owner Jeff Moses has hired Paul Mueller’s Masonry Construction Company of Morgan City to rebuild the façade to MDAH guidelines.

The Grenada Star ran a photograph in the March 2 paper of the demolition of five properties along First Street. The five buildings were storefronts next to the Grenada County Courthouse, which has been dubbed a “box.” The land will be used, in its now building-free state, for that most preservation-related, New Urbanist of uses (sarcasm present in this sentence), parking.

This link to The Natchez Democrat illustrates that the Natchez Preservation Commission had a fairly busy Wednesday meeting. Luckily, no demolition requests of a historic structure in Natchez this month.

In a follow-up to last week’s News Roundup, The Northside Sun reports that Mississippi House Bill 637 passed with about 100 members supporting it. House Bill 637, authored by District 66 Representative Cecil Brown, would sell the former Mississippi School for the Blind to developers, who would more than likely demolish the campus. At the same time, the Mississippi State Senate passed a bill to lease the land for development. The March 4 edition of the paper states that the Mississippi Senate passed the bill unanimously (51-0).

The Oxford Eagle reported on the March 8 that the old gin building in Oxford was destroyed by fire. I am not sure of the history of this gin building other than it was an old, industrial structure. The March 11 paper lists the fire as “suspicious in nature.” Perhaps other MissPres readers will fill-in-the-blanks about the old gin.

The Wednesday, February 24 edition of The Yazoo Herald contains details about a fundraiser being held March 21 at 1:00 to benefit the Oakes African American Cultural Center in Yazoo City. All the proceeds from the “smorgasbord” being held at the L. T. Miller Community Center will fund restoration of the porches and columns. Those in the know about Mississippi preservation will remember that the Oakes House was named to Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Endangered List for 2009. The spotlight on this important property has caused the Yazoo County Convention and Visitors Bureau to give a $10,000 grant to the center for foundation repair. The center has also received a grant from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) for museum exhibits.

Categories: Carrollton, Demolition/Abandonment, Greenwood, Grenada, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Natchez, News Roundups, Oxford, Renovation Projects, Yazoo City

19 replies

  1. I was in that 1904 First Presbyterian sanctuary in Greenwood-designed by Chattanooga archt. R.H. Hunt–a while back (before Katrina), and it was depressing with those dropped ceilings, etc.–very dark. Glad to hear that the windows have been re-opened and repaired. Their “new” sanctuary (1926) is really wonderful too, so now they have two beautiful spaces again.

    Also, I’m not at all envious of your Spring Break, not one bit. Nope not me . . .


  2. Spring break? Surf Alabama!


  3. E.L.

    I went 2 the Gin many years back…it was a rustic bar

    The NMissCommentor blog has a linked story.


  4. The old gin in Oxford was to the southeast of the dowtown square. For those of us of an age who aren’t enjoying spring break it was an ‘entertainment’ complex (read bar) that had great bands and encouraged literal dancing on the tables after the dining hours were over. It was next to the now demolished cultural icon, the Hoka, that was part coffee house, part art movie theater, part late night diner. The Gin had been abandoned for a number of years and I’m terribly sad to know another piece of the built environment that formed my college years in Oxford is gone. It was prime real estate and I never understood why it was left unused.


  5. Both the Hoka and the Gin are gone now? How awful. Both were integral to college life at Ole Miss in the early 80s. This makes me feel OLD…..


  6. To whom it may concern:

    I am a recent graduate (Ole Miss) who has spent a great deal researching the Oxford Square’s Music scene from the mid 1970s through now. I have made two documentaries on the subject and I also have video of The Hoka from the 1980s. Here’s a little factoid about The Gin and The Hoka that will confirm my research: The first live band at both bars was non other than the tangents. The Gin was an old cotton gin from the 1940s through the 1960s; many believe it was from the 1800s. I have piles of information stacked if anyones interested.


  7. The Gin was the Avent Gin Co., one of two operating gins within a couple of blocks of the Square in 1960 or so (the other was directly behind Neilsons Dept Store). In the 1970s, most of the building was refashioned into a bar, with the exterior kept almost entirely intact (including the sign for Avent Gin Co., which only disappeared in the last 3-4 years). As folks have noted, the Hoka was in the same lot , separated by what had been a gravel drive/parking lot. The Hoka had been a cotton warehouse next to the Gin and was made into a shambles of a movie theater soon after the Gin opened. The Gin operated until 2002 or so as a bar.

    The Avents were successful businessmen in Oxford throughout the 20th C and are often cited as one of the “models” for Faulkner’s Snopes family.

    I am not positive how old the building was, although I am certain that it at least dates to the very early 20th C and probably parts were older. Part of the appeal was that it kept the lines of an old gin building after being converted to a bar.

    Thanks for the link to my blog, and I am very interested to happen onto this one.


  8. I hesitate to break into this discussion–since I didn’t attend Ole Miss and certainly would never have danced on any tables back in my old college days, I can’t really contribute to the discussion of the cultural significance of the old gin. But I have narrowed down the date of its establishment southeast of the square. The gin doesn’t appear at all on the 1925 Sanborn map for Oxford, but does appear on the next available map, in 1948, so I would guess it was established sometime in the 1930s, possibly even late 1920s.

    I can’t put a photo in a comment for some unknown reason, but if you click here you can see the image from the 1948 Sanborn map.

    I am very sorry to hear about the loss of the gin. I enjoyed driving past it whenever I was in Oxford. It showed a grittier, more functional side of Oxford’s history, and in recent years was an amusing counterpoint to the upscale condos that now fill that area of downtown.


  9. Is the space empty on the 1925 map or was something else there?


  10. oh, and even more interesting question– is there a small shop just behind it?

    There was a blacksmith behind the Gin who I think established his little shop right at the end of WWI and was still there when I was growing up through the early 70s when I was in college.


  11. Not to become a fly in the ointment but–there is a map that is more detailed than the one in this blog. Unfortunately, The University is still working on it.



  1. MissPres News Roundup 3-27-2010 « Preservation in Mississippi

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