MissPres News Roundup 6-1-2010

Ok, I think I published this post accidentally in draft form not once but twice, so if some of y’all read it in its unfinished state, please excuse my recent bumbling.

Things have been hopping round these parts the last two weeks! Don’t y’all know summer’s here and it’s time to just sit around sipping sweet tea on our porches and gossiping? Let’s see what all the fuss is about.

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WordPress tells me that I didn’t actually publish this post about the inclusion of Meridian’s Threefoot Building on the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered list on May 19–I could have sworn I did publish it, but then it showed up as an unpublished draft this weekend. I had expected the post to generate some comments, which it didn’t, so this might explain that. So, just in case you hadn’t heard, here’s the link to that post.

In its coverage of that story, the local tv station WTOX decided to focus more on the mayor’s annoyance at allegedly not being invited to the announcement than on the significance of the national exposure the National Trust’s listing brings. While the mayor wasn’t there, the Meridian Star points out that the City Council president was, so it’s not clear to me in what respect “the building’s owner (the City) wasn’t invited.”

As you may recall from the April 30 Roundup, the town of Summit, down near McComb, recently passed an ordinance protecting a local historic district encompassing the downtown and surrounding older residential neighborhoods. In the middle of that district is First Baptist Church, which has been wanting to convert a historic house across the street from the sanctuary into offices. So far so good, right? Wrong. According to a May 18 article in the McComb Enterprise-Journal:

Summit First Baptist Church bought the Hurst house at 1109 Robb St. and has plans to add 3,600 square feet to convert it into an office building with parking for some two dozen cars.

As I understand it, the local historic district hasn’t gone through all of the public notice and hearing processes yet, so the town council put a moratorium on changes to buildings within the proposed boundaries until that process has a chance to work itself out. This is common in many zoning and preservation ordinances, to prevent owners from quickly demolishing their buildings or doing other nefarious things just before the new ordinance takes effect.

But now, according to this article, in the face of vocal church members who want their office building, the council has rescinded that moratorium, which leaves open the possibility that the church will go ahead and get that addition built just under the wire. Read the whole article, because the blow-by-blow of the public meeting actually seems like it was a good debate, although I do take issue with the “this is about saving souls for Jesus” comment by one of the church members. I’m not sure what kind of argumentive fallacy this is, but it’s similar to the “it’s for the children” argument that can be used for almost anything and implies that the people who disagree with you are against the children or saving souls for Jesus.

As the First Baptist pastor himself requested, let’s have a less-heated discussion, stop using such loaded arguments and just talk about how this building can be converted to an office or some useful purpose for the church without overwhelming the original house and ticking off the neighbors. What was that Jesus said about our neighbors?

According to an article in the Daily Corinthian, a new movement to try to save the Corinth Machinery Building is afoot. The building, constructed in 1869, is said to be the oldest industrial building in the state. Abandoned for many years, sections of one wall have collapsed in the last couple of years, and portions of the roof along with them.

An examination of the Corinth Machinery Building, which is under new ownership, began Monday and continues today to answer that question.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History recently provided grant funding of $2,160 for a structural analysis of the building, which is the oldest documented factory structure in the state and one of few from its time of construction, 1868-1869, left in the South.

Conducting the study are Stephen Kelley, restoration structural engineer and restoration architect, and Rachel Will, his intern assistant. They are with the firm of Wiss, Janney and Elstner of Chicago.

This same company, WJE, is also doing the assessments on the New Capitol building and the old Robert E. Lee Hotel, and they have completed the recently updated National Park Service brief on historic concrete.

Corinth Machinery Building, photo Jan 2010, showing 2 collapsed wall sections

Another brouhaha brewing in Carrollton, that sweet little 19th-century town I visited last fall for Pilgrimage. It seems that Gary Bankston, whose property lies within the local historic district, protected under a city ordinance, has built a second story on top of his metal storage building used for his wrecker business. His neighbor across the street, architect Tommy Goodman, protested that the project hadn’t been put before the local historic preservation commission. After the issue was brought before the commission, it’s all been put on hold until representatives from the Department of Archives and History can come help the commission and city board understand the proper procedures to go through.

The Greenwood Commonwealth has run a couple of articles about the issue, including an editorial: Property Dispute Gets Heated (May 18), More Debate Over Wrecker Site (May 19), and Architect Meets Old South Resistance (May 22). A couple of plum quotes from those articles:

Alderman Houston Sanders argued that there isn’t a legal ordinance, because it’s not in a book kept by the city clerk.

Clerk Linda McGregor told Sanders there isn’t such a book, adding, “How many little towns with a population of 250 have that?”

Um, actually, I kind of thought that’s what city clerks were supposed to be doing–if there’s no record of actions by the city, then what’s the point of even having a city government?

Cecil “Tot” Abels spoke up in support of Goodman, suggesting that zoning laws were good things that most people understood and wanted.

To that, Sanders replied, “Absolutely not.”

“If someone wanted to put in a crematorium, you wouldn’t have a problem with that?” Abels asked Sanders.

“Not if it doesn’t blow my way,” Sanders replied.

What a great attitude for a representative of the people! As long as he’s not personally affected, who cares whether his neighbor has to breathe in crematorium smoke all day and night?

I think Commonwealth editor Tim Kalich’s point about this being another example of “outsider” against “good ol’ boy” is an interesting and probably right-on-target assessment:

The squabble in Carrollton between Tommy Goodman and Gary Bankston is not just a tiff between neighbors.

It’s really a clash between cultures played out in a sleepy little town with lots of potential but a deep-seated resistance to change.

This happens in lots of other places than Carrollton, and with lots of other issues besides preservation. Dealing with it is harder than it seems, but it’s a skill we all need to learn.

Ok, something positive for our last item: as we’ve noted before, Melrose, centerpiece of the Natchez National Historic Park, is undergoing maintenance and restoration work on the exterior of the main house. In addition, according to the Natchez Democrat, the two chandeliers in the double parlor, have been taken down and sent to local restoration experts for cleaning and re-wiring. Regular maintenance and upkeep of our public landmarks is a good thing and helps ensure that our investment continues to bear fruit into the next generation. Of course, many commenters on the Democrat’s website disagree with that statement, but what else do you expect from disagreeable people?

Oh, and happy hurricane season, y’all. Let’s all pray nothing comes our way, this year of all years.



Categories: Carrollton, Corinth, Demolition/Abandonment, Natchez, National Park Service, News Roundups, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Summit

2 replies

  1. EL, I’m very disappointed that this news didn’t make the round-up! I thought that pigs were flying after reading about it!

    http://www.starkvilledailynews.com/content/view/215849/60/
    http://www.cdispatch.com/news/article.asp?aid=6278&sort=d

    Like

  2. You’re right, I blew it. This roundup got so long because it had been over two weeks since the last one. I promise to get back on track with my Friday roundups and I’ll give super-duper kudos to Starkville for finally taking the plunge into preserving their history!

    Like

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