MissPres News Roundup 6-4-2010

As you all no doubt remember, God made Fridays for News Roundups, but I’ve been off-kilter the last couple of months since being abandoned by formerly trusty W. White and have just been posting roundups on any ol’ day of the week. The chaos of that lifestyle is overwhelming me though–so today, we get back to basics, hopefully for the rest of the summer.


Starkville Passes Preservation Ordinance: Headlines you never thought you’d live to see . . . I was rebuked soundly after Tuesday’s roundup for not including this exciting news that has been a decade or two in coming. Starkville’s Board of Aldermen has finally adopted a historic preservation ordinance that establishes a preservation commission and sets out guidelines for how historic districts can be established. Read all about it in the Starkville Daily News (“Historic Homes Ordinance Adopted“) and check out the full ordinance at the City of Starkville’s website.

Starkville has some fine historic neighborhoods and major landmarks like the Greensboro Center (the old Starkville High School), but frankly they take some digging to find. Hopefully, as the preservation commission begins its work of identifying and designating local districts, they will have the support of the mayor and aldermen and the city can work together to preserve these gems for the future. Preservation doesn’t mean there can’t be any changes or development, just that history and beauty should have some precedence in planning for that development.

Hope for Philadelphia’s Coke Building? A while ago–can’t remember when–I had heard that the Neshoba County supervisors were throwing around the idea of tearing down the old Coca Cola building in downtown Philadelphia in order to create a parking lot. I didn’t hear anything more about it and assumed the idea hadn’t gone anywhere, but apparently it’s still floating around enough for a group of Main Street and economic development experts to advise against it. According to the Neshoba Democrat,

“Contrary to some opinions, none of these buildings are ‘too far gone’ to be restored and reused,” the final charrette report said.

“The presumably imminent demolition of the historic Coca-Cola building is especially troubling as a major industrial landmark building in the community. Although there is recognition that additional parking needs to be established in the downtown, demolition of a building should be the last resort taken by the public entities.

“Public officials should asked themselves: ‘Does the permanent loss of a landmark justify 17 parking spaces that might not be in the correct place to alleviate downtown parking.'”

Check out the full article for a photo of the 2-story building, which is located within the Philadelphia Downtown Historic District and a stone’s throw from the old jail where the three civil rights workers, Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner, were held on the day of their murders. The charrette report also addresses possible uses of that building, which has gone through several lives as office space and I think is now vacant.

Some news from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History website:

Manship House Slated for Repairs: Those of us who visit the Manship House in Jackson regularly or semi-regularly to attend their really creative exhibits and lecture programs have noticed that the house is in need of some major repairs. Here’s what the MDAH website has to say (I’m posting it in full because I know it will probably disappear after a while):

The Manship House Museum will close July 1 to prepare for a nearly half-million-dollar repair of the building’s foundation. The floor of the circa-1857 house is thirteen inches out of level, resulting in huge cracks in the plaster walls and gaps at doors and windows throughout the house.

Once the site closes, staff offices and the extensive collection of Manship family furniture and artifacts must be packed and moved off site before repairs to the foundation can begin. Manship House staff will be reassigned to other sites during repairs.

“This is a huge project that will be a major step in the preservation of the building,” said Marilynn Jones, Manship House Museum director. “This is also an excellent opportunity for us to evaluate our collection and improve interpretation for when we reopen.”

In 2008 the department commissioned Wayne F. Timmer and WFT Architects, P.A., to conduct a historic structure report and condition assessment for the Manship House, a Mississippi Landmark property. The report concludes that the Yazoo clay found throughout the region is mainly responsible for the foundation problems, with a large Magnolia tree on the north side of the house contributing to the instability.

The Mississippi legislature authorized $445,000 for the project this session, and Governor Haley Barbour signed the bill on April 20. A timeline for the project will not be available until construction documents are finalized, but the site could be closed for eighteen months.

That was the good news. Now for the bad news.

Naval Reserve Center, uploaded by spotzilla (Flickr)

Naval Reserve Center to be partially demolished? In this month’s MDAH newsletter, Mississippi History, I saw this headline, “Contract Awarded for State Records Center Project” and I thought “uh-oh.” As you may or may not recall, this kind of popped up under the radar back last summer, and I raised my feeble little voice in protest, not because I have anything against a new records center but because the plan for that new records center involves demolishing a large chunk of the National Register-listed Naval Reserve Center down near the fairgrounds. Not only that, the new center would still be located in a flood plain (that did flood in 1979), requiring the large additional expense of building a raised building. This might make sense in a city that is primarily in a flood plain (New Orleans, for instance), but in Jackson, there’s plenty of non-flood-plain land–even in and around downtown if that’s a requirement–on which to build a non-raised, normal ol’ metal building that would be much cheaper and wouldn’t make the state’s oldest preservation agency complicit in the partial destruction of a National Register-listed building.

I first noted this possible project last summer, but then by the fall it seemed like the Powers That Be at MDAH had come to the same conclusions, either from counting the cost or lobbying from the archivists about not building in a flood plain. Interestingly, the Mississippi History newsletter mentions none of this except to say the project will “restore the exterior.” I guess there’s some truth to that, if you define the exterior as what’s left after you’ve torn off the rest of the building, but it’s a pretty disingenuous statement.

Nobody wants to see the continued deterioration of the Naval Reserve Center, and I do think this project began with good intentions to save the building. But as it’s developed, it sounds like that intention got lost in the details of building a records center in a flood plain and now we’re left with a mess. Those who have seen the proposed plans say that the records center addition is taller and of larger bulk than the front section, which sounds like it will be more prominent than the front and not at all as attractive, so it couldn’t even be considered a “sympathetic” addition, even apart from the demolition aspect.

This project, presuming it is now going forward again, raises some troubling questions. Is the “restoration” of the much-admired front of the building–even with reportedly no plan to occupy that section–worth the removal of the back, even though that removal very well might mean that the building will be taken off the National Register? This from the agency that actually administers the National Register program? Would it have been considered ok for the rear wings of the King Edward Hotel to have been demolished, with a taller addition put in their place and “restoration” of just the front facade and lobby? If not, isn’t it a double standard to allow this project to move forward?

Let’s see, my Wall of Shame contains the South Delta Regional Authority, the Department of Mental Health, and the owner and demolisher of the Speed Street School. That’s some sorry company to be keeping.

Showing 2-story front that will be "restored" but remain unoccupied and the rear sections that will be demolished

showing the rear sections, all of which, according to plans, will be demolished (excluding the old Marine building to far left)

Categories: Demolition/Abandonment, Jackson, Museums, News Roundups, Philadelphia, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Starkville

6 replies

  1. How ironic that this could be carried out by the administration responsible for preservation. From the photograph, it would appear that much more than the facade is worth saving. A facadectomy could easily result in a cartoon of a building.


  2. What also boggles the mind about MDAH’s decision is the fact that the perfect building for this project is a stone’s throw away from MDAH: the old Jackson Public Library. This building:
    1. Is right around the corner from MDAH.
    2. Is not in a FLOOD PLAIN.
    3. Would probably be easily coverted to storing records. It was built to be a library after all.
    4. Is an important historic building currently sitting vacant.


  3. That’s a good point–I think the Mississippi Baptist Convention owns that building now and last I heard was planning to use it as their archives. My thought about it was always that it would be the perfect spot for the civil rights museum, but the museum people don’t like that option because it’s not a new building. Museums have gone from being in historic buildings to not wanting to touch historic buildings, and I think they’ve lost something in the process.

    At any rate, as you say there are plenty of other buildings at higher elevations that could be used for this records center. My gut feeling about why this travesty continues to move along even though no MDAH staff member I’ve talked to–even those at fairly high levels–is in favor of it, is that there must be some political/legislative force behind it. But why?? I don’t get it.

    Meanwhile, the old depot, former home of the Historic Preservation Division before they moved up to the old archives building, continues to sit moldering awaiting its renovation for offices for the museum division, who have been sitting in trailers since Katrina blew the roof off the Old Capitol. I’ve heard whole sections of ceiling have collapsed in that building, so why haven’t plans for that renovation moved forward at the same lightning-fast (for the state) speed of the Naval Reserve?

    The other thing I thought about while driving past the Naval Reserve building on Jefferson Street was what kind of visual effect will that planned metal addition be on the view of the Old Capitol? Seems like it will be a massive and ugly mass obscuring the view of all people coming in from the interstate and down on Jefferson. This whole thing is weird.


    • You’re right, EL; I have also heard that the project is kind of being foisted upon MDAH by the MS Dept. of Finance and Administration. I haven’t heard any good (or bad) reasons why, though.

      I love the idea of the municipal library; too bad it’s yet another historic building the Baptists have acquired.


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