Lots of people responded to last month’s post documenting the continuing and accelerating decline of Catherine Hall and the other landmark buildings at the old Mississippi Industrial College campus in Holly Springs, now owned by Rust College. One person who found the post was Ashleigh Burke, a South Carolina photographer who passed through Holly Springs on Memorial Day weekend and photographed the Carnegie Auditorium building. This building is perhaps the most salvageable of the “front three” that are so familiar to passers-by. Built in 1923, it was funded with a grant from the Carnegie Foundation and designed by one of the first African American architectural firms in the South, McKissack & McKissack of Nashville, Tennessee. The only other project that I know of by the McKissacks in Mississippi is the Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou, built in 1940.
Ashleigh wanted to share her images to help raise awareness and bring about the stabilization and restoration of the MIC campus, a feeling that, based on the response to the last post, I think all of us share.
When I started MissPres a year and half ago, one of my questions was whether an “online community” could accomplish tangible results–become more than a “virtual” group. That’s still an open question in my opinion. Does this blog serve only to document? Or can our little community get spurred to real action to actually preserve the Mississippi history we all care about? If so, we can be a powerful grassroots force. If not, then maybe we need to stop fooling ourselves about the value of social networks and virtual communities.
In hopes of answering this important question, this post is officially calling anyone who cares to action. We need a plan; we need a way to implement it; and then we need to actually implement it in the real world.
The biggest and most immediate thing that needs to take place on these buildings is shoring and stabilizing, but before you can do that, as I understand it, you need an engineer’s report on how to do that. Apparently Rust College’s grant applications have been denied for lack of this important document. Can the MissPres community help raise funds for that report? If so, how quickly can we do it? Does it have to be an engineer or can it be an architect? If it can be an architect or architects, can Mississippi AIA or the architects who read MissPres bring their expertise to bear at a reduced cost? We also need a contact with Rust College who can help us figure out the best way to plug into what they hope to accomplish on this campus.
We all want to help. Now’s the time to do it. Ideas are welcome. Action is imperative, and the sooner the better.
**All images courtesy of Ashleigh Burke Photography