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
Categories: Abandoned Mississippi, African American History, Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, Holly Springs, Mississippi Landmarks, Universities/Colleges
I would say the first step is the contact with Dr. Beckley to offer our support and find out what they want/need us to do, and advise him of what you think we an offer in the way of support. With that accomplished–and assuming they want our help–we can then look at next steps .
I agree. I think that contact would best be made by someone who already knows Dr. Beckley or has some other tie to Rust, rather than just a cold call. But if no such person materializes, I guess I could just e-mail him and see where it leads.
An Existing Facilities Report would be an ideal first step toward saving and restoring these structures — The process would include an assessment of the significance and conditions of the structures as well as a phased plan (and cost estimates) for stabilization and restoration. Coupled with a Feasibility Study for potential uses of the buildings and site – this could be a great tool toward seeking support and funding to implement the recommendations.
We have some information that we prepared for a previous grant request for these buildings — including a scope of work/proposal for the Existing Facilities Report (which obviously was not funded). We could update and provide this information as part of a current grant application.
Mississippi Main Street Assoc. — with ARC funding – provided a “charrette” for Holly Springs about a year ago. These facilities were addressed – and a great photo-rendering was provided of the auditorium building in a restored state. This image provides a great visualization tool.
Belinda, I would love to see the rendering you mention, and any other documentation you know of, if you have a link to such?
I’ve been part of Malvaney’s other discussion re MIC, but for those who have not accessed that, I should note that I was the architect for several projects at MIC c 1980, including the partially constructed “Multi-Learning Center” that merged Davis Hall and the Gymnasium at the north end of the campus.
I will be in Holly Springs either Wednesday, July 28, or Thursday, July 29. If anyone has an interest in meeting there for a tour and discussion, let me know. You can email me at email@example.com, or call my cell: 203-214-4643 (and I’ll of course have my phone with me when I am in Corinth, which is where I will be staying).
Here’s the other conversation:
I’m in Mississippi now (Corinth) and am trying to finalize my plans to visit MIC. I’m inclined more toward tomorrow (Wednesday), though could do Thursday if anyone wants to meet and that day’s better. If I don’t hear from anyone by tomorrow morning, I will be at the college by 11 a.m., and could stay in town for a late lunch if anyone does come and wants to extend the discussion. In the afternoon I may or may not go on to Oxford from Holly Springs.
Ben, I won’t be able to go since I have to be out of town in a different direction for work. I realize now I forgot to include this in my news roundup or post separately about it last weekend. I’m sorry about that. I hope you’ll report back though with your thoughts and pictures–maybe a guest post?
I did spend the afternoon in Holly Springs last Wednesday, and have returned with 300 images and a serious case of melancholia. I have been corresponding with a few folks who have posted here about what comes next, and am thinking of posting some of my photos and thoughts on my blog. I’d be interested in offering something here (thank you), but how would a “guest post” work?
Unless you already have a WordPress account, it would be easiest for you to e-mail your text and any photos and I could set them up in a post along with a short intro. I’m almost afraid to see what you have to say :-(
Ben, I will look forward to your photos and words, and sorry I was unable to be in Holly Springs. Perhaps there is nothing more to be done than a monument at this point–I will await your thoughts and recommendations. However, as much as I love the buildings and the need to preserve our physical past, I also remind us it is important to remember the idea and mission of the Mississippi Industrial College, and what it attempted to do that has moved us further along the continuum of equality and justice.
I see your point about memorializing the contributions of MIC even without the physical buildings, but at the same time, I think it says something significant about our culture that so many important places of our past, particularly related to African Americans, are simply being allowed to fall in on themselves or are being demolished outright. Drive down any street named Martin Luther King Drive and almost all you see is abandonment and decay, not the hope that MLK inspired. In 25 years, will the only reminder of the achievements of African Americans in Mississippi over the last 200 years be hundreds of markers standing in empty fields or parking lots?
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I absolutely agree with you, EL; I did not mean to imply that a “memorial” was sufficient or all that is needed. I guess I was riffing on Ben’s earlier comments–and certainly my last visit over there and seeing how bad the damage is–that there may be nothing we can do at this point. My comment was intended to mean that why it was built in the first place is also important, and none of us have really ever mentioned that, or the actual history of the college itself. I was feeling pretty melancholic myself, having spent the last two days driving through some areas that are literally crumbling in on themselves, and wondering why we place so much importance on some things, and little or none on others, and perhaps that is what showed up in my post. I probably should not make comments late at night after 15 hours on the road, but I had missed you guys while I was gone. :)
Aww, I’m shedding a little tear right now–hope you’re safe and sound and otherwise enjoying your trip, apart from your dog’s illness.
And, no not at all–didn’t mean to imply any judgment on you, just doing my own riffing on the discussion, which I think is very much worth having. You’re right, no one has done a post on the history of the school, more in depth than just the basic facts about the buildings–maybe you need to do a post on your blog that I can link to, or guest post over here on MissPres? Think about it while driving–looks like a good road trip!
Rust seeks partners in restoration
Associated Press – September 6, 2010 10:54 AM ET
HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) – Rust College has asked the Marshall County Board of Supervisors to support its application for a $800,000 grant to help restore five historic buildings on the former Mississippi Industrial College campus.
The property was given to Rust College a year or so ago for management and redevelopment.
Clencie Cotton, with the Rust College Community Development Corporation, also asked for $10,000 over three years from the county.
Rust is a historically black college in Holly Springs with an enrollment of about 900.
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I would recommend contacting Rust College about your interest. They own these buildings now. The phone number on their website is 662-252-8000. Good luck!