MissPres News Roundup 7-23-2010

Let’s keep one eye on Bonnie and the other eye on the preservation news around the state. And those of us who wear glasses will still have two more eyes to, like, avoid marauding oil splotches, watch tv, read a book, etc. See how useful having four eyes is, y’all?

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From Monroe County, a section of the state I don’t think I’ve highlighted enough here on MissPres, this story last Friday, “Historic Aberdeen church to be moved tomorrow.” The church in question is the old James Creek Methodist Church, a small frame building with corner tower built in 1904, that from the looks of the photo has been abandoned for a long time. According to the Monroe Journal, the church will now reside on the property of the Adams-French House in Aberdeen, an 1850s Greek Revival mansion on Meridian Street that was listed on the National Register in 1988 and documented by HABS in the 1930s.

Just up the road from Aberdeen, the Spain House story continues and demolition permits continue to be denied. According to the Tupelo Daily-Journal‘s “Spain House Saved Again“:

The Planning Committee on Monday reluctantly upheld an earlier decision by the Historic Preservation Commission that prevented Calvary Baptist Church from tearing down the three-story structure, which the church owns.

The committee voted 4-4 on the church’s appeal. A two-thirds majority was required to overturn the earlier ruling.

. . . .

Church members, many of whom were in attendance at the roughly 90-minute meeting at City Hall, said they’ll appeal the decision to the City Council. They have 30 days to do so.

If the council grants the demolition permit, Pirkle said the church will tear down the house as quickly as possible unless the city is willing to assume liability for it.

This controversy about the Spain House, one of the oldest grand houses in Tupelo, where the 1936 tornado blew away a big chunk of the town, has been going on since last year around this time. Tupelo has not had a strong preservation tradition, and the preservation commission is only a few years old, so I commend them for going to the mat for this house and for not getting bowled over, as often happens in controversies with large churches. I know that Baptists have been mentioned alot lately, but all the denominations have been guilty at one time or another of using their power and ability to pack a meeting to bulldoze their way through their neighborhoods. And please don’t call me anti-Christian for saying so because nothing could be further from the truth.

You can track the progress of it through previous posts: News Roundups 6-19-2010, 7-24-2010, 8-21-2010, 10-9-2010, 1-15-2010, 2-26-2010, 4-10-2010, and 6-11-2010.

If you were a male and attended Mississippi State in the last 40 years, odds are you spent a little time in Suttle Hall. Built in 1967-68, the multi-story concrete and steel frame building served as a men’s dorm, but as of this week,  it is no longer with us. I’m not arguing that Suttle was a great work of architecture, but it was a very sturdy and re-usable building. Instead of remodelling it as needed, MSU has torn it down to make way for . . . nothing. Just behind Suttle is a whole new development of “residence halls” that have been recently built, and seem about as substantial as the computer screen you’re reading this on. In a decade, maybe two if we get our money’s worth, the new buildings will be worn out and they’ll tear those down too. This seems to be the way things are done nowadays–quality construction is replaced with barely minimal wood-frame construction with Dryvet and thin sheetrock walls. Luckily, I took pictures of Suttle earlier this year:

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Good news out of Starkville though in addition to bad, with the announcement of the Starkville Central Neighborhood Foundation’s Historic Preservation Awards. Great coverage in the Starkville Daily News (“SCNF announces 2010 awards“) too, where you can read all about each honored project, including the rehabilitation of the old Borden Milk Plant.

Speaking of government agencies tearing down instead of building up, Ceres Plantation has come back up for a vote at MDAH’s Board of Trustees meeting today, according to the Vicksburg Post’s “State vote on Ceres house is Friday”:

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees will vote on whether to designate Ceres Plantation House a Mississippi Landmark at 10 a.m Friday at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building, 200 North St., Jackson.

. . . .

The session is open to the public. Landmark status would limit future development of the site under the state’s antiquities law.

This is another story we’ve been following round these parts for a while: Ceres Plantation Update, William A. Stanton on Ceres Plantation, News Roundups 12-21-2010, 1-15-2010, 1-22-2010, 2-12-2010, 2-26-2010, 3-5-2010, 3-19-2010, 4-10-2010 4-25-2010.

In fact, it’s interesting that the Dec 2009 roundup calls attention to the reason for demolition being broken window panes and some porch boards missing, and then I notice in the Post article quoted today (which unfortunately I can’t link to because they’ve gotten tight about archiving articles within a day or two of publication), that the “windows have been broken and planks vanished from the porch of the structure in recent months.” Hmmm, those modern boards on the porch sure are in demand!

The Vicksburg Post featured another article too this week, this one about the Beulah Cemetery, one of the oldest and largest African American city cemeteries in the state. A documentary is being filmed about the cemetery, which I happened to visit back this last winter:

The Beulah Cemetery Restoration Committee has commissioned Jackson-based Cam Cam Video Productions to produce a 20-minute documentary on its private graveyard established in 1884 by the Vicksburg Tabernacle No. 19 Independent Order of Brothers and Sisters of Love and Charity.

. . . .

About 5,500 graves are in the cemetery, which was the primary burial ground for Vicksburg’s African-Americans until the 1940s, when burials started tapering off. The land, which shares a border with the Vicksburg National Military Park, was neglected and became overgrown and almost forgotten. For about 20 years, the committee has backed myriad efforts to clear and maintain the land through grants and volunteers.

It’s really an amazing place, and if you’re in Vicksburg, and you have time to poke around to find it, tucked away as it is right on the edge of the Military Park, make sure to check it out. In addition to this picture to the right, you can find a whole slew of pictures of the cemetery on my Flickr site.

Biloxi’s City Hall has just completed a major renovation to fix up Katrina damage and other wear and tear on this Neoclassical-style, former Federal courthouse and post office. According to the Sun-Herald (“Biloxi City Hall is reopened for business“),

An open house will be in September, said City Clerk Brenda Johnston. That’s also when the council meetings will return to the ornate chambers at City Hall.

I don’t have a picture of this building for some reason, but Flickr has a bunch, including this one.

And give yourself a pat on the back because if you’re a regular MissPres reader, you’ve been a part of history this week. Sometime yesterday, we passed 50,000 all-time views on this little blog. That’s a nice round number I’ve been watching for for a while now. Congrats!



Categories: Aberdeen, Biloxi, Churches, Demolition/Abandonment, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Hurricane Katrina, News Roundups, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Recent Past, Starkville, Tupelo, Vicksburg

10 replies

  1. Ah, Suttle Hall, spent a summer there, broken elevators and all. Good memories of an important summer for me. (Almost) Couldn’t believe the awful new buildings and renovations seen on campus upon a brief return last summer. Most at least the equal of an upscale shopping center in Atlanta suburbs, painted metal roofs, EIFS, and red brick in tow.

    I agree with you, I suspect the cheap apartments that have been built nearby (let’s not forget those other Modern dorms now gone, like Duggar Hall) will be lucky to have a lifespan of 20 years. Suttle and the others, R.I.P., were built of better stuff in a different time.

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  2. I can honestly say that I, preservationist that I am, will not miss Suttle Hall. Three years of attending Mississippi State and photographing the campus have not given me a love of that structure. Suttle Hall was the worst of Soviet architecture combined with the balconies off a cheap motel.

    The surviving modern dorms at Mississippi State are much more important architecturally. Rice Hall, though similar, has a center projection of white balconies instead of a concrete and brick stairwell. The swooping canopy above the sidewalk on the front facade also gives Rice architectural merit. The interior of Rice (like Suttle) is largely just cinderblock walls and drop ceilings. Rice’s neighbors, Cresswell and Hathorn, are modern dorms dressed in contemporary Dryvet. The interiors are more comfortable than at Rice and Suttle. Evans Hall is the most architecturally interesting modern dorm remaining at Mississippi State, largely due to the courtyard, with its mature plantings giving it a garden feel. Like Rice and Suttle, Evans Hall’s rooms could best be described as “Spartan.”

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    • Didn’t say it was great architecture, just that it was of much more solid construction than the new stuff and could have been remodeled. More a statement about using resources wisely than about preservation, I guess.

      Can we expect that you will be introducing us to the MSU buildings you do like in future posts?

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      • Plus ones I don’t like. I have to do the research once I return to Mississippi State.

        I agree with you about the solid construction but merely forgot to include that in my earlier comment. The newest dorm at Mississippi State illustrates the difference in construction techniques in four decades. I watched this new dorm (which I believe is nameless) rise across from Rice Hall with all the sturdiness of a particle board shack with brick veneer. Of course, that is what the new dorm is constructed out of. The only section of steel framing is the central elevator/stairwell/lobby section. If an elevator shaft could be made out of particle board it would have been, but alas, that section actually has to be substantial.

        I am biased against most dorms at Mississippi State. They can’t hold a candle to my current dorm, Hull Hall.

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        • I forgot to say that if anyone feels nostalgic about the old dorms (Duggar, Hightower, etc.), there is a monument to those old dorms at the new dorm complex. The monument was placed there several years ago and includes all the dorms that once graced the area, including Suttle, humorously showing the dates (1967- ) on its plaque.

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          • It will be interesting to see how long until (and if) a monument is erected to the new cheapo apartments being built, not just at MSU, but nationwide to replace the mid-century dorms.

            Yes, I am nostalgic for these buildings, however, I think the designers of the Modern dorms on campus (Duggar, Suttle, et al), and the administrations from the time, were thinking in terms of a long future for these buildings. Yes, they were “cinderblock,” but isn’t that a much better choice than gypsum wallboard for a dormitory?

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          • Maybe we at MissPres should raise funds for a monument to the new dorms now, on the theory that they’ll be gone in no time at all. :-)

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  3. I think the big bully church must be a deep south phenomenon. In Yankee land, it is usually churches that get short shrift. It continually amazes me how short the life span of grand church edifices are in North America, and how many really impressive buildings have given way to urban renewal projects.

    Of course, the church building’s great enemy is often the church itself.

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    • Completely agree on your second point about the short lives of amazing edifices. I have yet to work through my thoughts about how long-lived the church buildings of France have been, even though the country’s population has mostly stopped going to church–compared to the US where huge and amazing church buildings are regularly abandoned for sale to commercial interests, even not very moral ones like the casinos on the Coast (both First Baptist and First Methodist, by the accounts I’ve heard, sold out through middlemen). Of course, as part of this, the church moves out to the interstate or some other new development and gains more rich congregants, leaving the poor and middle-class people in its old neighborhood to either drive long distances or find another church.

      On the first point, I see it as more of a “church triumphant” phenomenon, seen more in the Deep South now perhaps because of the population growth, but possible wherever growing churches assume that their growth demonstrates how much better Christians they are than other churches and certainly than mere neighborhoods. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the growth of a certain church equated with being good for the neighborhood, even though the neighborhood, through its establishment of a historic district, has expressed its desire to preserve its historic character. I’m sympathetic to the need for growth in the church, especially since they are anchors for the community. On the other hand, they often use their “anchor” status as a very blunt instrument that doesn’t seem much about Christ or loving your neighbor or humility to me. And who says a church needs to have 500 or 1000 or whatever number of members to survive anyway?

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  1. MissPres News Roundup 8-30-2010 | Preservation in Mississippi

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