Abandoned Mississippi: Central Delta Academy, Inverness

I was up in the Delta recently and swung through Inverness on my way back to Jackson from Indianola. I had heard that one of my favorite Delta schools, the old Inverness School and more lately the Central Delta Academy, might be closing or already closed and I wanted to check it out.

It was getting on toward evening, but as I walked around the building, a very helpful lady came walking past with her dog and offered me the chance to go inside, something no one ever needs to ask me twice. She confirmed that this last school year had been the final class at Central Delta Academy, which has closed due to declining enrollments and population in general.

The Academy occupied three historic buildings, including a two-story administration building designed by Jackson architect N.W. Overstreet in 1924. A stucco or concrete gymnasium–didn’t really get close enough to it because it was getting late by the time I finished inside the main building–that looks probably late 1930s or possibly immediately post-WWII and a tan-brick vocational building probably from the early 1950s complete the campus.

All the buildings appeared to have been well-maintained over the years and are in good condition. The lady who let me in said that just in the past couple of weeks, all the contents had been auctioned off and the school would officially cease to exist in August. She said the trustees were talking about just tearing it all down, but that other people in town were trying to come up with a way to save it. I hope they can, and maybe these pictures will inspire someone out there to bring new life to this great Delta school campus.

One thing I would suggest looking into is whether the deed to the property has a reverter clause. This was the school for white students until desegregation in 1969, and as I understand it (and as happened elsewhere), the white campus was practically turned over to the new private academy. If the deed was written like lots of school property deeds in the past though, there might be a clause that stipulates that the property will revert to the original owner, presumably the city or county, whenever it ceases to be used for educational purposes.

Let’s hope for the best for this campus and for Inverness–it’s worth saving if only there is a will (and money) to do it.

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Categories: Abandoned Mississippi, Schools

48 replies

  1. Nice photos. It would be a shame if a building like that got torn down, but it would also be hard to find an alternative use for such a large structure in a small town. Hope they work out something to save the building.
    Frank.

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    • I spent 12 years in this building — grades 1 thru 12 and even at a young age appreciated beauty of this building and how impressive it looked. And remember many of my teachers who got me off to a good start in this worlld. Sad to hear it is not longer used.

      Jerry DePoyster

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    • Cruger Tchula demolished the Cruger School. Best thing to do than abandoned building to deteriorate

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  2. Possibly a small business incubator or market? I’m scratching my head here to think of uses. It reminds me of the Overstreet school complex in Woodville. This also had an earlier school with later additions. Unfortunately, not a trace of it remains. This is in such good condition that there is no excuse for demolition. but creative thinking is clearly called for here.

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  3. I had cousins who lived in Inverness and attended this school in both its incarnations. Am wondering if the white population level in the area has now declined to the point where CDA is no longer viable? Hopefully something like the reverter clause can save this building from demolition (even by neglect) until a savior can be found. It might then be a good candidate for one of the Civil Rights tourism planning point teams that former NY Senator Nancy Hoffman brings into Mississippi?

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  4. I have no idea what it would say about preservation in the state of Mississippi if a historic school complex, in excellent condition, that was never vacant, is architecturally significant, and was designed by the most notable architect in Mississippi’s history is allowed to be demolished with little protest. What would that say about Preservation in Mississippi?

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    • I think it would say preservation in Mississippi is very weak, or at least preservation in Inverness. As far as what it would say about Preservation in Misssissippi . . . perhaps a less biased observer than me would be able to answer that.

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    • There’s also a racial history here that might play into whether the buildings are saved or needlessly demolished. And there’s the economic doldrums of the Delta. So, it’s not just all about whether preservation as a movement is weak or strong, although I see your point.

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      • It is not a personal criticism of Preservation in Mississippi. However, there is no reason that this school should be demolished. Unlike the campaign to preserve the remaining buildings at Mississippi Industrial College (which I support, though I can’t make it to Holly Springs for the visit conducted by Ben Ledbetter), Inverness School/Central Delta Academy is not abandoned or ruinous. From a financial perspective, historical perspective, architectural perspective, and just about any other perspective, this school should not be demolished. I know there is a race issue with this school building but that issue stains nearly every building in the state of Mississippi, as well as the rest of the South. Perhaps it would be poetic justice if African-Americans were finally able to use the school campus.

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      • I didn’t take it as a personal criticism, but I’ve asked the question myself about what the limits of “virtual” community are.

        As for your other points, agree totally–this would be not only a great loss architecturally, but completely unnecessary to jump straight from closing the school to demolition when the buildings (with credit to CDA) have been so well-maintained. Also agree that the race issue is always there, just thought I would bring it up as a possible hindrance. But as Susan mentioned, and the Facebook page seems to support, there is community sentiment to save the campus, so let’s hope the CDA folks are willing to work with the community toward that end: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Inverness-MS-Chamber-of-Commerce/74531235336

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  5. According to the Facebook page of the Inverness Chamber of Commerce, “it is a ‘darn’ shame the [building] cannot be saved,” and it indicates “it is up to the current owner” as to whether or not the building is demolished. Perhaps someone needs to recommend to the city that they inquire about the reverter clause if they are really interested in saving it. Comments on the page seemed to indicate there is at least some interest in using the building in the community.

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  6. Great steel windows! Do the bottom and top casements open individually or together?

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  7. I’m pretty sure they open separately–not tied together, if that’s what you mean. This mid-1920s period is when I start seeing schools with steel casements, not many though, so they’re really non-standardized windows compared to some of the later types.

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  8. There is no reverter clause, the building is in a deteriorating condition, there is a major problem with asbestos, there are major liability issues, there a NO racial overtones involved with the property. While there was much talk, when it came to finances, everyone got strangely silent. Whatever is done with the property, it will be for the long term good of the community. May the Lord bless one and all!

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  9. As I understand it, the school was bought for a large sum of money for the purpose of establishing a small, private, Christian academy. Central Delta Academy has been an outstanding school as long as its doors have been open. It has produced an amazingly large number of outstanding citizens…many who choose to remain in the community of Inverness. When there was no financial help from state and/or federal taxes, the community of Inverness (and surrounding communities of Moorhead, Indianola, Isola, etc.) completely “preserved” this property, as well as providing employment and education. We all have fond memories of summer baseball games and 9th grade graduations. (remember homecoming when Harris and Mona were here?) We don’t like losing part of “our town.” It would be nice if we could find a way for the state/federal government to pay for renovations, insurance, etc….maybe have the school as part of the proposed civil rights trail….it is one of the few “old schools” and it was turned into an academy…..in Ocean Springs, they took an old school as part of a Mainstreet project and now they teach art classes, etc. in some of the rooms…..have plays in the auditorium……we’re always reading about useless grants……this seems like such a good USE for one…..anybody have any ideas???

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  10. I do have some ideas, and thank you for stopping in here to open the discussion. This is such an amazing place and what a treasure for Inverness. I won’t have time to write down my ideas until tonight, but I didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you.

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  11. I’m glad to hear that you’ve been thinking about other similar projects that might help you consider other uses for the old school buildings and also ways of funding those uses. The three things you need (in very broad terms) are community support, time, and money.

    It sounds like you have the community support and at least the potential to turn that support into actual tangible support. As for time, if the CDA folks are willing to let the property sit for a while to allow the community/chamber of commerce/etc. to start planning for uses for the property and the means of funding those uses, then I think this might be a great project for the central Delta region.

    There are grant funds available, mostly through the state, although federal grants (maybe through the USDA rural development program) are worth checking into. The two state agencies I know the Ocean Springs school project has gone to for grants are the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Community Heritage Preservation Grant–designed specifically for historic schools–and the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Building Fund for the Arts and the Mississippi Heritage grant. The Mississippi Development Authority also has a heritage tourism section and a community asset development section that might be good resources. The Mississippi Heritage Trust doesn’t have any grants that I know of, but they do have a statewide audience that cares about Mississippi’s history and could help you get out the word about what you’re doing.

    One caveat: I know that the funding for these grants has been in question this year, and I notice that the MDAH grant is still talking about 2009, so we get back to needing some time.

    Second caveat: a project this large will almost definitely take grants from several different agencies, if that’s the route you take–you put the grants together based on your own needs and desires for the building, however, not on just random grants that you received.

    Two things to remember about grants from any granting agency, whether it’s governmental or private–they take time and they almost always require community investment in the form of a match to the grant. If the CDA board will grant you that time, you can use it to develop the uses of the building (will it be all dedicated to one purpose? will it house offices? what groups might want to have their offices there or run programs from there? will the audience be solely Inverness and immediate surroundings, the Central Delta, the whole Delta?) and build your community support. My experience is that people want to hear a tangible vision for what the historic buildings will become before they’ll start opening their wallets, but once you get people excited, especially given the alumni who will naturally be the easiest supporters to reach, you might be surprised by how things start moving.

    I’m sure that the Ocean Springs folks would welcome a visit from your group, once you’re organized, to get some details about nuts and bolts. It would also be a good idea to get a budget from the CDA folks about annual maintenance costs so that you have a general idea when you start putting together your own budgets (which you’ll need for any grant, public or private).

    Plus there are preservation-minded folks throughout the Delta who have been in the trenches with historic building projects who might be a good resource: Greenwood, Indianola, Greenville/Washington County, Cleveland. In fact, an MDAH board member, Hilda Povall, is from Cleveland and might be a good contact to make. Once you start looking and listening, there are all sorts of people who can help you chart your course and hopefully pitch in some money with it.

    As I said above, this school is very well-maintained and is a credit to the stewardship of CDA. It is certainly in no condition that merits immediate demolition. If liability is the main issue, then maybe your first fundraisers need to be with the goal of helping pay the insurance while you get your plan of action together. This could be a great project for the whole region of Inverness and with a lot of hard work and planning (and money of course), it can happen.

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  12. Thank you so much for your reply….God does say “ask and it shall be given”! I have posted your information on the chamber facebook page and forwarded it to others who are interested. Although the Delta is a very poor part of the great state of Mississippi, Inverness is abundantly wealthy in community support, we find the time for what’s important, and we have been know to raise some money when there was a need. Your information is exactly what we need to get started and to give us hope. I hope to be returning with more news on The Inverness High School/Central Delta Academy Building. By the way, two of the restaurants in Inverness are hanging the class composite pictures from Inverness High and Central Delta Academy, and several photos, trophies and other memorabilia are also on display at Hometown Restaurant and Town Market and Restaurant.

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  13. Please be aware the following two community meetings, when the clearly deteriorating conditions of the buildings, the major problem with asbestos, major liability issues, and the fact that the property is held privately, the consensus of the community members was and is that demolition of the buildings is preferable to the facility becoming both a health hazard and a danger. The demolition has already begun and will be concluded in a short period of time. While it would have been wonderful to keep the buildings, the land will be held in trust for the community. Your thoughts are appreciated, however, our thoughts were toward developing scholarship aid for our children. Thank you for your interest.

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    • I certainly hope that demolition is not preceding. Malvaney’s photographs do not show a dangerous building, rather a historic structure that has been well maintained through the years, a credit to Central Delta Academy that it has been such a good steward for years. The Central Delta Academy is such a remarkable asset architecturally, historically, and functionally that its demolition should not be an option. Mississippi has many stories of communities that have adapted historic school buildings for other purposes that benefit the entire community. Vacant land and more debris in the landfill does nothing for a community. From comments made on this website and the Facebook page it is quite obvious that members of the community care for this structure; it is not a write-off for them but a part of their experience, going to school there, sending their children to school in that building. While it is unfortunate that you do not see the value of this building, the community will be much poorer without this structure. It is a sad day for Inverness and the state of Mississippi.

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  14. Appreciate your thoughts, it is difficult to see the buildings go, however, it is even more difficult the full dynamics of the situation from a distance. Much prayer, soul-searching, and thought was done in relation to the buildings. The buildings have sustained increasing damage due to leaks, etc. The loss of the buildings is not a “write-off,” the property has been held in trust, and as such is privately held. There has been enough sadness, and even hard feelings concerning buildings. Our community is in the “grieving” and “healing” process. We have accepted reality. The “hurts” do not need to be re-opened. Remember, you only have a small part of the total picture. Our prayers are for the future of our children, we need to develop scholarship aid. This has not been a sudden decision. Again I appreciate your thoughts and sentiments. May the Lord bless you, and our community.

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  15. While I certainly don’t claim to know all the ins-and-outs of the local situation, I do claim to know about buildings, based on about 38 years of wandering around and through them, beginning as a kid with my dad, who is an engineer. I’ve seen thousands of buildings, ranging from almost destroyed structures like Beauvoir after Katrina to those in pristine condition, and I would place the CDA main building (didn’t see inside either of the others) closer to the pristine end of the spectrum than the other. It was nowhere near needing to be torn down, and if you had been interested in other alternatives, a little time to come up with those options would have no doubt gone far to alleviating any hard feelings in the long run.

    Obviously you have made your decision and as you have reminded both here and on the Facebook page, it’s private property. While you may believe “we” have “accepted reality,” it sounds more like you have decided on this particular reality without allowing anyone in the community time to come up with other options.

    By demolishing this campus, you are removing THE landmark of Inverness. You’re destroying what could have been the center of a vision for the future of the town and even might have helped you maintain the energy of your alumni group and your scholarship fund. I attended all 13 years at a Christian school in Florida and graduated from a small Bible college, so I’m naturally sympathetic to the plight of small private institutions. I contribute to my school’s scholarship fund, but I don’t think I would see any point in doing so if the school closed down and they tore down the school buildings.

    I admire your stewardship of the property over the years, but I’m not at all sympathetic to destroying this beautiful and historic place and especially not in the hasty way it’s being done. Inverness will be the poorer for it.

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  16. Is it truly too late?

    This is very sad news! If demolished, this amazing building will be gone forever. Imagine the embodied energy — the tangible reminder of wonderful memories and stories of the community — now being lost.

    I am amazed at how quickly the decision to demolish has been made here. I realize that we (who are not from Inverness) do not have the full picture — but also please realize that the local community may not have a fully objective view of the situation.

    Could the building be sold or given to another entity who could take the lead in saving and bringing new life to the building — and therefore leaving scholardship funds and the building intact?

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  17. The current decision was reached after more than six months of decision and research. I do appreciate and admire your concern. And there are both pros and cons regarding the property. The land will continue to be used for the good of the community. The deteriorating building will not became either an eyesore or a health hazard. DEQ has certified the danger of asbestos in the building. Removal of the asbestos in order to use the building could range as high as $160,000. That much money would provide scholarship aid for many students. The second floor has suffered from a leaking roof, and the list goes on. The basic estimate to bring the building to a stable condition range as high as $250,000. The cost of insurance, utilities, etc., added to that creates a very difficult situation when our parents are struggling to keep their children in school. The school age population did no warrant keeping the school open.

    The decision concerning the buildings produced strong feelings, even hurt feelings. It is impossible to make everyone happy. Not sure when you came through Inverness, but the decision was the result of much thought, prayer and everyone was given the opportunity to have input.

    Again, the consensus was that the privately held property, continue to be held in stewardship for the community.

    Please know I am not be argumentative or questioning your concern. Our community is strong and will continue to be strong. And the future use of the property will benefit everyone. We are focusing on scholarship for our children. Please understand this was not an easy decision. The gym has been demolished, the remaining buildings are on schedule for demolition. Remember, for those of us involved this has been a very painful time. May the Lord bless you in the all that you do!

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    • Thank you, Bro. D. for explaining so well and clearing the air…..and I’m not trying to be stubborn….though Lord and everybody else knows I can be! For some reason, the main building of CDA has been on my mind for the last month. I don’t have a problem with demo of the gym and cafeteria, but would really like to see if there is a way to secure grant money to support the main building….maybe even bring jobs, tourism to our community. Is there any time left for me to just check out some of the information suggested before the main building is demolished? The first suggestion made to me was to ask about paying liability premiums for a period so that options could be explored. Is this a possibility? I believe we could easily put together a fundraiser. As for fundrasiers, there is always the possibility of another big HOMECOMING, a special website to raise funds/donations. With social networking, we could easily contact alumni. There is also the possibility of republishing The Share-Cropper. From the number of people on the Chamber site and Facebook, I think we could easily form a committee to check every option suggested…then we can say we tried everything…only God knows the outcome….I know he has a plan that will work for our good.

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      • Dearest Toni … you are such a blessing to so many! All that you asked about was explored in great detail earlier. The process covered more than six months. The contract has been let for the demolition. Every possible option was explored, and it all comes down to a reality we have to face. There are many good plans in the works for the land that will be useful to our community. Inverness High School and CDA will live on as long as our memories continue. The memories will also continue through the scholarship aid provided to many children.

        As you know I love you and appreciate you so much. Since the matter has already be settled, I am praying that feelings will not be stirred again. There is no way to make everyone happy. At both community meetings and earlier by the school board, all avenues were considered. At both meetings the consensus was that as difficult as it may be, the present course is the proper one.

        Now if I could just recruit you to help me get the Scholarship Fund started and going, it would be a special blessings! The idea about the Sharecropper is indeed a good one. These are hard times for so many of our people.

        May the bless you and your precious family!

        Bro. D

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      • As one of those who grew up with IHS/CDA as our main place to “hang out” as well as be educated, this has been one terrible year. When the news came that we would demote to a K-6 school, I knew the end was near. I didn’t realize it would only be one year until the school was literally gone. Some of us went through some terrible times including the tornado of ’71 and that dear old building wrapped us in her arms and kept us close. I hate the asbestos situation is what it is, but I have to wonder just how bad it is since I have been in school buildings with asbestos in them since 1964. Yes, I still teach. No, I don’t have any asbestosis symptoms. I dread my next drive to Inverness. I don’t think I can bear to see the empty lot where my gym once stood. We are grieving and we are sad. There must have been something we could have done that wouldn’t cost us a beautiful landmark and so much pain.

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    • The current cost to properly remove and dispose of asbestos is typically much lower now than in previous years (primarily because of competition). If the current estimate is $160,000 worth of asbestos removal this indicates a large amount. Which materials in the building are affected? Because of this abatement requirement, I assume that your demolition cost is quite high.

      Please be sure that that your demolition contractor is providing proper asbestos abatement and air monitoring and that asbestos containing materials are being disposed of in an appropriate manner. MS Dept of Environmental Quality may be able to assist you with this confirmation. Their website is provides the following information — http://www.deq.state.ms.us/mdeq.nsf/page/air_asbestosdemolitionandrenovationoperations?opendocument

      and their phone number is 1-888-786-0661

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      • Thanks for the information … DEQ has been on scene and a certified firm is dealing with the asbestos. The asbestos is found throughout the building, walls, floors, all pipes … the building was steam heated. All requirements are being carefully followed to insure the safety of everyone. Again, thanks for the additional information.

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        • You are welcome.

          I presume the vinyl tile floor covering or its glue — not the wood floors – contains asbestos. This is a fairly simple material to remove. The piping is also relatively simple to remove – and the portions inside the walls could potentially be left in place and encapsulated. Which wall materials contain asbestos?

          I am sorry to be so persistent — but I have a hard time giving up on such a great building. If the owner could give a bit more time – I would be pleased to help bring a professional team together – on a volunteer basis – to give another look toward the options that this building could provide.

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        • I simply asked somebody the other day if they knew what was going on with CDA….I had heard so many rumors….then I was told to look on Facebook…then I found this blog. I did attend the first meeting, but missed the second and never heard the results. The last news I heard was that a group had gotten together and gotten the board to agree to wait a year while options were explored….so now, at least I know what is really going on….and it will all be well in the end. As far as the scholarship fund goes, I’ve already started….I contacted The Old House Depot in Jackson…..a great salvage store….sent an email about the school…..gave them your phone number…..check their website….they would come and buy doors, windows, flooring, bathroom fixtures, doorknobs, roof tiles, chalkboards, etc…….could be some major money……they come and take it out and everything……then there are things people can buy in their store if they want a piece of IHS/CDA…..I’ll be glad to help with scholarship fundraising……(maybe we should have an” Overstreet Scholarship” to honor these buildings and their builder)
          So, thank you for your patience…..I will now refocus…on scholarships……. God bless us every one!

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  18. The demolition is a done deal then. Very unfortunate.

    However, Mr. Prater, may I inquire about the demolition contract and the details of that? Is the main building simply going to be bulldozed, or is it going to be dismantled? I ask because, if the building can be dismantled, something good may be salvaged from this catastrophe. Architectural details from the school can be salvaged during the demolition. The interior woodwork on the stairwell and around the auditorium stage, the original interior doors and transom windows, the exterior metal windows, the two large arched windows, the brackets under the eves on the exterior, the Spanish Tile roof, and even the bricks can be saved and reused. Perhaps a way to raise money for your scholarship fund would be to save all of these items and sell them. There is a large market for historic architectural details and materials. This could make the best of a bad situation. It is not an ideal option from a preservationist’s standpoint but is far better for everyone, including your group, than all of that building ending up in a landfill. If I had a large truck and the time, I know I would personally come to Inverness to salvage those materials.

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  19. The Cutrer Mansion property in Clarksdale that was part of the Catholic school for years was purchased (funds raised–historic trust). The mansion was restored and the other school buildings are being redesigned and are to be used (this is being done in stages) by the local colleges and universities for classes. The property had been scheduled to be demolished at one time.

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  20. I’ve always believed that more historic buildings are destroyed because of a lack of imagination than are lost to fire, storms, or other means. Unfortunately, the owners of Central Delta Academy (First Baptist Church of Inverness) refused all pleas for time to look at other alternatives, including a petition asking for one year for interested parties to come up with a plan for reuse. At least according to some of the comments here, demolition is either underway or almost complete. It’s very unfortunate.

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  21. I was in the last graduating class from Inverness High School and am greatly saddened to hear of the building’s situation. Can anyone tell me how the First Baptist Church became the owner of the property? I’m not sure that I understand the concern over “scholarship aid” either.

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  22. I’m still not clear on the relationship of Central Delta to First Baptist–First Baptist may not have owned it, but was apparently heavily involved in it and in the decisions about the disposition of the property after CDA closed in May. I believe that Danny Prater is the pastor of First Baptist.

    I also never understood the relationship of scholarship aid to the buildings. It seems to be a different issue to me.

    Unfortunately, the buildings are all gone. I hesitantly drove through Inverness on a trip to the Delta at the end of September, and all that was left of the beautiful landmark shown at the top of this post was a massive pile of debris. I don’t see any way that enough time had passed from the time of the last few comments to fully abate the building or to salvage any of the architectural pieces, but maybe Inverness people work much faster than I’m used to seeing.

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  23. I went to The school a few years ago I went to that school all my live. When it was torn down I was devestated and felt liKe I. Could no longer live

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  24. I taught at CDA for thirty years. I wondered if there was any way I could get a copy of these pictures. What treasures they are!! They bring back so many special memories. Thank you for taking the time to take the photos and posting them.

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  25. https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI was born and raised for the first 12 years of my life right on the campus of IHS. My Dad was the school janitor and my Mom worked in the cafeteria. We had a home right next to the cafeteria. I spent the first 19 yrs around the school working with my Dad. A ton of good and bad memories. My oldest brother Charles and I recently went to Inverness to look at our childhood hometown after being gone for over forty years. The playground and tennis courts are all that remain of our childhood. The town has gone the way of most of the small Delta towns. No downtown to speak of, cotton gins closed, schools consolidated and closed. We visited the graves of my family members, drove around the area and took some pictures. Growing up in Inverness was a great experience as I learned to work at an early age, got to work with my Dad and always felt safe there.

    Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks

  1. MissPres News Roundup 9-13-2010 | Preservation in Mississippi
  2. Chester Joplin Inverness High School Graduation 2009 | Inverness
  3. Good Architect Interior | | Planet By DesignPlanet By Design

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