MissPres News Roundup 7-30-2010

Can you believe July is almost over? Since August is my least favorite month, I’ll be taking my summer vacation next week. You may say, “Good grief, Malvaney just took a long vacation in April!” To which I would respond, “April was over three months ago.”

Since I know I’m off next week, this week’s roundup is kind of long, so you may want to get some popcorn, or a bowl of ice cream to enjoy while you read.

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The Sun-Herald had a great article last week about the Modernist home of local architect Milton B.E. Hill, in Gulfport’s Broadmoor neighborhood, “Design for living Modern house was Gulfport architect’s own home“:

The house was designed by Gulfport architect Milton Hill, who had it built as his own family home in 1949. Its lines have a Prairie influence, with mixed exterior media of brick, stone and wood, which harmonize with the lush greens and browns of the lawn and trees.

. . . .

The L-shaped living room is just off the kitchen. Here, Karen gets to indulge in her passion for modern Danish and Italian style, including a Hans Wegner cabinet and a Wegner chair she found at a shop in Slidell. A pair of wooden Eames chairs were a special find a few years ago at a local Salvation Army store.

The living room’s real conversation piece isn’t a piece of furniture, however. It’s a part of the room — an indoor garden area, original to the house. It sits beneath a bank of casement windows which let plenty of filtered light into the room.

I don’t know much about Milton Hill, other than what I find in the 1956 American Architects Directory, by R.R. Bowker:

HILL, MILTON B(AXTER) E(LLIS). (AIA.)
Office: 1232 Pass Rd, Gulfport, Miss. Home: 911 S. Wanda Pl, Gulfport.

b. Helena, Ark, June 10, 17. M. 37, Children 4. Educ: Ala. Polytech. Inst, B. Arch, 40; B. Civil Eng, 44. Arch, Bldg. & Grounds, Ala. Polytech. Inst, 40-43; Arch. Eng, Raymond Sizemore, Montgomery Ala 44-45, (9 mo.) Present Firm: Milton B. E. Hill, Archt. & Engr, org. 45. Reg: Ala, Miss; Lic. Engr. Mem. Meth. Ch, Bd. of Stewards, since 45; Kiwanis Int; C of C; Theater of Arts, Chmn Bd, since 54. Educ. Activities: Instr, Ala. Polytech. Inst, 42-43; Univ. of Miss, Extension, 53. Subj. Taught: Elem. Drawing, Bldg. Construct, Steel Design, Cone, Design, Advanced Struct. Gov. Serv: U.S. Navy, 45. AIA Mem: Miss. Chapter.

Putting together a list of his most important works from the three architects directories (1956, 1962 and 1970) we get the following:

  • Elem. Sch, Gulfport, 53
  • B. F. Brown Mem. Gym, 54
  • Dr. E. D. Gay Res, Gulfport, 54
  • First Bapt. Church, Gulfport, 55
  • Gulf Nat. Bank, Gulfport, 55
  • Grace Mem. Bapt. Ch, Gulfport, 55
  • Fairchild Office Bldg, Hattesburg, 57
  • Shutt Motel, Gulfport, 57
  • Fairchild Motel, Gulfport, 58
  • Elem. Sch, Gulfport, 59
  • High Sch. Addition, Gulfport, 60
  • Ed. Bldg, First. Meth. Ch, Gulfport, 61
  • State Port Terminal Facilities, Gulfport, 69
  • Miss. Power Co. Gen. Off. Bldg, Gulfport, 69, assoc. archit. w/Curtis & Davis, New Orleans
  • Reichhold Chem. Inc. Industrial Plant, Moncure, N.C, 69
  • Soc. Security Off. Bldg, Gulfport, 69
  • Downtowner Motor Inn, Gulfport, 69, consult, archit. to George A. Thomason, Memphis.

Of those buildings listed above, the Gymnasium, Gulf National Bank, First Baptist Church and of course the Port Terminal are gone–I don’t know about many of the others. One other building not on this list that I know he designed is the Soria City School, a 1940s African-American school just a few blocks from Broadmoor and a designated Mississippi Landmark. As you see, he was the associate architect for the Mississippi Power Company Building on Beach Blvd in downtown Gulfport. The principal architects on that building were the internationally famous Modernists Curtis & Davis of New Orleans, architects of the Superdome, among other major International-style landmarks. This article is very helpful in filling in personal details but I hope that we can convince our newest MissPres contributor, Thomas Rosell, to do a little detective work on these and other buildings by Hill.

Speaking of Gulfport’s Soria City, the African-American neighborhood just east of downtown and north of the railroad tracks, the Sun-Herald also ran a little article about some Community Development Block Grants being used for sidewalks and other infrastructure upgrades and repair in the area: “Soria City included in federal funding plans.”

Still on the Coast, over in Pascagoula, a community group met last week to discuss the renovation of the old Pascagoula High School, specifically the auditorium section, which is going to be a community auditorium, rather than a private space like the rest of the campus. As you recall, a few weeks ago Thomas Rosell gave us a report on the recent walk-through of the building and the ongoing renovation work.

And last but not least on the Coast, an article I missed several months ago because I was headed to France, but it’s worth posting even at this late date. The Sea Coast Echo (which is one of my favorite newspaper names) ran an article “This Property Is Revived” about the Scafidi House in Bay St. Louis, a two-story concrete block building up on Blaize Avenue a block or so from the amazing depot. If you have been down to BSL since Katrina, I’m sure you’ve noticed this once-impressive building, clearly vacant and abandoned for several years and badly damaged by Katrina’s winds and water. Its future was uncertain to say the least after Katrina, but it is now undergoing a transformation into a little theater:

The building on Blaize was purchased from private owners by the Little Theatre in January 2008, after standing vacant and having sporadic occupancy for years. The interior was gutted with help from numerous volunteers after the purchase, and construction crews are now at work on the exterior.

. . . .

The fund-raising, Grace said with understatement, “has been difficult.”

The group received grants worth $250,000 from the state Department of Archives and History and the Mississippi Arts Commission, and was required to raise a 40 percent match. Fund-raising is still underway.

. . . .

Much of the building’s history now is shrouded by the mysteries of time, but it is said to have been built by Andreas Scafidi, an Italian immigrant, farmer, and merchant. He and his workers hand-crafted the stout exterior blocks for the building. He and his family lived upstairs and Scafidi operated a retail business on the first floor.

Interestingly, the building featured prominently in the 1966 movie “This Property is Condemned” starring Robert Redford, Natalie Wood, and Charles Bronson. Is it just me, or do you also have to stop yourself from saying “Charles Manson” when you really mean “Charles Bronson”?

A small but potentially important note in the Bolivar Commercial about the H.M. Nailor School in Cleveland, the historically black high school for the city when it was built in the early 1940s. In an article about getting ready for the new school year, the superintendent noted:

Thigpen announced to the board that she would be traveling to Jackson to attend a meeting with the “Heritage and Archives Department in Jackson.” She said representatives would be discussing information on Nailor.

I’m not sure what this means, but I did happen to stop by the school on my little trip through the Delta a couple weeks ago and from its condition I would think the superintendent either intended to talk about possible grants for repair and renovation or (hopefully not) demolition. The building has clearly not been cared for as it should be, but you can see that it is a substantial, concrete structure with an Art Moderne style–a rare investment in African American education for the Depression/WWII era. Plus, the Amzie Moore house is right around the corner, practically facing the school–this little area of Cleveland has a lot of Civil Rights history to it, but it’s a shame to see how neglected and abused it all is. What’s to be done about preserving African American history when we just keep tearing down or demolishing by neglect the sites of importance? This problem isn’t confined to Cleveland of course, it’s all over, including Jackson’s own Farish Street neighborhood and many other sites and districts around the country.

An article about historic Hawkins Field in the Clarion-Ledger caught my eye, “Hawkins Field maps future,” although it only glancingly mentions the 1936 terminal building, listed as one of the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Endangered Places in 2001, and a favorite of Flickr photographers.

And a rare article out of Meridian–am I wrong but do we hardly ever hear anything from that part of the state except about the Threefoot Building?–about the downtown site chosen for a new museum, the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center. According to the article in the Meridian Star:

Museum board members say an architect will decide whether to renovate the current buildings on the property or demolish them and construct a new building.

The buildings in question–one of which is the old Meridian Hotel–are right in the heart of the downtown historic district and are very prominent as you cross the bridge into downtown, so let’s hope they will be renovated instead of demolished. I wish the board members would be more cognizant of the property they have acquired and not be throwing around demolition options from the start. When I first moved to Mississippi, many moons ago, Meridian had one of the most intact turn-of-the-20th-century urban environments in the state, older than Jackson’s downtown. Now, after years of losing one building here, one building there, two buildings over here, it is diminished considerably–still impressive, but disheartening to those of us who knew it before.

We can end on a happy note, thanks to a reader from up Aberdeen way who pointed me to an article in the Columbus Dispatch about more preservation work in Aberdeen and the long-standing contributions of Billy Brasfield in saving historic houses around town. “TV cameras roll as celebrity makeup artist reclaims another Aberdeen home“:

Aberdeen native Billy Brasfield may be makeup artist to the stars, but when it comes to hometown preservation, his passion is putting the best face on some of the city’s hidden gems.

When he’s not transforming faces including Scarlett Johansson, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and the Dixie Chicks — or glamorous subjects for magazines like Vanity Fair or Harper’s Bazaar — he’s making over as many of Aberdeen’s faded architectural beauties as he can.

One of the latest is a circa 1904 structure at 208 High Street. The house sat empty and deteriorating for years before Billy rescued it. Its renovation generated a buzz around the small North Mississippi town, in large part because of the Los Angeles-based World of Wonder film crew documenting several of his projects for a series to air on the home and garden network, HGTV, in January 2011.

I have to admit I’ve kind of abandoned HGTV because for so many years they’ve featured house renovations that involved complete gutting, including ripping out quality materials and throwing them into the landfill. But it will be exciting to see our own Aberdeen featured in January and hopefully see what “This Old House” used to be and should have remained.

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That’s it for this week and next–enjoy my vacation, y’all! As is tradition round these parts, I’ll send back postcards for you to enjoy while I’m gone.



Categories: Aberdeen, African American History, Architectural Research, Bay St. Louis, Cleveland, Demolition/Abandonment, Grants, Gulf Coast, Gulfport, Jackson, Meridian, Mississippi Landmarks, News Roundups, Pascagoula, Schools

8 replies

  1. I hate to think that demolition is even being considered as an option for the old Meridian Hotel. We may have to start a campaign…

    On another note, I noticed the name “Shutt Motel” on the list of works above…how cool is that?

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  2. Part of the problem with the Meridian Star is their terrible website. I found much more preservation related news when using the actual newspapers. However, most of the news was bad. Hopefully the museum board picked the right kind of architect.

    I’m glad you were able to take photographs of the Nailor School. I couldn’t find any online when covering it in my first News Roundup in March.

    Don’t worry about not covering the Scafidi House earlier, I gave it a write-up while you were in France. I embedded a Google Street View picture in the post but it is now too pixelated to make out the structure’s details. I can say that the building appears to be one of the few structures left on Blaize Avenue.

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  3. Well, phooey, I didn’t even think to search MissPres before posting that Sea Coast article–sorry about that. It’s a terrible thing to lose your mind, or only have half of one, to paraphrase my favorite Dan Quayle quote :-)

    Yes, those Nailor School pictures were a priority for me, and it worked out that I was able to get there when there were no cars in the parking lot but the gate was open. It really could be a gem in the community if it were fixed up and then maintained.

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  4. Bad news about Downtown Meridian (I happen to be visiting the wonderful state this weekend!): The Hulett Furniture Company is closing its doors soon (signs note 125 years in business):

    hulett

    This will leave another vacancy in downtown, along Front Street, about a block from the Meridian Hotel. However, when visiting in January of this year, I was somewhat encouraged to see a number of the buildings on Front Street adapted for apartments, and what appeared to be a successful coffee shop.
    While on the subject of Meridian, what’s up with letting the hospitals and doctors offices destroy what was (can’t really say “is” anymore) some of the finest residential streets in the state? Just take a drive along 23rd and 24th Avenues near Anderson Medical Center, for example.
    I know you can never go home again, but I get really discouraged – go away six months and something else is gone forever.

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  5. That’s sad to hear about Hulett’s, not only because it leaves the historic building vacant but also because those long-standing bedrock businesses are what make a historic downtown “historic” instead of just gentrified gift shops and such.

    Hospitals, like mega-churches, seem to be exempt from any questioning when they expand into historic neighborhoods. Look at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, which a couple of years ago, demolished almost the entire block of houses surrounding the Manship House–many sweet Craftsman bungalows fell without a murmur so that Baptist could have a larger parking lot. They did save the Lowry House and gave it to MHT, but now MHT is struggling to deal with the project.

    It does seem like we’re losing a lot of battles, doesn’t it?

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  6. H.M. Nailor was demolished this summer. The community was given minimal notice and most were not given a chance to say good bye. African Americans in Cleveland owe a significant part of thier history to Nailor. Most African Americans born in Cleveland prior to 1970 attended Nailor.I agree the asbestos, mold infested building needed to be removed but we should have had a chance to pay our final respects. H.M.Nailor we will miss you.

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  7. I’m sorry to hear that. I think a decent renovation could have resolved the issues with the building, but the school district seemed set on demolition. Yet another African American landmark thrown away with minimal consideration.

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