MissPres News Roundup 8-20-2010

Three weeks of August down, only one and a little bit to go. We can do it, y’all!

This week’s roundup has lots of national stories in it, I don’t know why.

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NPR had a fascinating story on All Things Considered this week about the Slave Cabin Project of one Joseph McGill, an employee of the National Trust and also a Civil War re-enactor. Mr. McGill’s project involves sleeping in slave cabins around the South to draw attention to them and the need to preserve this incredibly important but almost vanished part of our history.

“For so long folks have been visiting the plantation and going into the big house, and without those structures, the big house could not have existed,” [McGill] tells NPR’s Michele Norris.

. . ..

This weekend, McGill plans to sleep in Anderson, S.C. With him, McGill takes a sleeping bag, a pillow, a whistle and a club.

“There could be some critters out there that try to invade my space, and I fend them off with a club,” he says.

Listen to the story at NPR and read McGill’s blog to follow his journeys. I wonder if he’ll be making his way to Mississippi? We don’t have many slave quarters left, certainly not the large groupings that are shown in some of the pictures in these stories.

This is an interesting approach to preservation advocacy. I can think of a few places that may need a Sleep-In: Mount Holly, the Hinds County Armory (if you can find a spot to lay down), Arlington, Port Gibson’s Church Street (maybe stick to the sidewalks, not the actual street), Gulfport Library, the Markham Hotel, White House Hotel, Mississippi Industrial College, Threefoot Building, Central Delta Academy in Inverness. Wow, that list is getting too long!

Speaking of the Hinds County Armory, Berrrrrrrt Case of Jackson’s WLBT reported on the Naval Reserve Center project in Jackson and the continued deterioration of the nearby Armory. It’s not a hard-hitting report–he doesn’t even question why the $100,000 appropriated for roof work on the Armory a few years ago was never used. The brief interview with Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell allows Spell to pass it off as too-little money for the complete renovation of the building, ignoring that getting a new roof on it would have stopped the deterioration from the holes in the roof that has now exponentially increased over time. Case didn’t question the proposed Naval Reserve plans either. Come on, Bert, where’s the guy who went out to Madison and had the gumption to ask Gov. Fordice if his wife had ever seen the house he had bought while still in office?

According to the Daily Journal, and following up on W. White’s report back in April, two more houses supposedly protected by Oxford‘s local historic preservation ordinance will be going away. In yet another sign that the leaders of Oxford are more interested in aesthetics than in history, on Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen overturned a preservation commission decision to deny the request by St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church to remove two houses described as Craftsman style. The houses will not be demolished, but must be moved off the lots. Who wants to place odds that in a year or so the church will come back and say they can’t get anyone to move them and they really pretty please need to demolish them? And why do city leaders establish preservation commissions and then overturn their decisions on a regular basis? So much for encouraging people to get involved in their community.

On a brighter note in Oxford, the North Mississippi Commenter reports that the clock has finally made its way back to the courthouse after long delays and doubts about whether it would ever be seen again. Check out pictures of the innards before they were re-installed over at NMC’s “Lafayette County Courthouse Gets Its Clock Back.”

According to the Sun-Herald, St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Pass Christian will celebrate the upcoming 5th anniversary of Katrina by demolishing its church. I spent some time after Katrina in this Gulf-front church–built around 1970 after the earlier church was destroyed by Camille–and while I don’t give much for the architecture, I observed that it’s an all-steel structure, steel beams covered with steel siding. So, I have to agree with the guy who commented on the article to the effect that the engineer’s report that the building is structurally unsound is from some other planet.

As I’ve said before, it’s always unseemly to lie to get what you want, but doubly so when you’re a church. Just say you want to tear down the building because you don’t like it, you don’t want to be on the Gulf anymore, you had a bad week, whatever, but don’t make up stupid engineers reports saying your very sturdy building is unsound. It ain’t Christian.

Next Tuesday, the Biloxi City Hall will be re-opened to the public after a major post-Katrina renovation effort. I think the last Sun-Herald story about this had a photograph of the board room, while this one has a picture of the lobby.

Another interesting story from NPR, this one about the remains of a colonial ship found under the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York City:

They call it the mystery ship: a wooden vessel that may have sailed the Hudson River and the East Coast, transporting goods between the flourishing Colonies. Its remains were found last month in the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York City. They’ve since been moved to a science lab in Maryland, where each day brings new discoveries.

An excellent editorial in the Houston (TX) Chronicle advocating for stronger local preservation and using rationality to beat back the undying myths that opponents of preservation throw out like yapping dogs every time anyone even hints at protecting historic neighborhoods:

Houstonians are once again engaged in a debate over proposed changes to the city’s historic preservation ordinance, and once again, the public is facing a barrage of misinformation, disinformation and scare tactics from opponents to the amendments. It is not clear whether the leaders of this campaign are woefully misinformed or willfully misleading the public, but it is obvious that they either have not read Houston’s preservation ordinance and the proposed amendments or that they are intentionally distorting the issue.

If you’re one who dismisses parking garages with a sneer–“it’s just an ugly parking garage”–or if you’re one of those crazy Modernists who love ugly parking garages, you should check out Paul Goldberger’s essay on the new garage in Miami designed by Herzog & de Meuron. If you’re not a New Yorker subscriber, you can’t read the whole article, but I think you can watch the video.

The New York Times has a story to make those of us who dream of wandering into an abandoned place and finding ancient ruins salivate. “The Mystery of the Lost City” tracks down the architectural remains of the 1830s Collonade Row, torn down in the 20th century and marble pieces removed to a New Jersey monastery. Kind of makes you want to become a monk.

And coming back home to Mississippi, the Oxford American ran a long feature last month (originally published, I think around 2000 when Mockbee was still alive) titled “Samuel Mockbee’s Vision in an Invisible World” shining more light on this sometimes enigmatic but nationally respected Mississippi architect.

And in case you missed Kathleen Jenkins comment on last week’s Roundup:

Regarding NHL’s in Mississippi, y’all are all invited down to Natchez next week for our first (possibly biennial) preservation conference targeting NHL stewards in MS and LA (Monday evening 8/23 through Wednesday 8/25). Email me if you’re interested, and I’ll send you an agenda.

And that’s all the news I know. Have a great weekend y’all!



Categories: African American History, Biloxi, Churches, Demolition/Abandonment, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Hurricane Katrina, Jackson, National Trust, News Roundups, Oxford, Pass Christian, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Recent Past

4 replies

  1. Thanks for the plug for next week’s conference! We’re bringing ’em in from Arkansas now, as well. My conference co-planners from Atlanta are especially intrigued by the volume of eating & drinking associated with Natchez conferences …

    We can’t do much for Arlington or the Delta Queen, but we can hopefully help educate the stewards of those landmarks that remain – as well as our community leaders – about the treasures around us that are especially imperilled in these difficult economic times. “Heritage tourism” isn’t sufficiently maintaining even the grandest of these structures at this point.

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  2. I think the Mockbee documentary will be on PBS Mon. 8.23. at 9 pm?

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  3. I live in a house in Jackson, MS designed by Sambo Mockbee. It is known around town as the Birdhouse. I dont have the plans so am not sure if he dubbed it that or not but I would guess so. It is built next to (actually it kind of hangs over) a natural creek that is in terrible shape! I know it is a city issue but does anyone have any suggestions on how to get something done? I wish I was loaded and could get it done myself but not in this life! ha! I am also not sure how they would even get in to correct some of the issues; it would be a pretty major expense in my opinion. I am concerned because the manmade walls along the banks have fallen into the creek and the banks are slowly deteriorating; there is also a very large tree on the creek bank that could cause some pretty serious damage to the house. The house is called the Bird House. I can post photos if anyone is interested.

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  1. MissPres News Roundup 11-22-2010 | Preservation in Mississippi

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