MissPres News Roundup 8-23-2010

This is a supplemental News Roundup to Malvaney’s Friday post and my first News Roundup since late April. This post is simply to cover the stories that have fallen through the cracks the past few weeks/months.

And here is the news.

It appears that, although I hope I am not saying this prematurely, the Gulfport Library will be saved. The Tuesday, August 10 article “County transfers library property to city” of the SunHerald reports that “Harrison County has agreed to allow the city to turn it into a community center.” The Harrison County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to transfer ownership of the library to the city after a request from Mayor George Schloegel and Chief Administrative Officer John Kelly. The building will not be used as a library, which is unfortunate, but FEMA ruled in May 2009 that the federal government would not pay to repair the building if another hurricane ever damaged it while being used as a library. Mayor Schloegel states that the library renovation will cost between $2.5 million and $3 million and will begin in 2011.

I have enjoyed Jack Lamar Mayfield’s “A Sense of Place” column in The Oxford Eagle for about a year but could simply never locate any of the articles on The Oxford Eagle’s previous website (which was rubbish). I actually could locate one of Mayfield’s articles recently but the new Oxford Eagle website is worse. Mississippi State luckily gets the actual Oxford Eagle paper occasionally. The July 1-2 paper contains a great article on the 150th anniversary of the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church building in Oxford, “Cause for celebration: A church building stands for 150 years.” The first services in the church building were held in April 1860, after five years of construction, led by Oxford’s master builder William Turner and based upon Richard Upjohn’s designs. Unfortunately, the new Oxford Eagle website does not allow a full reading of the article but I would encourage one to find a physical copy somewhere; Mayfield’s columns run every Friday.

The Daily Journal from July 24 published the article “How to kill a motel in 10 years” about the to-be-demolished Trace Inn on West Main St. in Tupelo. Constructed in 1961, it was originally the premier motel both in Tupelo and on the Natchez Trace Parkway. In recent years, mirroring the decline of so many other hotels and motels, the Trace Inn has fallen into disrepair. Perhaps it can still be saved but with the back and forth over saving Tupelo’s Spain House and the usual endings to Tom Barnes’s hotel posts, I do not know how much hope remains for the Trace Inn.

The Vicksburg Post article “Buried in Time: Digs unearth Vicksburg, Rolling Fork finds” from July 18 describes the archaeological finds on the Vicksburg riverfront and near the Red Barn in Rolling Fork. Construction of the new Army Corps of Engineers Interpretive Center at Levee and Jackson Streets on the Vicksburg riverfront requires an archaeological assessment of the site. According to the article, which is not online due to changes at The Vicksburg Post website, Levee and Jackson was the site of the S. Spengler Saw and Planing Mill during the 1870s.

On any given day, about 220 employees of the mill would have been busily making doors, sashes, blinds, window frames, stairway columns[,] and home decorations that were loaded onto barges and trains to be sold to home and business owners across the ever-expanding country.

The Yazoo Diversion Canal negatively impacted industrial activity along the riverfront and the Spengler mill site was severely disturbed by the construction of the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad depot in the 1890s. The Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University will take possession of the artifacts when Panamerican Consultants finishes the excavation and when the Corps of Engineers releases a full report later this year. Panamerican and the Corps are also excavating at the Red Barn in Rolling Fork for the Corps’ new $6 million educational and interpretive center. The 33-acre Rolling Fork site contained a Native American village during the 1300s and 1400s, one that U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Section Team Leader Chris Koeppel describes as “something really significant.” If the excavation at the Spengler mill site can help illustrate architectural manufacturing practices in Mississippi during the early New South period, it could be an incredible boon to architectural historians.

In related news from May, the Army Corps of Engineers purchased the Red Barn on Highway 61 in Rolling Fork from the Deaton family, longtime owners of the barn. According to the Deer Creek Pilot, the terms of the transaction have not been released. The Holt Collier Interpretive and Educational Center will be constructed on the 33-acre plot and is scheduled to open in the first part of 2012. While $6 million will be invested into the Holt Collier Center, the Red Barn will not be incorporated into the Center nor will “Rolling Fork’s most iconic landmark” be restored. Perhaps U. S. Representative Bennie Thompson and U. S. Senator Thad Cochran, who championed the project and appropriated the money for it, can be persuaded to steer more pork to preserving and restoring the century-old Red Barn of Rolling Fork.

More news out of Vicksburg, this time from the July 24 Vicksburg Post, is that a decision on Ceres Plantation will have to wait until October 15. At the July 23 meeting of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees, a narrow majority (five) of the nine members voted to delay designating the house and 41 surrounding acres a Mississippi Landmark. Danny Barrett, Jr.’s article “State preservationists delay fate of Ceres house until next meeting” states that the Board of Trustees and local officials are “entertain[ing] a notion to preserve the house and leave the rest of the property alone.” The local officials part would seem to be the highest hurdle to preservation, illustrated by this excerpt, which does not contain a typo on my part:

“This house has no historical significance and is not now or not ever been associated with any significant event in Warren County.” Warren County Port Commission attorney Mack Varner said during a tense hearing Friday on the issue. “It is another farm house in Warren County, and there are many of them”

Eloquently said Mr. Varner. However, The MDAH Board of Trustees president Kane Ditto and trustee Roland Weeks both moved against designating Ceres Plantation a Mississippi Landmark. Period. Bolivar County preservationist Hilda Povall led the motion to table the issue until next meeting. Luckily, Ceres Plantation does have other champions, including De Reul, the developer who proposed earlier this year to restore and transform the house and grounds into a tourist attraction, and Bill Marcy, who is challenging Bennie Thompson for Thompson’s Congressional seat.

Marcy, who opposes U. S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., in this fall’s general election, told the panel the house is “significant” for its role in black history, particularly on the issue of slavery, and took issue with Varner’s comments on the site’s historical significance.

“To say that this period of time does not matter, tells that 400 years of slavery doesn’t matter,” Marcy said.

This article is slightly more in favor of preservation than other articles published by The Vicksburg Post, an encouraging sign. The battle to preserve the house has heated up, with more than just one side throwing punches. Keep an eye on the October 15 meeting, perhaps the last, best shot at preserving Ceres Plantation.

The Columbus Dispatch ran a nice article last Friday the 13th (of August) about Ruben’s Fish House, “Ruben’s has a history of bouncing back.” While not strictly a preservation-related article, the restaurant has perched on the banks of the Tombigbee River for fifty-five years. Not bad for a “little cement block building.” It is also these types of places that define a town as much as the grand mansions and commercial palaces.

Normally cemeteries are not covered in News Roundups but the Laurel Leader-Call reported on August 1 (“Erata Cemetery Association seeking donations for upkeep”) that the Erata Cemetery Association is seeking funds to maintain the historic cemetery. The Jones County cemetery, located near Sandersville, is a large country burial ground from the 1800s. Luckily, and unlike so many other country cemeteries, the Erata Cemetery is still used and has a dedicated group of supporters.

One thing that I had completely missed until recently, is that the Calhoun County Courthouse in Pittsboro is in the midst of a substantial expansion and construction project. While difficult to gauge due to the lack of information online and in The Calhoun County Journal, I believe that the old WPA Courthouse will be demolished. This old article “Equipment Moves In As New Courthouse Project Gets Go-Ahead” contains the rough details:

The first phase, which will include renovation of the current large courtroom facility and an addition on the west side of the building, is estimated to take a year. The second phase, which will include the demolition of the older portion of the courthouse and rebuilding of a new facility, is expected to take another year.

The article “Courthouse Project Loses Three Days to Rain” contains the latest information I could locate on the courthouse work. The photograph is of the new section (1970s) being gutted and rebuilt. I am not going to argue that the Calhoun County Courthouse is the most architecturally important or aesthetically stunning structure ever created. However, the Courthouse was constructed in 1938 and before being maligned by various renovations through the decades, was a handsome, if utilitarian, building; that fact demonstrated by this old postcard on the Penny Postcards from Mississippi website. The links to these two photos (photo 1) (photo 2) show the damage done to the structure by unsympathetic renovations. Finally, how long has it been since a historic Mississippi courthouse has been demolished? I know that Alabama went four decades without demolishing a historic courthouse, until Conecuh County citizens got the itch and demolished their 105-year-old, Frank Lockwood-designed courthouse in May 2005.

The Calhoun County Journal did report some good news recently, in the July 29 paper. The story “Derma Landmark Getting Facelift” states that Jerrol Hamilton, owner of the Round-Top in Derma, is renovating the building “for preservation purposes.” This unique little structure is a quirky-kind of building that has served numerous purposes since being constructed in 1930. Hopefully it will serve many more in years to come as a valued landmark in that small community.

Since apparently national news can be included in News Roundups, three articles from The Wall Street Journal caught my eye this week. The first two are from August 19. “Joan of Architecture Speaks” is a conversation with Phyllis Lambert, a Miesian Modernist who later became the driving force in preserving Montreal’s historic architecture. She helped found Heritage Montreal, the Investment Fund of Montreal, the Montreal Institute of Policy Alternatives, and spearheaded efforts to preserve western downtown Montreal. Lambert also discusses her views on today’s Starchitects, postmodernism, and other issues. The second article is “Surf Avenue Turf War.” This story concerns New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to demolish the earliest, last vestiges of Coney Island’s architectural heritage, including the Grashorn Building, constructed in the 1880s, which is Coney Island’s oldest surviving structure. The Bloomberg-controlled Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has ruled the buildings have no architectural or historic merit, is now in a battle with the New York State Historic Preservation Office, which has ruled that the buildings are eligible for the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. The third story is from the August 21 paper entitled “Geometry of the Spirit” and is about the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, a modern building I actually like. Of special interest is the anecdote about Walter Netsch’s original design for the chapel and Congress’s opinion of it.

And don’t forget tonight’s documentary about Samuel Mockbee on PBS at 9 CDT.

Wow, that was a longer supplement than I thought. C’est la vie.

And that was the news.

Categories: Churches, Columbus, Courthouses, Demolition/Abandonment, Derma, Gulf Coast, Gulfport, Hotels, Libraries, Modernism, Oxford, Pittsboro, Rolling Fork, Tupelo, Vicksburg

9 replies

  1. “Stories that have fallen through the cracks”? By which you mean, Malvaney failed at the news roundups?

    Thanks for catching that story about the Calhoun Co Courthouse. I hate to lose any older courthouse or public building, but I guess if we have to choose one older courthouse to sacrifice to the demolition gods, that would be the one. Admittedly I say that having never seen the interior.


  2. Regarding the Calhoun County courthouse:
    The construction of the 1938 courthouse apparently resulted in the obliteration of the original town plan in which the courthouse was intended to serve as the visual and symbolic center of the town, located on the central block–the courthouse square. Such plans provide a well-known beauty, distinctiveness, and spatial coherence to county seat town.

    I suspect that many pass through Pittsboro regularly and never notice that there is (or was) a courthouse square. The current courthouse was constructed to the side of the square–presumably so the old courthouse could continue in use while the new was being constructed. This decision– while certainly expeditious in the short-term–did little for the long-term integrity of the town. Once the courthouse was removed, instead of retaining the square as a park (eg. Pontotoc), the square was destroyed by running the main north-south axis (Hwy 9) through the square from corner to corner while the two triangles that were created were turned into paved parking areas. The result in passing through Pittsboro is that the courthouse rather than appearing as a focal point in the town, appeared more like a mediocre high school gym built alongside a small highway. Many county seat towns have lost old courthouses, but Pittsboro is the only town in Mississippi that I know of that lost its courthouse square.

    I could only hope that a new courthouse would be constructed on a restored square. However, I see no cause for optimisim.

    Re the article from the Oxford Eagle:
    I couldn’t access the article without paying for a subscription to the paper. So, E.L., are you a subscriber or do you have some means of accessing the article that I don’t know about?



    • The Pittsboro Square, which is still referred to as a square by locals, will not be restored. The new courthouse will be built on the same site as the old one.

      I do not have access to the Oxford Eagle website, I simply gave the link to the article. I read the actual paper in the MSU Library, that is how I accessed the article. I do not know whether Malvaney has a subscription.


    • Thanks for that history of how the square came to be destroyed–I had no idea that it had ever existed much less that it had been destroyed by cutting diagonally across it–seems almost heretical!

      No, I don’t have an Oxford Eagle subscription either, which is why so few of my news roundups nowadays include news from up that way. I’m waiting for that day when all Mississippi newspapers will join hands in offering a flat-price online subscription to access news from all over the Magnolia State.

      And on that day, the angels will sing gospel, a Mississippi August will be cool and pleasant, the Naval Reserve Center will re-open intact as . . a Naval Reserve Center, the grass will grow green and only so high, and they’ll make another Star Trek movie that allows Captain Kirk an appropriately heroic death.


  3. Your News Roundups are always more interesting than mine, W., and I say that only partially because I wish you would pick them back up for a while. :-)



  1. Rolling Fork’s Amazing Red Barn Collapses | Preservation in Mississippi
  2. Mini News Roundup 9-19-2011 « Preservation in Mississippi

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