MissPres News Roundup 9-3-2010

I think we’ve set a record for most News Roundups in two weeks (four total). This puts us in fine shape to take next week off for a little contest. Yes, MissPresers, you heard right! It’s been almost four months since our last Name This Place contest, and I think  Labor Day is a great place to take a break and have some fun.

Stay tuned later in the weekend for The Rules, or if you want to research previous contests to plan your strategy, you can check out the Name This Place series page.

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Lots going on down on the Coast, as you might expect over this last week of Katrina memorials (on that note, I’ve been glad for Hurricane Earl’s appearance if only to make weather.com switch its home page picture from that horrible Katrina satellite picture that still makes me wince).

First, a post on the Louis Sullivan and Charnley Houses in Ocean Springs on the Frank Lloyd Wright News Blog, which will give some national attention to these little gems. To their 2009 photo of the Charnley House, I would add a link to the most recent update here on MissPres: “Checking in on Ocean Springs.”

Here’s a video of USM archaeologist Edward Jackson that a non-historian-type at church actually mentioned to me, “Archeologist Rescues Gulf Coast Artifacts from Oil Spill.” So what’s up with the word “archaeology”? Is it spelled with an “a” or without? I’ve always spelled it with, but maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

The Sun-Herald ran a sweet remembrance of pre-Katrina Pascagoula and its historic stretch of homes on Beach Blvd. by native Robert P. Krebs, “Three centuries of family history, changed forever“:

The Longfellow House, an antebellum structure on the beach, still stands along with a few homes but the feel, the ambience, the sense of peace of that place is gone forever. Faulkner walked our beach and wrote here. Madame Pontalba escaped the yellow fever in New Orleans in 1874 by boating here and staying in a house on the water. Their ghosts are long gone. So is a vital part of our small town.

And, according to yesterday’s update on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s Facebook page (which now has 444 fans, doggonit!), “MHT hosted a wonderful event on the Coast this week that recognized 48 deserving property owners with Outstanding Historic Rehabilitation Awards after using funds provided by the MDAH Hurricane Grant Relief Program.”

Along with that post is a link to a WLOX story (“$26 million in grants save 300 historic properties“) about the Hurricane Relief Grant Program for Historic Preservation, a federal grant administered by MDAH, showing its success stories and with before and after pics:

The program is the largest historic preservation grant program in the country. In all, some 300 historic Katrina damaged properties have been rehabbed. They include the old Carnegie Library, just off the beach in Gulfport.

For some other success stories, go back to our Katrina Survivors series.

In “Sound solutions needed for Hancock court,” the Sun-Herald revisits the bad acoustical treatment of the newly renovated/restored courtroom in Hancock County Courthouse. As you might recall, this issue arose last summer almost right after the building re-opened, and apparently no steps have been taken to correct it since then, even though it might be something as simple as adding curtains or rugs around the room. Now, though, things have gotten so bad that one judge declared a mistrial because the jurors complained they couldn’t hear. As I said last year (and as was vigorously discussed after Wednesday’s post about bad acoustics in the 1960s), an acoustical consultant would be a good investment at this point, but would have been an even better investment while the project was in the design or construction phase. Now, I’m afraid the “historic renovation” gets the blame in the media and public imagination, rather than the lack of planning on the part of the project professionals.

Whooeee, I guess I’ve not been paying attention to a summertime controversy up in Como, where a restaurant owner in the tiny little downtown historic district has decided that he doesn’t need to follow the city’s laws and can defy the historic preservation commission. According to The Panolian in the imaginatively titled “Aldermen hear crowing about proposed Roosters Blues Club:

Martha Garrison said through contact with Michaels’ contractor, Bart Scruggs, CHPC members thought on July 14 that they had reached an acceptable compromise on the facade’s appearance and issued the “certificate of appropriateness” required for modification of a building in the historic district. However, on July 20, “I happened to see that drastic changes were being made to the front of that building, so I went up, introduced myself to Mr. Michaels, told him this was not what we agreed to and that it must stop,” Garrison said, “and he pretty much replied that it was his building and he’d do what he wanted to with it.”

As it turns out, he proceeded with his work, which apparently involved ripping out the historic storefront with recessed entry and show windows and putting in a flat storefront with no recessing. The Como Commission put a stop-work on him, but Michaels appealed it to the Board of Aldermen. On a vote of three to one, the aldermen decided to lift the stop-work:

One hour and forty-five minutes into the meeting, Alderman-at-Large Forster Ruhl made a motion to lift the stop-work order and grant a variance to Michaels on the condition that he pay the town an amount to be placed in escrow equal to a sum deemed sufficient to restore the building facade to its original construction if Michaels vacates the building.

A few notes to Como aldermen:

  • One characteristic of a Banana Republic is the ability of people with money to play by their own rules rather than have to follow the same rules as everyone else.
  • The historic preservation commission is an arm of the City of Como. You may disagree with decisions of the HPC, but surely you must see that disregard for their authority is disregard for the authority of the City government as a whole?
  • There is a time for negotiation, and then there is a time to tell a citizen that he must follow the law whether he likes it or not. This time was the latter, not the former.

One of the favorite sayings of the pastor’s wife in my church growing up was, “Don’t grow a wishbone where your backbone ought to be.” I think there are an awful lot of spineless “leaders” in Mississippi right now.

A nice story to finish our Roundup, this one from Tupelo where a group of dedicated people are working from the inside to revitalize the Mill Village neighborhood, which is listed on the National Register. According to the WTVA story:

Walking down the sidewalk of Mill Village isn’t somewhere you wanted to be a few years ago, but now homeowners are thinking it’s a place where people can sit on their front porch and just enjoy the area.

And to move them forward in their efforts, the Mill Village neighborhood group has joined the National Trust’s “This Place Matters Community Challenge” for a chance to win a $25,000 revitalization grant. According to the National Trust’s map, Mill Village is the only group in Mississippi to be in the contest, so everyone in the state can vote without feeling like there are competing causes. You only have to vote once. Currently, Mill Village is #25 out of 86, which ain’t half bad, but I think we can do better by all gathering with them and pushing them past the finish line. Now GO VOTE!



Categories: Bay St. Louis, Como, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi Heritage Trust, National Trust, News Roundups, Pascagoula, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Renovation Projects, Tupelo

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