MissPres News Roundup 9-13-2010

Let me start out with the most important news of the last week: I am the new Mississippi Preservationist Extraordinaire. The third try was the charm for me. I led from the first day (which I had done before) but this time did not relinquish the lead. Let me repeat that news: I am the new Mississippi Preservationist Extraordinaire. I think I should go and have a trophy made; if anyone wants to make a donation to make that trophy a reality, you are welcome to do so.

And now for the actual news.

The actual most important news of the last week was a comment by Danny Prater stating that demolition has begun on the important Inverness High School/Central Delta Academy building in Inverness. Since I have always maintained a detached professionalism in my News Roundups (tongue firmly in cheek) I will refrain from commenting on the matter other than to say that this is probably the most devastating demolition of a Mississippi building since Preservation in Mississippi was created in February 2009. Let this be a call-to-arms for the entire Mississippi preservation community; things like this cannot be allowed to happen and everyone who interacts with this blog should remember that fact. There are numerous structures in Mississippi on the precipice of demolition that are integral to the Mississippi historical landscape which should not be allowed to disappear: Arlington in Natchez, Church Street in Port Gibson, Hinds County Armory in Jackson, Threefoot Building in Meridian, Mississippi Industrial College in Holly Springs, and so many more. Read about Central Delta Academy in Malvaney’s post from July, with attention to the many comment about the current demolition.

If you are a fan of historic Mississippi school buildings, perhaps skip reading the next two news items. The first comes from The Itawamba County Times and the September 8 article “Mantachie Fest 2010: The last days of Houston school.” The article discusses the upcoming Mantachie Fest, which will raise funds to demolish the old Houston School building and replace it with a new fire station/community center. Houston School was constructed in 1940 and has been used as a community center since 1977. The school, though still being used as a community center, is in poor condition. I will not mince words with this structure either and its owners; they allowed this building to deteriorate into the condition it is today. The article lists things such as broken windows, destroyed plumbing, and roof damage that could have all been repaired or prevented with regular maintenance. The article does not state the owner of the building but I believe that it is either the Houston Rural Community Development Council or Itawamba County but no matter the owner, the message is the same: shame on you for destroying this building through your neglect and (if it is a government entity that owns it) lets hope you can run Itawamba County better than your actions in this regard show. Or, perhaps running things into the ground is your style.

The second piece of historic school news comes from the Saturday, September 11 edition of The Clarion-Ledger (originally in Wesson’s The Daily Leader) and the article “Co-Lin’s Ellzey Hall to be retired.” Ellzey Hall on the Copiah-Lincoln Community College campus is in its last year as a dorm; it will be closed before the 2011-12 school year. The 1928 structure, one of the original structures constructed for the Copiah-Lincoln Community College when it was transformed from the Wesson Agricultural High School to its current state, has suffered from decades of deferred maintenance. Ellzey Hall was gutted in 1969, its pitched roof replaced by a flat one, then left for nearly 40 years without any work performed on it until a new roof was placed on it two years ago. The last sentence should not fill preservationists with hope.

Ellzey Hall’s future is unclear – it may even stand empty a few years and deteriorate further before the funding to fix it is available.

The third piece of school news comes from Gulfport. The SunHerald published the article “St. John High to be demolished” on August 14. While St. John the Evangelist Catholic High School survived Katrina, it could not survive consolidation and the changing plans of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi. St. John is not as old as the other three schools mentioned in this post, fans of Mid-Century Modern architecture will probably rue its demolition.

More bad news comes out of Vicksburg. The Vicksburg Post reported on August 27 (the article “Rep. Flaggs against preserving Ceres house”) that State Representative George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg has publicly stated that Ceres Plantation should not be designated a Mississippi Landmark. From The Vicksburg Post:

Flaggs said he wrote a letter to the panel [MDAH Board of Trustees] stressing the 41 acres of property around the crumbling antebellum house was “prime industrial property” and shouldn’t be protected by designation.

Flaggs and the MDAH Board of Trustees should look at the public opinion to help gauge their decision: 82 out of 83 letters during the spring public comment period supported preserving Ceres Plantation.

It is sunny outside but when it rains, it pours and the bad news keeps pouring. Landscape architect and first director of the Crosby Arboretum, Ed Blake, passed away on August 29 at the age of 63. The highlights of Blake’s career include designing the Crosby Arboretum in Picayune and the 9/11 Memorial in Hattiesburg. The Hattiesburg American articles “Landscape architect Ed Blake dies at 63” and “Homage to Edward L. Blake: A giant in his field” detail more about Blake’s life and career. It truly was remarkable, with periods at Mississippi State University, Harvard Graduate School of Design, and the European Landscape Education Exchange at Pontlevoy, France; yet, always based in Hattiesburg.

Out of Meridian is news about the Threefoot Building, also from a Clarion-Ledger article “Economy delays restoration of icon in Meridian.” I will let you read the details but they are not promising, basically stating that there is no money in this economy to restore the Threefoot Building. It also states that Hank Holmes, MDAH director, will examine the building later in September “to gauge its condition after years of decline.”

Malvaney wrote in July about the Laurel Masonite Plant (the post Laurel’s Contribution to Architectural History). The Laurel Leader-Call reported some bad news back on August 20. 83 employees at the still-operational mill have been laid off, putting the workforce at 458 full-time employees.

 

Not everything has been bad news the past few weeks. Here are a few items of good news.

Good news out of Holly Springs. I do not know whether anybody noticed but Ray Autry (Public Relations Director at Rust College) posted a comment on my MissPres News Roundup 9-4-2010 post about the Mississippi Industrial College. I later found the September 2 article “Rust seeks partners in restoration” in The South Reporter, the Holly Springs paper.

Rust College has asked the Marshall County Board of Supervisors for help in seeking a grant of $800,000 to begin assessment and work on the restoration of its five historic buildings located on the former Mississippi Industrial College campus.

Perhaps some work on Preservation in Mississippi is beginning to pay off. If it is, let’s keep up the good work.

During a News Roundup a few weeks ago, I spotlighted local history/architecture columns in Mississippi newspapers. This week I will spotlight Ruth Morgan’s “From Days Past…” column, which runs in the Starkville Daily News Sunday Lifestyles section. This week the column focuses on the Walker Building in downtown Starkville, most commonly known today as the home of Mugshots. The article “The History of the Walker Building” contains information about the early development of Starkville and about mathematical hijinks at Mississippi State University.

According to The Enterprise-Tocsin (Indianola) from September 2. The Indian Bayou house of Judge Arthur B. Clark is being renovated by Alonza Fleming for the structure’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, Indianola’s paper has not gone into the Internet age, so I cannot show you a picture of the house, though perhaps Malvaney ran across the house during the last trip to that region.

I will finish up this roundup with the last item from Malvaney’s roundup on September 3, just to remind everyone of this.

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!

And that was the news.



Categories: Demolition/Abandonment, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Historic Preservation, Holly Springs, Indianola, Industrial, Laurel, Meridian, Mississippi Landmarks, News Roundups, Schools, Starkville, Tupelo, Universities/Colleges, Vicksburg, Wesson

5 replies

  1. I’m so depressed about the Central Delta Academy in Inverness that I went out Friday and bought the Star Trek: Alternate Universes DVD set and spent the whole weekend watching it. In my alternate universe, only stupid ugly buildings with no historic value are allowed to be demolished, and while good historic buildings might be allowed to be abandoned for a period of time, it’s only long enough for those of us who enjoy abandoned buildings to wander about a bit before they’re fixed up and put back into use. Certainly, great landmarks almost a hundred years old but still in move-in condition would not be allowed to fall victim to hasty actions based on inaccurate or incomplete information.

    I do think Threefoot will survive, although it may continue to sit for a while. There at least seems to be a will on MDAH and MHT’s part to fight for the building and it’s already a designated Mississippi Landmark. As for Ceres, I think the political pressure of one legislator will be enough to ensure its demise, regardless of how many letters from “the little people” were sent in. Just my opinion–I hope I’m wrong–that seems to be the world we’re living in.

    P.S. Here’s fifty cents toward your trophy. Don’t forget to report this on your taxes, because I know I will.

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  2. The Cultural Landscape Foundation has posted a short tribute to Ed Blake that links to their biography of Blake as well:

    http://tclf.org/pioneer/edward-blake-jr

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  3. There seems to be movement on more than front about Miss. Indust. in Holly Springs, although I really seriously wonder if folks up there have waited too long. There’s a point where there needs to be a lot of encouraging and the like.

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    • I worry about that too. I’m hoping Ben Ledbetter will do a post sharing his thoughts as an architect on his recent trip to see the buildings. They should have been shored or otherwise temporarily stabilized as soon as Rust acquired them, and Catherine Hall’s problems could have been at least confined to that one section if someone had cared enough to shore up the roof where the wall had collapsed. Now, the domino effect of over a year’s worth of collapse has made me think that building may be beyond salvation.

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    • As momma used to say, “A stitch in time saves nine.”

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