MissPres News Roundup 9-20-2010

Could the horrible summer weather we’ve been having be a punishment of some kind, maybe for the demolition of the Central Delta Academy, or since it started before that, the project at the Naval Reserve Center? Or am I reading too much into it?

At any rate, W. White has convinced me that Monday works just as well for news roundups, at least as long as there’s a chance that he’ll pick up the writing every few weeks. What do y’all think? Monday (progressive, new, Gen-Y) or Friday (old-school, traditional, Gen-X)?

So, what’s been going on round these parts lately?


St. Paul's Catholic Church (1970), Blitch Associates, archts. (Photo Sept 2005, courtesy MDAH)

Down in Pass Christian, which I tend to think of as “columns and live oaks on the beach” there’s a battle brewing over a building that’s about as far as you can get from columns. As we mentioned in the August 20 roundup, the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi had announced plans to demolish what remains of their once-large campus on Scenic Drive, in favor of church sites more inland. Strangely, they decided the best way to get a demolition permit was to assert that the steel frame and metal-sided building is structurally unsound–a very dubious proposition regardless of their own engineering reports. According to a recent article in the Sun-Herald, a group of church members and other local citizens including the mayor has been fighting the decision, and since the building is located within the Scenic Drive Historic District, took their case to the city’s historic preservation commission.

St. Paul's Catholic Church, interior (photo Sept 2005, courtesy MDAH)

The building, constructed in 1970 after Hurricane Camille destroyed the earlier St. Paul’s, was designed by New Orleans firm Blitch Associates. With its all-steel structure and big sloping roof, it was clearly designed to take the brunt of what the Gulf could dish out, and in fact did a pretty good job of that during Katrina. A quote by one of the building’s architects in the Sun-Herald story says it well: ”

“St. Paul’s is like a tent, a strong tent, a sail, an arc on the hill, overlooking the sound,” [Bill] Argus said in the letter. “Because of its design, it withstood the wind and water of Katrina. That is what it was designed to do.”

Good luck to the Pass Christian preservationists, and congratulations on seeing the beauty in St. Paul’s, a hard-edged Modernism but well-designed for its Gulf-front site and able to function into the future, if allowed to. The preservation commission decision can be appealed to the Board of Alderman within 30 days.

Spain House, Main Street, Tupelo

We’ve been watching the controversy surrounding the Spain House up in Tupelo for a while now, and it appears that after the denial of the demolition permit by the preservation commission and the upholding of that denial during the appeals process, a compromise has been worked out that will transfer ownership of the house to the City while the City works to find someone to move the house off Calvary Baptist church’s property on Main Street. According to the Daily-Journal article “Tupelo could own Spain House soon“:

The city would have until April 1, 2012, to move the house at the corner of West Main and Madison streets to a new location. Calvary, which now owns it, then could develop the site for its own needs.

If the city doesn’t move it, the church could proceed with plans to demolish the house at its own expense. The church doesn’t need the house and it would cost at least $600,000 to renovate.

Note to the Daily Journal, it seems like journalistic procedures would indicate the use of the phrase “the church asserts that” in front of “it would cost at least $600,000 to renovate.”

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History announces the impending restoration of the French Merci train that currently sits under an oak tree behind the Old Capitol building in Jackson. According to the MDAH website:

A historic wooden train car given in gratitude to Mississippi by France following World War II will be restored and relocated with a $230,000 grant from the Department of Archives and History. The Merci car, which sits uncovered on a platform behind the War Memorial Building and Old Capitol Museum, has suffered from decades of exposure to the elements.
. . . .
In 1947, Washington Post columnist Drew Pearson launched a grassroots effort to help war recovery in France and Italy. Over $40 million worth of supplies was collected from across the United States, eventually filling more than 700 railroad cars. The train became known as the American Friendship Train, and the boxcars arrived in Europe in December 1947.

In response to America’s generosity, the French reciprocated with their own train of gifts. Known as the French Merci Train, the cars were decorated with placards of the coats of arms of all of the provinces of France and loaded with personal donations from across the country. Each of the forty-eight states would receive a car, plus one to be shared between Washington, D.C., and Hawaii.

. . . .

Most of the original materials will be saved, with only the siding and missing placards to be replaced. Once the restoration is complete the boxcar will be moved to the former GM&O depot, where a canopy will be constructed to protect the car. A second rail will also be installed since the gauge of the Merci car is too narrow for the existing track.

Speaking of the 1940s, the Ocean Springs Community Center, built in 1949, is entering the final phase of a 3-phase renovation project as noted in the Mississippi Press. As you can see in the photo in the article, the building itself is a pretty unassuming cinder-block structure, but the mural on the inside of the walls is worth millions of dollars, because it’s one of the most famous works of acclaimed Ocean Springs artist Walter Anderson.

All three renovation phases were funded by grants from the National Park Service Save America’s Treasures grant, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Heritage Preservation grant as well as its Hurricane Katrina grant.

Price tag for the renovations was about $500,000.

. . . .

The two previous phases included exterior painting and sealant, drainage, and installation of storm windows, Bernhard said. The pending renovations will include repair and conservation of the murals, air conditioning system upgrades, sprinklers, security, glass railing, and new lighting.

Still on the Coast, a new house in Biloxi is this month’s Architectural Record “House of the Month.” Called “Porchdog,” the house was designed by Marlon Blackwell of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and is one of the Biloxi Model Homes program. Architects and non-architects alike have been struggling to deal with the new requirements for elevating buildings above the flood zone, which in especially low-lying places like the Point in Biloxi, Henderson Point in Pass Christian, and Waveland, pretty much mean putting your house 15-20 feet up in the air. This creates all sorts of problems, from how to get from the ground to your house, especially if you have difficulty getting up steps, how to create neighborhoods and living communities and not just a group of buildings on stilts, etc. “Porchdog” attempts to address these issues, as well as create a new house that respects the old Coast architectural vernacular. We’ve seen similar efforts in New Orleans, and it’s interesting from a distance. Check out the article and pictures, and see what you think. As for myself, I’ll withhold judgment until the next Camille or Katrina.

Good news from Byram–yes, Byram–where the swinging bridge, listed on the National Register since 1979, is about to undergo a much-needed renovation, according to the Clarion-Ledger‘s “105-year-old Byram icon to be restored.”

And on another happy note–where is all this good news coming from? How can I be grumpy Malvaney without something to be grumpy about?–the Clarion-Ledger ran a nice article about the historic restaurants in downtown Jackson, including my own Mayflower in “Dig in to downtown: Landmark restaurants serve history on the side.” In addition to the Mayflower, with its distinctive neon sign and best-in-town redfish, the Elite, known for its addictive rolls and plate lunches, and George Street Grocery (which has had a bit bumpier history) get noticed.


And that’s all I’ve got, folks! Special thanks to Levi Weeks for sending along helpful links to important stories, and as always, if I’ve missed something in your neck of the woods, send me a link to the story, or a brief description of the story and we’ll get it into the next roundup.

Categories: Biloxi, Churches, Demolition/Abandonment, Gulf Coast, Hurricane Katrina, Jackson, Modernism, Ocean Springs, Pass Christian, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Recent Past, Tupelo

5 replies

  1. May I add an article? In the September 2010 edition of The Northside Sun Magazine, Jenny Woodruff has a well-illustrated article about the Wiener House, a mid-century modern gem in the Woodland Hills neighborhood. Stephanie and Craig Busbea have completed a sensitive renovation of the house, which may open a few eyes to the positive elements of modern design.


  2. That was a great article and with lots of wonderful photographs! I can’t figure out why the Northside Sun magazine stopped updating its website in March 2010. Since it’s a free publication, you’d think they would put it online too. At any rate, if anyone wants to see a few pictures (not interior, unfortunately), I posted about the house last fall: https://misspreservation.com/2009/11/04/sesahs-bus-tour-beyond-greek-revival/


  3. Gen Y? Gen X? Alas for us poor boomers!



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

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