MissPres News Roundup 10-3-2010

I think it’s evidence of a long hot summer when 62 degrees feels like winter, but that’s where I am right now.

On to the news . . .


It seems the on-going maintenance and renovation of the New Capitol in Jackson has some legislators expressing impatience. Imagine that!

According to the Clarion-Ledger’s story “Capitol survives upgrade, gripes“:

A $5.5 million renovation of the state Capitol that began four years ago is expected to be completed by 2013, but some lawmakers are concerned about how long the project is taking and the care going into the work.

The project involves all sorts of basic repairs but also major work on the roof and domes to address long-standing leaks that have damaged interior plasterwork. The article relates that not only is the length of time a concern, but also what some people see as inadequate protection of the building’s historic character. This, of course, is a concern that we would all share here on MissPres, but unfortunately the article only gives one anecdotal instance to demonstrate this allegation and then never follows up to tell us if it’s a fair accusation or not.

Original glass from the lower domes had been discarded on the Capitol grounds when it was being replaced. Several who work inside the Capitol said they were able to take pieces, and Hewes said he was concerned about the integrity of the building.

What exactly this glass was or why it was discarded is never explained. While the article does mention that the building is a Mississippi Landmark, it never quotes anyone from MDAH, which reviews all work on Landmark buildings, and the writer never apparently asked the architectural historian of the Capitol, whose desk is right inside the lobby. It’s a frustrating lack of information and not good reporting.

Lee Hall prepares for renovations,” according to MSU’s student newspaper The Reflector. Built in 1909, Lee Hall is an iconic landmark on the MSU campus, so much so that one donor funded a replica built at the other end of the drill field a few years back. Lee Hall was designed by Chattanooga architecture firm R.H. Hunt & Co. and built by Columbus, Mississippi construction firm Lindamood & Puckett. R.H. Hunt’s firm designed over a hundred major buildings in Mississippi–college buildings on most of the public and private campuses in the state, churches, commercial buildings, masonic temples, you name it–and many more across the Southeast from the 1890s through the 1920s.

The renovation project will not only ensure the building’s structural soundness for another generation of students, but will also replace the building’s large number of offices with classroom spaces again, to meet the campus master plan’s goal of having classes back surrounding the drill field again.

“It’s a multi-million dollar project and will encompass a total renovation of the tower portion of the building,” Muzzi [the university architect] said.

The project is benefiting the building and campus in many ways, and nearly every aspect of the building, excluding the auditorium, will be affected by the renovations, he said.

“The exterior of the building will be renovated and tuck-pointed (the removing of the mortar and the brick and then replacing the mortar part), water migration will be stopped, historical windows will be renovated and there will be a roof and new electrical system,”  Muzzi said.

This will be an exciting project to watch, and hopefully W. White will keep us updated.

The old First Christian Church of Amory, which I think was originally Christian Freewill Baptist Church, but is now called The Windows in honor of its stained-glass windows, will be purchased and saved by a group of interested citizens, according to the Monroe Journal:

The historic former First Christian Church on Third Street that has been dubbed The Windows will soon be off the market and on the way to becoming a civic center for creative and cultural events. The church was built in 1926 and is currently for sale.

This story “Officials optimistic about Sears building” in the Meridian Star caught my eye, because with an address on 22nd Avenue, I assumed the building must be located in the downtown historic district, so as I drove through Meridian last week, I decided to go find the building and take a picture for you, dear readers. As it turns out, the building sits between the downtown and the interstate, and so is not in the historic district. It’s still an interesting Modernist building though, and the sun was shining just right to get some pictures that show off its best qualities of light and shadow.

Anyway, the story in the Star has this to say about the possibilities for this building:

The city administration has plans to transform the 46 year-old building, which has been abandoned for decades, into a public safety facility that will house the Meridian Police Department, and at least part of the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department. There has also been talk of locating the Lauderdale County Youth Court and Drug Court and the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Facility in the building.

Barry plans to use police department seized funds to pay for the building, which is currently owned by Rush Health Systems. If the project is carried out, Barry said the city will purchase the property for $2 million. The property, which includes 7.5 acres of land, has been appraised by the Lauderdale County Tax Assessor’s office at  $675,830.

I’m really shocked to read that the building has been abandoned that long. It doesn’t look in half-bad shape.

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It occurs to me, looking at that interesting masonry screen/brise soleil along the front porch, that it is the same shape that we discussed in “Friday Just For Fun” a couple of weeks ago.

Tupelo’s Historic Preservation Commission faces another crisis because of a property owner in the Mill Village Historic District who decided to do a major renovation of his house with neither a building permit nor approval from the preservation commission. The Daily Journal reports:

A Tupelo man faces fines and license revocation after ripping out sections of a historic home without a city permit or permission from the Historic Preservation Commission.City inspectors stopped a crew pulling the facade off a house at 480 South Green St. after learning that the owner, Tim Hester, had begun major alterations there. An addition behind the house already had been entirely removed, as had the front porch.

“Pulling the facade off a house.” The phrase makes me wince.

Last but not least, this tiny little item in the Clarion-Ledger about the recently bestowed Mississippi Medal of Service to seven individuals around the state:

Elbert Hilliard: The fifth director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Hilliard joined the department July 1, 1965. He became director in July 1973 and retired on Dec. 31, 2004.

This is a well-deserved honor for a man who helped lead the preservation movement in Mississippi for decades and laid a solid foundation on which we need to be building. Congratulations to Mr. Hilliard!

Categories: Amory, Churches, Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Jackson, Meridian, Mississippi Landmarks, Modernism, MS Dept. of Archives and History, News Roundups, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Preservation People/Events, Recent Past, Renovation Projects, Starkville, Tupelo, Universities/Colleges

11 replies

  1. The old Sears building in Meridian looks like it could have any number of new uses. One hopes the distinctive brise soleil and other MiMo elements will be preserved!


  2. Hear, hear, Tom! Thanks for sharing, E.L.!


  3. The City of Meridian has been throwing around the idea of what to do with the Sears Building for at least a year. I believe (if I remember correctly) that according to another article in the Meridian Star from last March or April, the building has not been abandoned for “decades” or even one decade. I think it was vacated in 2001 or 02. I know my comments indicate a “slight” dislike for modern architecture but I like the screen on that building and hope it is not replaced by Dryvit. I won’t hold out much hope for that; the only way the City of Meridian will not mess with the screen is if it is too expensive to remove and replace.

    It’s good to see that at least one preservation matter I covered when I did the News Roundups has turned out for the better. I am glad that the Amoryites (or whatever someone from Amory is called) banded together to preserve that church. It’s just too bad I did not take any pictures of the church in Amory on my many trips through that town before my camera broke.

    I will have to ask the various professors I know whether they are pleased that they will be evicted from Lee Hall soon. Hopefully, MSU will not gut Lee Hall like they have done with some of their other recent renovations. Lee Hall actually has old woodwork and plaster-and-lathe walls and other historic interior features.

    In other news from MSU, the University is going to demolish all the graduate apartments on campus, both Aiken Village and Arbour Acres. MSU does not want to put sprinkler systems in the 1950s era Aiken Village, so they will demolish it and Arbour Acres and no longer offer family housing. According to vice president of student affairs, Bill Kibler, the steel, brick, and concrete buildings would not last another 20 years, so they have to be demolished. Unlike the decision to demolish Suttle Hall, I do not agree with this decision. These apartments can likely be retrofitted and renovated. Both complexes are ugly (like Suttle) but neither are seven-stories tall and dominate the skyline. Arbour Acres is surrounded by trees to hide the poor design. The decision to demolish Aiken Village and Arbour Acres makes no sense, except that MSU is on another money-grabbing scheme, eliminating family housing that does not make MSU as much money as single resident housing does. The demolition of these complexes is a permanent gift to Starkville developers. The university will not pay the estimated $50-100 million to build replacement apartments.


    • Decades, decade, eight or nine years, whatever–so ticky!

      I hate to hear that about MSU’s plans, but unfortunately I’m not surprised. My theory is that there’s too much money in the system in the wrong places. So we have perfectly sound and solid structures torn down for no apparent reason and meanwhile our streets are full of holes and patches, bridges collapse at random times, and water and sewer systems are falling to pieces.

      The older I get, the more I understand Theater of the Absurd.


    • I know for a fact that the old Sears building has not been abandonded for “decades.” I remember shopping there several times while I was in college, 96-99.


  4. At least the historical windows at Lee Hall are to be “renovated” instead of replaced as so many campuses are doing.

    Regarding the ongoing demo of housing at MSU: You gotta love the smell of fresh Dryvit! I’m sure that some new garden-style apartments will appear soon – with a life expectancy of at least 20 years – to take the place of the “ugly” buildings that have lasted over half a century, all likely under the banner of public-private partnership.

    If my memory is correct, the Sears building opened in 1968, and closed when the Bonita Lakes Mall opened in 1997, I believe, when Sears moved to a space in the new mall – and the prior Sears store was located at the corner of 22nd Ave and 5th St., now home to this bank building:



    • That bank building is very similar to the Regions in downtown Starkville.

      Good to know some actual history on the Sears Building, not the random, inaccurate years and facts thrown out by the Meridian Star.


    • Mmmm, fresh Dryvit–so fluffy and insubstantial, like cotton candy, except not as good.

      I have heard that the Bureau of Buildings, which oversees most state building projects, has decided that wood window repair is a better option financially than replacement. Not sure if that’s a staff decision or from the top, but let’s hope it sticks! I know they have recently repaired the wood windows in Central H.S. in Jackson.

      If only they would come to the same conclusions about the financial cost of demolishing concrete and steel buildings in favor of wood frame Dryvit pieces of junk.


  5. And a bit of googling finds this picture of the now demolished Sears store:




  1. MissPres News Roundup 10-18-2010 | Preservation in Mississippi

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