Two Fire Updates

As you may recall from a News Roundup in June, the Gothic Revival-style Capitol Street Church of Christ suffered a fire that apparently started from a lightning strike. At the time, the Clarion-Ledger article mentioned that the primary damage was in the fellowship hall, which I took as a good sign. But unfortunately, as I found on a recent trip down West Capitol Street, the fellowship hall apparently was located in the old sanctuary, which is heavily damaged and still remains open to the elements.

I haven’t seen any follow-up to the initial article, so I’m not sure what the plan is for this building, but given that the roof hasn’t even been tarped, it doesn’t look promising. The old sanctuary was built in 1947, although stylistically it could have been built in the 1920s. West Capitol Street, the suburban home of Jackson’s wealthy and powerful elite from the 1910s through the early 1950s, has declined dramatically since the 1960s. Today, once grand structures such as the Masonic Temple are either vacant, burned out, or barely used. Many of the stylish homes are gone, victims of demolition or fire. Here and there are glimmers of hope in the midst of an otherwise dispiriting scene–let’s hope the Church of Christ is one of those.

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Even farther back than this summer was the fire at Laurel’s Georgian Revival style masterpiece, the Stewart M. Jones Middle School, which occurred in May 2009. I was down in Laurel recently and thought I’d check on the progress of the renovation, expecting that it would either be complete or close to it. Imagine my surprise when I found that in fact, the only thing that’s complete is the demolition of the fire-damaged wing. No evidence of re-building or even plans for re-building were evident almost 18 months since the fire.

The school, built in 1926 and designed by Meridian architect P.J. Krouse–how I’d love to find a picture of him!–is a designated Mississippi Landmark and has received two grants from MDAH for rehabilitation (2003 and 2006). Presumably, the school district held insurance on this building, so why is it still sitting there? And is it possible that the school district has no intention of re-building the wing?

rear elevation of Stewart M. Jones School, showing missing wing to left and auditorium wing to right

Not to be nit-picky but it looks like this building has already been the victim of a bad re-pointing job, with the huge mortar joints below contrasting sharply with the neat and thin original joints above.

Categories: Churches, Demolition/Abandonment, Jackson, Laurel, Schools, Urban/Rural Issues

5 replies

  1. Sad to see these fine buildings sitting in ruins. From personal experience, I do know that insurance often plays a deleterious role in the reconstruction of fire damaged buildings, but as you say, it’s been long enough for something to happen here. Curious indeed.


  2. It is interesting to note that in a statement made by the new superintendent of the Laurel Schools on the school’s website and dated 10-6-10, he refers to the renovations to the Jones school in a list of projects that he is excited about beginning. What kind of timeline planned for the renovation is not included.


  3. Well, that’s good news and maybe the fact that this is a new superintendent indicates that this project has simply gotten mired down in the transition of leadership. Hopefully things will start moving along now. Thanks for that link, Bluerim!


  4. Where can I find more history on West Capitol Street? Driving through the old neighborhoods between W. Capitol and Robinson Street, I see many great old homes, including a few that are still in excellent condition (albeit high-fenced). Several streets are also boulevarded with a median and oaks.


  5. Unfortunately, Jackson doesn’t have a good published history, but I have seen an unpublished study done by the City of Jackson, available in the state archives, called “From frontier capital to modern city : a history of Jackson, Mississippi’s built environment, 1865-1950.” Otherwise, the history of West Capitol (and of most of the rest of the city) still has yet to be written.


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