Well, it’s been a while since I actually had to compose a news roundup. I hope I can still remember how.
A sad event in the life of Crystal Springs happened this week, when a fire destroyed four buildings in the downtown historic district, including the 1920s Masonic Temple. According to the Clarion-Ledger‘s “Loss to the whole city” the fire was reported around 1 AM last Monday morning and quickly spread through the adjacent buildings before being brought under control in the early morning hours. Among the grim townspeople the next morning was Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens,
master of the Masonic lodge that had met in the upper level for the past 83 years. Much of that history was consumed in the early-morning blaze, he said.”We had a picture of about every mason who had been master of that lodge since 1927,” he said.
Along with the lodge, the fire destroyed a restaurant, apartments, an alteration shop, a framing shop, a small storefront church and a closed-down cafe.
Meanwhile in downtown Jackson, the Standard Life building re-opened as loft apartments last week, after a multi-year renovation project that started with the adjacent King Edward Hotel rehab. According to the Clarion-Ledger:
Standard Life’s restoration took about a decade and involved $33 million for modernizing and upgrading many parts of the 81-year-old building while preserving its historic features. The apartments are 50 percent leased, and 25 people already are living there, said Pres Kabacoff, CEO of HRI Properties, which partnered with [David] Watkins to renovate both historic buildings.
I haven’t seen inside other than peaking through the front door–maybe someone out there who has seen the apartments can let us know what they think about them. The entrance vestibule and hallway look great–really gorgeously colorful and vibrant as they would have been originally.
I recall when the King Edward re-opened, the apartments were said to be completely rented, so perhaps the recession (oh, wait, aren’t we out the recession now?) has dampened demand.
Speaking of the King Edward Hotel, the National Trust announced that the project will receive a Preservation Honor Award this week at the national conference in Austin, TX. Read about it on the Downtown Jackson Partners blog. This project has transformed not only that landmark building, but also its whole western area of Capitol Street in downtown Jackson, showing what a stimulus a good preservation project can be. Congratulations to all involved for an honor that is well deserved!
On the other hand (I really hate that these two stories came out at almost the same time because this one is a real downer), the Jackson Free Press informed us recently that the Fondren neighborhood project in Jackson proposed by the very same David Watkins who helped transform the King Edward and the Standard Life buildings is still in the works, at least on paper. I had posted about this (“On Developers, Modernism, and Fondren“) way back almost when I first started this blog, and in the interim, I hadn’t heard a peep about it, giving me some hope that it had died along with the credit markets. But, it’s still at least an idea, and I dislike it even more now that I’ve seen the massive scope of the project, which would eliminate the strip of 1930s commercial buildings that form the heart of Fondren and that made Fondren so desirable in the recent filming of The Help.
In the original article “Whitney Place in the Works” and then the follow-up “Whitney Place to Rebuild Fondren” (I didn’t know Fondren needed “rebuilding”), we are shown a rendering of the proposed project, which would demolish all the buildings on the west side of N. State Street between Mitchell Ave. and Hartfield Street, except the Pix/Capri Theater. We are also told that MDAH said the buildings weren’t significant (a “fact” that never quite got verified in the follow-up, in my opinion) and that the buildings are in horrible condition, both assertions questioned in the comments to the articles.
I’ve already said what I need to say about this project. While I appreciate Watkins’ work on the King Edward, Standard Life Building, and Farish Street, I’m horrified by this monstrosity that looks suspiciously like Urban Renewal, but 40 years later. I’ve talked before about how preservation is as much about “place” as it is about “buildings.” In this project, the neighborhood that is Fondren, complete with useful routine businesses, will be turned into a shopping mecca of all the sorts of stores you would see in such a manufactured private “urban” space. I’m still hoping it never gets off the ground, but in the meantime, the businesses of that strip are in limbo, and that’s a bad place for a small business to be.
On a brighter note, I hope, the Natchez Democrat reported that various interested parties, including MDAH, Co-Lin Community College, the National Park Service, and the Mississippi Heritage Trust, met last week to discuss the idea of establishing a preservation trade school. According to “Preservation school could foster economic growth,” Robert Ogle, dean of career and technical education at Lamar Community College in Lamar, Colorado, met with the group to relate his experience in setting up two such schools in Colorado.
“We’ve done a good job of teaching people to talk about preservation, but we have very few who can execute preservation,” Ogle said. “If (students) learn the craft, the sky is the limit on their earnings potential.”
Nationally, the market for historic rehabilitation and maintenance is enormous — approximately $5.5 trillion — annually, he said.
The school would teach real world, hands-on skills that were formerly taught by craftsmen who handed down their skills to apprentices.
“We can’t go back to that old-fashioned model,” Ogle said. “It just won’t work. The demand is too high and the supply is too small.”
Sign me up if this program gets started–I’ll bet preservation carpentry pays more than being a part-time blogger!
Litigation is pending in Gulfport over a dispute involving the reconstruction of Grasslawn, Gulfport’s late antebellum beach-front house, which was destroyed in Katrina. The new Grasslawn was completed earlier this year, but the city is withholding full payment to the contractor over poor workmanship and apparently buckled porch flooring. According to the Sun-Herald:
C. Perry Builders Inc. in Sumrall sued the city in September for breach of contract, saying construction was finished in September 2009, but the city has failed to pay more than $77,000 of a total contract price of almost $1.4 million.
The city countersued this week, alleging C. Perry Builders refused to perform all work called for in the contract, or to correct “numerous deficiencies.”
Suits and countersuits. Yikes!
A follow-up on the Tupelo story from the last couple of roundups. As you may recall, this house on South Green Street, located within the Mill Village Historic District, had been partially deconstructed, including the removal of the front porch, all without either a building permit or a permit from the preservation commission. This week’s article “Hester vows full cooperation over Mill Village house” confused me a bit, in that it stated that the owner (Hester) has now filed for a demolition permit, but has also said that he wants to “rebuild” the house if it is not rotted underneath.
Work is about to begin on two historic landmarks on W. Capitol Street in Jackson. According to the Clarion-Ledger, Stewpot Community Services, which occupies the former campus of Central Presbyterian Church, will begin renovation of the earlier 1920s sanctuary. This building at 1100 W. Capitol was designed by Jackson architect N.W. Overstreet and is very similar to the Methodist church in Bolton, also by Overstreet. I’ve never been inside either building to be able to tell what has already changed or what the new changes will entail.
Finally, just in case you missed that sneaky Saturday post, check out the new poll added to the sidebar. Vote on your favorite architectural style(s)–up to three–and hopefully in a couple of weeks we’ll see whether the Modernists or the Traditionalists win. If the Modernists win, W. White, our arch-Classicist, will paint his torso with the words “I ♥ MIES VAN DER ROHE” and wear a crazy wig at the next MSU football game. If the Traditionalists win, Carunzel–our defender of Modernism–will wear a sandwich board on the corner of Capitol and State Street in downtown Jackson emblazoned with the words “CLASSICISTS RULE!”
I would love to see either or both of these displays, but in order to see at least one, you have to get your vote counted!
PS–I’ve added Tudor Revival as a choice after someone wrote it in the Other field.
Categories: Crystal Springs, Demolition/Abandonment, Gulfport, Jackson, Mississippi Heritage Trust, National Trust, News Roundups, Preservation Education, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Preservation People/Events, Tupelo