MissPres News Roundup 10-25-2010

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.

Seems like a trip under the house would establish whether it’s rotted underneath. Just a thought.

old Central Presbyterian Church sanctuary, now Stewpot Community Services

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

26 replies

  1. About Whitney Place and the possible demo of Fondren buildings: What??? If MDAH’s HP division didn’t say the buildings are insignificant then who the heck did and who the h-e-double-hockey-sticks do they think they are? Unbelievable, unbelievable!!!… Contact Lacey McLaughlin, writer of the article. Request a correction. The writer is obliged to at least tell the source of the info. Here’s her info copied from the site:

    News Editor Lacey McLaughlin is a Florida native who enjoys riding her bike around Jackson. She is always on the hunt for news tips—send e-mail to lacey @ jacksonfreepress dot com, or call 601-362-6121 ext 22.


  2. My read of it is that after Watkins’ quote was then questioned in the comments of the original article, McLaughlin did try to run it down at MDAH, but since the person at MDAH has changed since Watkins originally started saying this (2008), they weren’t able to verify one way or the other that anyone had said it. But to my knowledge, previously when the quote could have been questioned and verified, it never was, which is unfortunate since it’s allowed it to float around out there as “The Truth” when in fact, I suspect it is not.

    At any rate, Watkins practically acknowledges in the second article that he isn’t interested in pursuing the historic tax credits because they would get in the way of his plan, which tells me that that quote in the first article was just a red-herring to deflect possible criticism and kind of put the blame on MDAH.


  3. WHOA!!! Um, shouldn’t I have been consulted about this? Ok, I’m going to the library now to log into every computer and vote … maybe I shouldn’t give away my plan?


    • If you want to play dirty Carunzel remember the library I have access to. All those computers at Mitchell Memorial Library, all those votes for Greek Revival, Victorian, Italianate…

      Besides, I’m winning without having to resort to cheating. Only 7 votes for modern architectural styles…

      Shall I go ahead and prepare the sandwich board and bring it to Jackson. I want to make sure I have time to find a suitably classical font.


    • Loose lips sink ships, Carunzel :-)


  4. I can’t decide whether Art Deco/Moderne counts toward the Classicists or the Modernists. Maybe it’s a grand compromise–if it wins can we all hold hands and sing Kumbaya?


  5. I’d like to take this time to point out that, while I am a champion of the International Style, etc., I have no beef with anything that came before. My favorite era for anything, art, architecture, literature, whatever, is early to mid-twentieth century and I have voted in this poll for Craftsman/Bungalow and Art Deco/Moderne/Stripped Classic as well as International/Modern.

    I’m not quite so narrow-minded as some people, including some Modernist architects, in thinking that everything older needs to be thrown out, though I can’t necessarily say the same for some newer styles. I firmly believe that all styles have some redeeming qualities, just that we have yet to identify what they are in some of the newer styles.

    Anyway, from the beginning of this issue on this blog, my problem has been the rudeness, pomposity and leaps of logic of certain of the younger contributors, not a disagreement over whether classical or modern styles of architecture are “better.”


  6. Well, I think you and I are on the same page in loving pretty much all styles (I even like the post-Modern center court at Northpark Mall), and I voted for the Craftsman and Art Deco (although I surprised myself by clicking Federal/Greek Revival instead of International, and I admit I voted again for Minimal Traditional on another computer as an homage to my little plain vanilla post-WWII house–yes, I’m that one vote:-).

    I’m sorry you have found some of the comments rude. I have tried to create an open environment on MissPres where vigorous debate is allowed, but without rudeness. I honestly haven’t interpreted any of the remarks I’ve seen as rude in a personal way–if I had, I would have stepped in. But even so, I know that different people interpret comments differently, especially in a written forum where you can’t get a sense of body language or other markers that might otherwise ameliorate the situation.

    Obviously, the debate between Modernists and Classicists has been going on a long time, and preservationists have especially had difficulty coming to terms with Modernist buildings that replaced earlier landmarks. Personally, I’m ready to move beyond that debate because I love both in their own ways, but I do think the debate needs to continue and in a public way as long as there are so many people out there who think that anything built after 1945, or in many cases I’ve heard, 1900, is not worth saving.

    So, in summary, I’d like the debate to continue, because I think it’s a good debate to have, but without any personal animosity or recriminations. We’re all preservationists, we all love architecture, and at the end of the day we all need to be able to shake hands and brush each other off.


    • Mr. Watkins has made great contributions to the city to save the King Edward, Standard Life and now Farish Street. With all due respect, Mr. Malvaney, he really should not have to prove his integrity to you; he’s done it to all 175,000 residents of the city. Before you defame him with your accusation of lying, perhaps you should go visit him and find out about his plans in person. After all, it is HIS money, not yours. And, as for as I can tell, there’s no public money in it either. So, it’s none of MDAH’s business either.

      I agree with Carunzel that your post is both rude and, frankly, pompous. Who has made you the king of architectural taste? Really!


      • Carunzel, I believe this is an example of a rude comment.

        And to Immanuel, David Watkins is an occasional reader and commenter on this blog. Several months ago he clarified a question I had on the Farish Street project. While I do not know him or speak for him, I doubt he or anyone else would construe Malvaney’s comments as rude or pompous or defaming.

        Also, you insulted the wrong person. Carunzel is talking about me when talking about the “rudeness, pomposity and leaps of logic of certain of the younger contributors,” a quote which I am as proud as a peacock about.


        • Well, honestly, who but a newcomer could possibly construe that I was speaking of Malvaney? It is, in fact, Mr. White of whom I was speaking.

          I wholeheartedly agree with Malvaney’s take on this Watkins/Fondren issue; Malvaney has been more than kind over the months about Mr. Watkins. I think Watkins has some good ideas, but I do not at all think he does things in the most responsible way (such as some of the “cheap” materials used in the King Edward or in trying to destroy the character of Fondren) and I am somewhat concerned that he is becoming a megalomaniac on a scale to rival our late Mayor Melton; I do not choose him as the savior of Jackson.


        • It does seem like there’s an element of that tedious Developer Philosophy of “my vision is the only vision,” or in the words of one of our previous commenters “I’ve got the money so I can do what I want,” but I don’t think he and Melton could be even in the same universe. Melton’s idea of progress was all about demolition and destruction, which isn’t really a vision at all. (Have I ever mentioned my inordinate pride in my status as one of the 20% of Jacksonians who voted against Melton?)

          I was surprised in the second article by Watkins’ unwillingness to even consider any changes to the development that is proposed in these apparently very preliminary renderings. The plans can be changed and usually are quite dramatically from initial renderings to final product, so what’s the problem? Obviously there’s an emotional issue there since it’s in memory of a loved one, but still, I’m surprised.

          As others have mentioned, if Watkins is intent on getting his way without compromise, there aren’t really any regulatory roadblocks standing in his way (except if the City landmarked the buildings, which would be a political hot-potato), but if the neighborhood isn’t with him, what will be gained?


    • I gave Mr. Watkins credit for his contributions in both this post, and in other previous posts, but those contributions don’t mean I can’t make my own judgments about this project. As for his plans, I have read the articles that are in the paper just like everyone else and have followed the discussions after each. Looking at those as presented, I have the right as a resident of Jackson and specifically Fondren for many years to say I don’t like them, and I’ve stated my reasons both here and in the linked previous posts. The fact that it isn’t my money is obvious. The fact that it affects my life and the life of my neighbors is also obvious.

      MDAH (and historic preservation in general) got dragged into this through Mr. Watkins own remarks published in the first JFP article, vague remarks that make me suspicious that the whole story is not being conveyed. His comments in the second article only strengthened that suspicion. I try to be fair-minded in my reading, and yet I see nothing in either article that fully answers the questions that have been raised.

      As for Carunzel’s comment, she can correct me if I’m wrong, but her comment was not directed at my post but at an ongoing discussion we’ve been having between a number of regulars here on MissPres for many months about Modernism and Classicism. I am a moderate in that debate and to my knowledge am not the target of her remark.

      And who is king of architectural taste? Well, I agree none of us is, but this being America, we all have a right to an opinion.


  7. I should also say, since I might not have reiterated it in this post, that I’m not opposed to any new development at all on this property. There’s a large open section behind the N. State Street buildings that I think would do well to have some of the kind of higher-rise, concentrated buildings that Watkins is proposing. Truly interesting and imaginative places, the kind that people want to go to and be in, meld the existing with the new to create something very wonderful, and I think this project could do that. I wasn’t opposed to Fondren Place, and I’m not opposed to another building on the other side of Duling, but I certainly would have raised the alarm if the project had included the demolition of Duling. As it stands, Fondren Place is a much more interesting project with the old and the new than it would have been with just the new.


  8. For those into the mid-Century stuff, I thought I’d share this website. We should try to produce something like this in Mississippi. If we already have, let me know so I can be embarrassed that I wasn’t aware of it: http://www.gashpo.org/content/displaycontent.asp?txtDocument=434

    Also, the City of Decatur, GA is holding its annual Decatur Old House Fair that is scheduled for March 19, 2011 in Decatur, Georgia. The focus for this year’s fair is on 1950’s ranch houses. We should do something similar in MS. I know Hattiesburg for one has some great ranch homes. Also, here’s a link to a cool magazine I was unaware of. Decatur is trying to place an ad in this magazine for their Fair:

    Let’s stop quibbling in our comments. There’s too few of us for that. We must stand behind each other. Mr. Malvaney mentioned compromise. Combine that with patience and we can’t go wrong. I’m singing Kumbaya right now. I also think that a dark sense of humor is common among us and I’ve read some mighty good ribbing on this blog. Roll with it, it’s hilarious and a great way actually to show our admiration for each other. The more ribbing you get, the more you are liked. No one should feel offended. This blog is intended to bring us all together. I’m grateful we have it. Also, of course all architecture is meaningful at some point in time. If not to you or to me, then to someone else whose life it will enhance somehow, some way. To me the post-modern center at Northpark Mall can jump off the nearest bridge, but to Malvaney it is worth its weight in artificial materials. See there!!!… a good ribbing!!!


  9. Maybe we should go on a retreat, somewhere we can have a bonfire or an auto da fe.


  10. I’ll bring the s’mores.

    Only marshmallows will be burned at the stake. :-)



  1. MissPres News Roundup 12-6-2010 | Preservation in Mississippi
  2. MissPres News Roundup 3-26-2012 « Preservation in Mississippi

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