MissPres News Roundup 11-1-2010

After getting a little experience with the News Roundup a few weeks ago, JRGordon has decided to take it on as a regular contributor. JR has been around the MissPres universe for at least a year now, by my reckoning, and keeps fingers in preservation events and goings-on all around the state.

As a side note, for those in the Jackson area, remember that author Mary Carol Miller will be signing copies of her recent book Lost Mansions of Mississippi II, at Lemuria Books in Jackson, beginning at 5 PM.

malvaney

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I’m taking over the reins again on the News Roundup this week.  Most of the stories I saw this week about Mississippi’s historic structures were shorts on different “Haunted History” events for Halloween, so this week’s Roundup will be a little shorter.

Beverly Drive-In, as it appeared in 2008

Unfortunately, I have to start with bad news.  The Hattiesburg American reported both Friday and Saturday that the Beverly Drive-In was destroyed by a fire, and the Clarion Ledger ran the story on Sunday.  Those of you who have been around MissPres for a little while know that we’ve talked about it before – including some comments expressing an interest in the property.  Both papers include a photo of the building while it was burning – which is a devastating site for all those who hoped to hear that the drive-in would be up and running again.  No cause has been reported yet.

 

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Better news from Brandon this week as the Clarion Ledger reported that a new retaining wall was completed near the Rankin County Courthouse.  According to the article:

Officials worried the crumbling bank would damage the integrity of the two-story brick building that houses the Justice Court and other county offices.

The new wall, built of large concrete blocks, is up to 30 feet tall in some areas. The large blocks snap together, much like building blocks . . .

Sounds like life-size Lego blocks – and I wish the article included pictures to see what they look like and how they do (or do not?) blend with the surrounding architecture.  Anyone going by there soon and willing to get a picture for us?

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In Corinth, the Board of Aldermen recently voted to reduce the size of the local historic district.  For those of you familiar with Corinth’s geography, the area excluded will be south of the Norfolk Southern rail line to Tate (North / South) and the area between Taylor and Fillmore (East / West).

“This is the one area of the district that has not seen any benefit of the ordinance, and it’s time to try something else,” said Building Inspector Philip Verdung.

It is hoped that removing this area from the district will encourage cleanup of declining properties and ease the process of redevelopment. The area is in the southern portion of the central business district and will be subject to the new building requirements.

I think that looking at the zoning would have more of an impact on the area’s potential for redevelopment than taking it out of the preservation district.

The article does note that the changes to the district boundary would not go into effect until the city receives comments on the new boundary from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, but I got the impression that the city only sought MDAH comment as a formality and would not change their mind if MDAH disagreed with the new boundary lines.

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Difficulty in Bay St. Louis this week as an article reports the latest on an ongoing discussion about a proposed plan to create a “Walk of Fame” on the city’s sidewalks .  I have not had luck digging up other articles on the topic, but I get the impression that this is similar to a “buy a brick” kind of fundraiser that places like museums and universities have used.  However the program would work in Bay St. Louis, the funds raised would go towards the historic preservation efforts of the local commission.  This week’s article does not sound like the program will get off the ground because of some questions about a city commission getting “exclusive rights” to city property (the sidewalks) for fund raising activities.

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The Cleveland home of Amzie Moore that was once a center of Civil Rights activities in Mississippi was placed on the city’s “unsafe properties” list the local paper reported this week.  It sounds like the property was at least stabilized and “moth-balled” for a while, but has been subject to vandalism this summer which has put it back in danger.  I cannot tell from the article if Moore’s family or the city owns the property – which would play a role in what kind of funding might be found to shore the building back up and perhaps even restore and interpret it as a Civil Rights site.

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The final story this week is from Starkville and is about MSU’s Cooley Building.  Plans are in the works to turn the former cotton mill into a convention center as part of a major mixed use development project – which will be done by a private group who will have a long-term lease on the building and own the land near the building.  The rendering of the proposed project that ran with the article should scare everyone who likes historic buildings – although I did hear that the Clarion Ledger ran an “old” rendering and that the current plan they are working with is more in line with preservation standards.  We will have to wait and see.



Categories: Bay St. Louis, Brandon, Civil Rights, Cleveland, Corinth, Hattiesburg, Historic Preservation, News Roundups, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Starkville

10 replies

  1. It really is too bad about the Baverly Drive-In burning. I’m not an expert on drive-ins, but the BEverly seemed to possess more of an architectural character than many= derivative or not, which lent interest to the structure. It almost tried to defy the temporal nature of the drive-in itself. Of course, flames did destroy it, though the comment section in the Clarion-Ledger was full of the usual depressing venom. I’m trying to wean myself away from their comment sections.

    Nice job on the round-up!

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  2. That’s awful about the Beverly. It was one of the coolest modern anythings around. I’m so glad my family and I got to see some movies there in the ’90s!

    I think you must mean MSU in that last paragraph. Nice job, though!

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  3. I am familiar with the area Corinth wants to remove from the historic district. It could be classified as a post-industrial wasteland, which as we all know usually contains all sorts of interesting former industrial buildings. Unfortunately, the building inspector is right about the lack of investment in the area. He is wrong about everything else. There are still businesses in the area, mostly survivors from Corinth’s former industrial glory. However, many buildings have been allowed to become roofless shells. That gives the area the stark appearence of blight. The area could become a loft area but the socio-economics of Corinth will prevent that from ever happening. From what I have read and been told, Corinth’s downtown is nearly entirely controlled by seven families who own nearly everything. The rest is controlled by out-of-town corporations, such as the Canadian business that is allowing the Corinth Machinery Building to collapse. That is also combined with the sad fact that, unlike the area north of the tracks which borders well-maintained historic neighborhoods, the area south of the tracks borders poorly-maintained “slums” with large Mexican and Black populations.

    I have followed the Cooley Building (MSU Physical Plant) project for two years. The project looks abysmal. That rendering looks new to me and worse than what has been shown so far. The former renderings had the buildings clad in what looked to be vinyl siding and brick veneer (both tacky and insubstantial). Now the buildings look like they will have metal siding. Maybe Deconstructivism has finally arrived in Mississippi? If it has, I’m sure the MSU School of Architecture will be dancing around in their concrete monstrosity with glee. If you listened to the faculty in that place, you would come away thinking that Deconstructivism was the only good type of architecture ever devised by man and all the others should be replaced with metal-clad blobs that leak.

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    • W. White, from my experience, the MSU S/Arc has served well to educate several generations of architects now practicing in MS and around the country. That we are at least conversant regarding the theories of deconstructivism is to our benefit and to the credit of our education. The S/Arc building has proven a valuable and durable laboratory for learning.
      There are many ways the Cooley Building may be re-imagined, not any one of which will meet with the approval of all interested parties. Perhaps if we knew more about the proposal we all could bring to bear on the discussion our varied experiences and expertise. Could you obtain more detailed and current drawings of the project?

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      • Thank you for your reply. I am well aware of Giles Hall and agree with you that it is a durable building. It should be since it is steel framed with concrete walls. Except for the barn, which is a good adaptive reuse of a building that could have been demolished if those in charge had less imagination. However, the rest of the building is a flourescent-lit, grey, concrete monstrosity on the inside. At least it has a brick facade for the world to see.

        Since MSU has only had an architecture program since 1973, “several generations” might be a bit of a stretch. However, I did not disparage nearly 40 of architectural graduates at MSU. I pointed out that the faculty, most of whom did not attend MSU (which is a good thing, to allow for the spread of ideas), teach deconstructivism above and without regards to other architectural forms. I would teach Deconstructivism if I taught an architectural course, as an example of what not to do.

        As for the Cooley Building, I agree with Malvaney that it should be the centerpiece of the project, not the afterthought it seems to be. I would also like it to be restored, not reimagined nor renovated. Restore does not mean that every bit of the building has to be returned to original condition (though that would be nice, it is too impractical for that particular industrial building). Renovate and reimagine are terms that give too much leeway for developers on a building. They could gut the building or demolish half of it and call it renovation or reimagining. The big problem in my eyes with the renderings is the total lack of regard with which the new buildings interact with the Cooley Building. There is not a single aspect in which these new buildings (from the renderings I’ve seen) match the Cooley Building. They are not of a similar scale and overwhelm the original building. The new buildings neither match nor try to match in any materials or detailing. That is a problem in my eyes. I doubt that it will be a problem for anyone else and as soon as the developer finds some money to build it, it will become a successful, if ugly, development like every other new development being built today.

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    • I’m withholding judgment on the Cooley project for now, although I too have been very leery of the early plans I have seen and heard about. I’m still concerned that none of the recent renderings I’ve seen have shown much different than the one noted above, and for some reason, none of them seem to show the Cooley building, except perhaps as a far-off blurred image in the background. The Cooley building should be at the heart of the project, not in the background. As for any new buildings to be constructed as part of the project, I’m less concerned about them, unless they overwhelm or relegate the Cooley to a minor afterthought.

      As for finding more detailed drawings or project descriptions, I’m also concerned that there doesn’t seem to be a website for this development group where we might find more information. I’ve come to distrust organizations who have no web presence, especially development groups and semi-quasi-maybe government agencies like the South Delta Housing Authority. If even small historical societies can set up a web page or Facebook account, why can’t these big organizations?

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  4. I keep the hope that the fact the the Cooley Building is a Mississippi Landmark will keep it somewhat safe, especially the northern facade.

    And while I’d like more information, as you say EL, it is easy to throw up a website and that doesn’t necessarily indicate the reality of a project. Earlier proposals for the redevelopment had spectacular websites that eventually went nowhere. I hear that we should know for certain about the project this month. I haven’t seen anything in the local paper about it other than the IHL decision which does seem a little odd that a redevelopment of this size hasn’t gotten some local press on the matter.

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

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