MissPres News Roundup 11-8-2010

No big intro this week – let’s jump right into the news:

The weekly papers covering Waynesboro and Water Valley have recently published stories about how each community is looking at establishing National Register Districts.  The meetings local officials have had in recent weeks with MDAH staff have been to talk about the National Register process and what designation does and does not mean for property owners.  Best I can tell from the articles, neither have submitted district nominations yet, so we’ll have to watch for news that these potential districts have made it through the process.

Biloxi is abuzz with the opening of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.  The Sun-Herald ran stories on the new building the past two Saturdays (Oct 30 and Nov 6).  Usually, when we look at “new” development on MissPres, it is to look at how the design incorporates an historic structure.  In this case, however, Frank Gehry is the building’s architect – which is a big deal for Mississippi.  Biloxi is hoping that the Gehry design will draw visitors to the city.  Since many of these visitors will have an interest in architecture, is sounds like a good catalyst for more preservation efforts in the coastal cities.

Threefoot Building, October 2010. Pieces of terra cotta (now covered to far right) were removed during the structural assessment last year, but have never been properly replaced, introducing a serious water infiltration that will only get worse with time.

The Meridian Star provides us with two preservation stories this week:

First, the city has accepted a grant to fund a study of the Threefoot Building.  According to the story, it sounds like the study on the Threefoot will be a phase of a larger study looking at all of downtown Meridian to be done by Watkins Development.

Watkins Development will, “develop a long range strategic vision for the development of the City of Meridian, with particular emphasis on the redevelopment and revitalization of the downtown area.”

Part of Watkins Development’s job will be to create a “Vision” for the development of the city over the next 10 years. In creating the vision, Watkins Development will look for ways that other governmental agencies and the private sector might be willing to join in the development of Meridian.

In another story, the Star reports that the City has applied for a $150,000 grant from MDAH to have a seismic study done on the Threefoot.

The second story out of Meridian was an update on the ongoing renovations to City Hall.  At this week’s council meeting, Meridian Finance and Records Director Ed Skipper told city officials that all of the work might not be completed by the February 28th deadline.  Skipper specifically referred to the decorative plasterwork on the building as the part of the project that is most likely to be delayed.  They have had to change subcontractors for this part of the project because the original had some problems meeting specifications.

The project started in 2006 and was originally supposed to be completed in 2008, but the article says that “extent of renovations needed to stay in compliance with Mississippi Department of Archives and History regulations being more than [the city] expected.”

For previous coverage of the Meridian City Hall here on MissPres see:

The Natchez Democrat this week ran a story about the work being done by the National Park Service at Melrose.  Instead of discussing the roof and other exterior work being done on the house, this article focuses on work being done on the grounds.  Workers are relocating the property’s azaleas in order to make way for the recreation of the original fence.

From the Clarion Ledger this week, an update on the work being done around Farish Street.  This latest report indicated that developers hope to have the first block of the Entertainment District open in February, and having 10 -12 businesses in the historic area open by the summer.  Hopefully, the continued development in the area will result in adaptive reuse of historic buildings and not demolitions – only time will tell.

Here’s a follow-up from last week’s roundup.  The Hattiesburg American ran a story about the impact of the loss of a landmark like the Beverly Drive-In.  The piece was written by David Preziosi of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, and as we would expect from the non-profit, the article talks about the importance of historic buildings in our communities.  I hate losing buildings – especially landmarks like the Beverly that could have been saved – but sometimes their loss gets more people paying interested in preservation.  As widespread as the Beverly fire story was around the state, it may be a good rallying point for more grassroots efforts.  Only time will tell.

Kosciusko’s courthouse project is close to complete, but won’t be done before the December 1 grant deadline, according to the Star-Herald. Funded by a grant from MDAH, the project includes a major electrical upgrade.

Hopefully some good news out of Holly Springs, where the South Reporter reports that “Efforts continue to save historic Chalmers Institute“:

Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs Inc. recently conducted a much-needed clearing of the property around historic Chalmers Institute, the first university to be chartered by Mississippi state legislators in 1837.

Members of the non-profit historic preservation group and other volunteers participated. Workers were able to clear the grounds and remove a large fallen tree branch, which had destroyed the project sign and damaged the surrounding fence. Fitch Farms donated its crew for this formidable task, while other volunteers worked to provide measures to protect the building and its interior from continued exposure to the elements.

Windows have been boarded and the property secured, and PMCHS is trying to work with the City to direct the $90,000 appropriated by the Legislature in 2006 toward repairs and rehab work.

Finally, with most elections around the nation decided, the National Trust blog posted this week about the implications of the mid-terms on Historic Preservation.  I know that Malvaney occasionally does a “Blog Roundup” for us, but I’m hoping that I’ll be forgiven for including a blog link in the News Roundup this week since it will be important for MissPresers to keep an eye on how preservation fairs with the new Congress.

Categories: Biloxi, Gulf Coast, Hattiesburg, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Mississippi Heritage Trust, Modernism, MS Dept. of Archives and History, Museums, Natchez, National Park Service, National Register, News Roundups, Water Valley

7 replies

  1. Good to see that the Meridian Star still has its irrational hatred at MDAH and is spreading it around like a plague-ridden rat. They have blamed MDAH for all the problems associated with the City Hall project since the beginning; yet, they never actually provide any proof, just a vague, unsubstantiated statement. As anyone can tell from the latest article, the author complains about having to meet MDAH guidelines as the source of delay. Then, the author describes delays in the plasterwork as delaying the project. Not MDAH’s fault, it’s the subcontractor’s fault.

    As if we needed any more bad news from the election. I was surprised that my home Congressman Parker Griffith (a backstabbing, traitorous rat) was part of the Historic Preservation Caucus. The same with Artur Davis. Neither seemed to actually do much with historic preservation. Neither seemed to do much except complain about Obama, even when both were Democrats (Griffith switched parties in a Spector-esque attempt to get reelected, ending 140 years of Democratic rule in the 5th District). Although the blog writer was very even-handed in writing about the election, I think that historic preservationists (as well as all other Americans that aren’t millionaires) are completely screwed after this election.


  2. My favorite quote from one of the Star’s articles was something about how MDAH had required them to re-use the historic screws, so that’s why the cost was twice what it was supposed to be.

    Re: the election/politics and preservation. I am absolutely opposed to the idea that preservation is akin to political parties, as if Democrat=Preservationist while Republican=Demolisher. I just disagree that that is the case. First of all, preservation is a grassroots movement (or it should be/used to be), not a political one. I’m not comfortable with how closely tied preservation has gotten into politics, but on the other hand, that seems to be the way of all things nowadays, so there’s probably no getting around it. But that doesn’t mean we forget our roots.

    Second, the Obama/Democratic Congress stimulus sure didn’t do preservation any favors, and I think has been and will continue to be the cause of the demolition of many historic buildings which would have otherwise been repaired and maintained if that huge infusion of unearned cash hadn’t happened to various public institutions. From this perspective, where government money is the cause of many losses for preservation, a small-government Congress might actually give us some relief from the stupidity of tearing down perfectly good and sound buildings simply because “the feds gave us money for a new one.”

    Obviously, as I’ve said before, I’m coming from a mostly right-of-center political perspective, and you’re coming from a more liberal one, but our love of historic architecture pulls us together and shows that there are many aspects of life that transcend politics. Can’t we all just get along?


    • As long as we don’t talk about politics. Besides, I am a lifelong Southerner and used to being the only Liberal in the room. I was one of only 5 whites (plus most of the 100 blacks) in my high school, out of about 800 students, to support Kerry in ’04. And people wonder why the commander in chin lost.

      I agree with you that Obama has been atrocious from a preservation standpoint. You would think that because he filled his cabinet and staff with Clintonites, that they would support preservation more. Alas, that has not been the case. Remember, it was Bill Clinton (really it was Hillary) who created Save America’s Treasures. Of course, since no one has bothered passing Obama’s budget, Save America’s Treasures has not been officially ended, yet.

      I think Obama’s big problem with preservation is that he is not a preservationist. He lived in several places as a child, none of them with strong historic preservation communities (i.e. Hawaii). When he finally settled down in a city, he chose Chicago. Chicago has an atrocious record with historic preservation. Look at what’s been demolished in that city in the past decade. That is why preservationists won’t get anywhere with Obama. I still think that preservation stands a better chance under a Democratic Congress and Administration than under a Republican one. Just listen to the preservation horror stories from this state that occured after Reagan was elected.


  3. News from Oxford is that HUD has awarded an economic stimulus grant for the continued restoration of the Burns ME Church/Belfry restoration. You can see the story here http://www.thedmonline.com/article/burns-church-restoration-makes-progress. This is the first action in the past year on that project. They did make one mistake about the architects–it’s Howorth, not Howard. I also posted additional pictures and information about it on my blog.


  4. Hey, be sensitive here. I went to the Dukakis “victory” party in Jackson in 1988. And I turned out to be quite a preservationist, I think.


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