MissPres News Roundup 12-20-2010

Happy Holidays MissPres!  This will end up being the last Roundup this year – and it’s all pretty good this time.  Hopefully, any news that pops up the next two weeks will let the first roundup of the New Year be full of good news too!

First up is news out of Starkville.  The Daily News reports that a panel is examining plans to renovate the 1939 former Armory Building which has been the City Hall since the late 60s.  From what I can tell, the issue is a lack of room for all the municipal services currently housed in the building.  The panel is favoring a plan that renovates the current building to house city staff offices and the court system and look at either building or renovating a structure to be the police station.  I’m always in favor of reusing an existing building and hope there’s one suitable to house the Starkville PD.  We’ll keep watching this one to see what they decide.

Stories out of the Sun Herald this week talked about Tulane’s interest in the Gulfport Library.  The University wants to expand their Coast campus and is talking to the Harrison County Board of Supervisors to see if the Library building could be a possibility.  As you know from the back story, the Board wanted to tear it down because of damage from Katrina, but preservation has won out so far to keep it standing.

The County, which is not willing to put any money into the building, signed a memorandum to accept written proposals from groups interested in leasing the building.  The deadline for these proposals was up in August – and the County did not receive any proposals.  According to the Sun Herald, the City of Gulfport has expressed an interest in the Library building, but has not made formal plans.  The Board seems willing to work with Tulane, especially if they submit a written proposal based on the memorandum.  Supervisor Marlin Ladner said that he’s for Tulane’s use of the building if they “meet the criteria” and thinks that “the board would be more than happy to consider” the idea.  I like the idea and hope Tulane keeps working towards making it happen.

Also from the Sun Herald in recent weeks was a story out of Tunica where a project to build a Gateway to the Blues Visitor Center and Museum is moving forward.  An 1800s  train depot will be moved this week from Dundee to Tunica to serve as the visitor center / entrance to the new building.  Those involved with the museum project plan to use the depot’s porch area periodically for live performances.  According to the article, the museum will be open in Fall 2011.

The Hattiesburg American ran a nice story on the African-American Military History Museum this week.  Veterans gave free, guided tours of the museum’s exhibits during their second annual Christmas Open House.  According to the curator, Brooke Cruthirds, the Museum is continuing to see more visitors at their events.  Perhaps some of these visitor’s also saw last month’s story about the award the renovation received.  It sounds like it might need to be considered for the 101 Buildings List.

Just over a week ago, the City of McComb met with David Preziosi of the Mississippi Heritage Trust about the historic resources survey MHT is currently conducting for them.  The project is looking at an area bounded by Delaware, Pennsylvania, Fourth and Edgar.  The article mentions that the survey is a grant project, but does not specify that it is a Certified Local Government (CLG) Grant from MDAH.  According to the Enterprise-Journal, “If the majority of the surveyed area qualifies, it will be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.”  In truth, the rest of the States Area has to be surveyed as well to help determine where the potential district’s boundaries should be.  Talking with people at MDAH who know about the project, this survey area is only the first phase of documenting the “States Area” in McComb.  It will cover about 150 structures – about 1/4 of the total area.  Hopefully, McComb will continue the survey work to get the whole area done.

In Winona, a Blues Trail Marker honoring Roebuck “Pops” Staples was placed near the courthouse.  The Sun Herald article does a good job of giving readers a mini-biography about Pops Staples – much of which I assume is on the marker itself.  According to Alex Thomas with the Mississippi Development Authority (the agency that runs the Blues Trail Markers program), they had a difficult time determining where to place the Pops Staples marker:

“There’s no landmark significance (at the spot chosen), but we didn’t want to put it way out in the woods where no one would see it.”

Seems like there probably could have been a better balance between the landmark significance location (which the article doesn’t mention directly, but is likely Staples’ birthplace) and a place where the marker could be easily accessed, but no one asked me.  I understand that MDA wants the Blues Trail Markers seen, but it seems like the remoteness of some of the artists’ homes adds a lot to understanding their music.

In my last roundup, I mentioned a MDAH press release about the on-going talks about the Preservation Trade School and speculated that planning was continuing this month.  The Natchez Democrat included mention of these meetings in two articles that featured the Historic Natchez Foundation.  The first article ran prior to HNF’s annual meeting and focused on the announcement that the Mississippi Museum of Art will be featuring a “Natchez Week” in the new year.  Also on the agenda for the annual meeting was discussion of the Trade School, which was in the second half of the story.  Robert Ogle, the expert who has had success with establishing other programs and has been working with all of the Mississippi groups, spoke to the annual meeting attendees.  According to the second article – which ran after the annual meeting:

The preservation school would operate under Co-Lin and use Historic Jefferson College as its working laboratory. Courses would include history of architecture, materials and systems, masonry, carpentry, historic preservation law, roofing and other preservation skills.

I hope that the next story we see on the school includes some kind of time-line for getting the program approved and when classes could start.

Moving to Meridian, which had two stories in recent weeks about consultants working to help restore and revitalize downtown.

According to the Meridian Star, the Mayor gathered several interested parties to talk about three of her “development initiatives” earlier this month.  These initiatives include the Threefoot Building – which could house a convention hotel to help support MSU Riley Center.  My reading of the article is that there was a lot of talk and not much definite planning, but perhaps it will help move forward with getting the Threefoot off of the MHT’s and the National Trust’s “Most Endangered” lists and into the “saved” category.

The second story from the Meridian Star was about the Temple Theater.  A grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, combined with community contributions, will cover the costs of having consultant Janis A. Barlow and Associates complete what sounds like a feasibility study for the Theater.  While the Temple is an historic fixture in Meridian, nothing in the article indicated any work needed to be done on the structure as far as restoration or revitalization are concerned.  I assume some maintenance / minor restoration and renovation work are apart of any future plan, but it sounds like it does not need major work done.

I read this story in the Enterprise-Journal, and I was envious because I love crawling around cool old buildings.  Sometime this year, the Amite County Chancery Clerk got a call from someone in New York interested in the Meneely Bell Foundry.  The caller wanted to know if the Amite Courthouse, which is touted as the oldest one in Mississippi still in use, had a Meneely Bell in its tower.  No one in Liberty knew the answer, and they couldn’t find answers in any of the records at the courthouse, so a small group of locals climbed up to find the answer.  The writer of this story did an excellent job recounting the adventure and if you do not read any other stories from the past couple of weeks, read this one.

Now I’m motivated to pick a building I want to explore and try to find a question (or two) that the records can’t tell me so I have an excuse to plan a similar adventure.

With that, I am officially on vacation.  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you all!

Categories: African American History, Blues Sites, Cool Old Places, Courthouses, Depots, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Historic Preservation, Liberty, Libraries, McComb, Meridian, Mississippi Heritage Trust, MS Dept. of Archives and History, Museums, Natchez, News Roundups, Preservation Education, Starkville, Theaters, Winona


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