Our end-of-year series of lists continues today, with a recounting of the newly designated Mississippi Landmarks in the state. The Mississippi Landmark designation is conferred by the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History, and the designating authority comes from the Mississippi Antiquities Act (Code of 1972), which states:
(39-7-11) (2) All other sites, objects, buildings, artifacts, implements, structures and locations of historical or architectural significance located in or under the surface of any lands belonging to the State of Mississippi or to any county, city or political subdivision of the state may be declared to be Mississippi landmarks by majority vote of the board. Every Mississippi landmark shall be so designated based upon its significance within the historical or architectural patterns of a community, a county, the State of Mississippi, or the United States of America. Upon such action by the board, the designation of the Mississippi landmark shall be recorded in the deed records of the county in which the landmark is located. All such designated sites or items located on public lands within the State of Mississippi may not be taken, altered, damaged, destroyed, salvaged, restored, renovated or excavated without a permit from, the board or in violation of the terms of such permit.
What that boils down to in the common language: MDAH has the authority to designate any publicly owned property in the state with or without the owner’s permission, and later on in the act we see that MDAH can also designate privately owned property but only at the request of the owner. Once that designation is made, it is entered into the deed of the property, so that even if the property is sold out of public ownership, the property remains a Mississippi Landmark and any changes to the property have to be reviewed by MDAH.
While the National Register does not place any restrictions on the listed property (not that it’s “merely honorary” of course), a Mississippi Landmark designation does place restrictions, not on what you can do with the property, but on what changes can be made to the buildings.
From my perspective, the Mississippi Landmark designation gives more peace of mind about the future of a building, because any demolition has to be approved by MDAH and can’t just be random whims of some public official with a taste for destruction (i.e. the departed Frank Melton who promised to blow up the King Ed). Being a Landmark doesn’t ensure the preservation of the building but it does increase the odds for the building’s longevity. Designation also makes a building eligible for the Community Heritage Preservation Grant program, administered by MDAH, so there’s some incentive that goes along with it too.
Last year’s list caused me to muse about whether MDAH was focusing mainly on the easy owner-requested landmark designations at the expense of the sometimes controversial designations of public property. These “hard” designations are, to my mind, most necessary to protect our most important state landmarks, which are often owned by public agencies, including college buildings, city halls, schools, and institutional buildings. To help shed a little light on the subject this year, I’ve marked with an asterisk those properties designated at the owner’s request. As you will see, only two properties this year were designated without the owner’s request. On the other hand, at least there are more designations overall than there were last year.
Here’s the list of newly designated sites for the year, courtesy of the MDAH Historic Preservation Division, which manages the program:
**"Cotesworth," near Carrollton, Carroll County (c.1847): Significant for its historical association with Mississippi Senator J.Z. George and for its Greek Revival architecture. The Victorian hexagonal library is especially noteworthy and unique in the state. Photo courtesy MDAH, HP Division.
**6th Street USO, Hattiesburg (1942). Significant as the only USO club in the state for African American soldiers during World War II, the USO building was recently restored for a new life as community center and museum. Photo courtesy MDAH, HP Division
Brooklyn Consolidated School, Forrest County (1925)--Significant as the most intact consolidated school in Forrest County and for its Spanish Colonial design by Hattiesburg architect Robert E. Lee
**Gulfport Veterans Hospital, Gulfport (1923-37)--Built on land originally developed for Mississippi's first Centennial celebration, the old Gulfport Veterans' Hospital, now being re-developed into a mixed-use zone called Centennial Plaza, is both architecturally and historically important.
**Pine Eagle Chapel, Camp Tiak (1991). Significant as the work of master architect Fay Jones of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and a smaller counterpart to the more famous Pinecote Pavilion. Photo courtesy University of Arkansas Libraries, Fay Jones Collection
**Beulah Cemetery, Vicksburg. Beulah Cemetery, comprising over 14 acres of graves dating to as early as the 1840s, is one of the most intact historic properties associated with the growth and development of the African-American community in Vicksburg.
**Marshall and Fannie Nichols House, Biloxi (c.1910). The home of prominent black educators, Marshall and Fannie Nichols, this Biloxi cottage is one of the few remnants of a once-thriving black neighborhood centered on the now demolished Nichols School. Now owned by a non-profit group that plans to renovate the house for after-school programs. Photo courtesy MDAH, HP Division.
**Illinois Central Depot, Greenville. One of two remaining depots in Greenville, this building was only recently vacated by the railroad and is now owned by the Greenville/Washington County Historical Commission. Photo courtesy MDAH, HP Division.
**Church of the Annunciation (Catholic), Columbus (c.1863)--The oldest Catholic church in northeast Mississippi, Annunciation Church is also one of the most significant Gothic Revival churches in the state.
Gulf Park College (Gulf Park campus, USM), Long Beach (1921-1926). Founded as a junior college for girls east of downtown Long Beach, the remaining three buildings on the front campus are both architecturally and historically significant. With two buildings designed by New Orleans architect Rathbone Debuys and the third by Jackson architect N.W. Overstreet, the buildings maintain a Spanish style popular on the Gulf Coast in the 1920s. Unfortunately, as part of the designation, the MDAH Board of Trustees agreed to allow the demolition of Debuys' Administration Building, leaving only two original buildings on the campus.
**Illinois Central Depot, Durant (c.1909). One of the most architecturally distinguished depots along the Illinois Central line, the Durant depot was deisgned by Chicago architect Frank D. Chase. It is the only remaining railroad-related resource in a community that once boasted a large yard and roundhouse for train maintenance. Photo courtesy MDAH, HP Division.
**(Old) Burnsville Colored School, Burnsville (c.1915). A rare one-room school, this building is also historically significant as an artifact of the segregation era, when black students attended poorly funded unconsolidated schools well into the 1950s. The Tishomingo County Historical and Geneological Society requested the designation and plans to move the building (at the request of the property owner) to the public park in Burnsville. Photo courtesy MDAH, HP Division.
**Pugh-Blundell House, Yazoo City (c.1830)--The home of one of the founders of Yazoo City, the Pugh-Blundell House is also a remarkably intact hall-and-parlor cottage adorned with vernacular but Greek-influenced decorative woodwork. Photo courtesy MDAH, HP Division.
The MDAH Board of Trustees also considered but declined to designate the following properties:
Tate Hall, Northwest Community College, Senatobia (1915)--A rare survivor from the agricultural high school period, this old dormitory is also listed on the National Register as part of the Tate County Agricultural High School Historic District. Originally comprised of four structures, this district, after the demolition of Tate Hall, will only contain the old administration building and a highly altered physical plant building. Photo courtesy MDAH, HP Division.
Oakley Training School, Hinds County (1944-1961). With buildings and campus plan designed by the firm of Landry & Matthes, the Oakley Training School is significant as a Progressive-era reform school for black children, a long-desired counterpart to the earlier Columbia Training School. Radical changes in the nature of punishment and institutionalization and a decline in population have made these building obsolete, and their presence behind prison walls means they have no alternate use. Photo courtesy MDAH, HP Division.
Nailor Elementary School, Cleveland (c.1942)--Significant locally for its role in education, the H.M. Nailor School served as Cleveland’s high school for African American students from its opening in the early 1940s through the early 1960s. The school, located just across the street from the Amzi Moore House, also served as a meeting place during the Civil Rights era.
Ceres Plantation, Warren County (1850s)--A rare surviving antebellum plantation house, Ceres Plantation served as the center of a working farm until the middle of the 20th century. While the added wings on either side did alter the house, the original center-hall cottage and its agricultural outbuildings remained intact. Owned by the Warren County Port Commission, which desires the land on which the house sits and vainly hopes that with its demolition, the never-successful industrial park surrounding the house will suddenly become a money-maker.
old Clinton High School (1942-1980s). The old elementary building at this campus was built as the last gasp of the Federal Works Agency and maintained its Colonial Revival style and intact auditorium space. The school property was abandoned by the school district and is to be acquired by Mississippi College, probably to tear down all the buildings on the campus.
Thanks to the folks at the Historic Preservation Division for providing this information about such an important preservation tool.
Categories: Historic Preservation, Mississippi Landmarks