So far, I have not seen any stories about major storm damage to historic buildings from this latest round of tornadoes – and I hope that continues to be the case as the reports keep coming in. Unfortunately, we still have plenty of bad news in this week’s round-up (although the good stuff is first).
I received an email this week reminding me that Mississippi Heritage Trust’s “10 Most Endangered Places” unveiling is rapidly approaching along with the annual Statewide Historic Preservation Conference. 10 Most is on April 28 @ Duling School in Fondren while the Conference is April 29 @ the Old Capitol Museum. Anyone interested in attending can register online through MHT’s website.
The Jackson Free Press reported the “Fondren Strip Safe For Now” because Watkins Development is looking at alternate plans that would incorporate saving the retail center into their Whitney Place development. This is a very similar story to the one that was in the Northside Sun in the last roundup. We’ll continue to keep an eye on this development and hope that this latest story will bear out.
Down in Biloxi, the Sun Herald announced the re-dedication of the “Old Brick House” last Wednesday. The 1840s building has been going through a 5 year post-Katrina restoration that is nearly complete. According to the story, the total cost for the project was $740,000, which includes architectural fees, and a combination of funds from both FEMA and MDAH covered these expenses. The next goal is to work on the grounds – which the Biloxi Council of Garden Clubs will be overseeing.
Good news out of Webster County where the report is that the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District has bought the Wood College Campus. Better news is that the group wants to restore the buildings while they get the campus “cleaned up” so it’ll attract businesses. They plan to start with the chapel and Bennett Hall – and they want the community involved in their plans. I hope we continue to hear great things about this project as it moves forward.
Worrisome news from Gulfport where the Harrison County Board of Supervisors want a decision made about the Gulfport Library. The story is that the Board has not received any formal proposals from groups interested in using the building – although the city had expressed some interest in the building becoming a community center. FEMA has allocated funds for demolition, but there are many who do not want to see the Mississippi Landmark building torn down. The county is not willing to put any money into the building – even if it would make it more feasible for another group to take over the process of rehabbing it for a new use.
Moving over to Bay St. Louis, the Sea Coast Echo reports that the city’s threat to condemn their two “most prominent eyesores” could result in the demolition of the old Knights of Columbus Hall and the Hotel Reed – with the more immediate threat to the Reed. Here’s what the paper tells us about the situation:
At a city council workshop on March 21, Ward 2 Councilwoman Wendy McDonald – whose ward includes both buildings – again raised the issue of the derelict properties. McDonald said if the owners don’t act, she is ready to move on condemnation proceedings and have both buildings demolished.
. . .
But when the council met again the next night, [Mayor Les] Fillingame said he had discussed the issue with Cain [the property owner], who promised to have the building torn down soon. The owner “is still interested in putting together a project there,” Fillingame said. “He is ready to demolish it. I don’t think we need to pursue any enforcement action there.”
The Hotel Reed is in the National Register district – so the property owner could take advantage of the state and federal tax credits to get going on a rehab of the building. It also sounds like all of these decisions are being made without any say by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission – who should be in the process and review an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the demolition (assuming the Reed is in the Local District – which I think it is).
Equally frustrating news out of Columbus this week as well where a “Victorian Gem” known as “Friendship House” is threatened with demolition by the First Baptist Church. The Church had used the property as a Senior Center until about six years ago. It has been vacant since then and is starting to show signs that all buildings do when they are not maintained for that long. The Church went to the Columbus Historic Preservation Commission requesting a CoA to demolish the property. The HPC issued a 6 month stay so that options of saving the house could be explored – including selling the property to an owner who would rehabilitate it. Several offers were made to the church from people intersted in purchasing the property, but none were accepted. After the six months were up, the Church went back to the HPC for permission to demolish and the HPC allowed it to go to the Building Commission who issued the permit last month.
This story – and the follow up – really upset me. Unlike other cases where a church wants to demolish a structure to expand parking or build an addition, First Baptist in Columbus is moving to a new location so the lot where Friendship House stands would be vacant – so why not sell the property to someone who wants to save the house? It’s also irritating to read that several offers where made on the house while it was still up for sale, but according to those quoted in the Dispatch, the church never counter-offered or even acknowledged the offers made at all – although the paper reports that the offers made were “not acceptable” to the Church. The articles don’t say what offer the church would find acceptable. The community is rallying around trying to save the property – and I hope they’re successful.
Eaton School in Hattiesburg was in the news again – this time the update is that the Attorney General’s Office is looking into the case. The AG’s office will be looking to see who is responsible for leaving the building exposed to the elements while the problems with the roof were being worked out. A couple of round-ups ago, I linked all the past news on Eaton (for all of you new to MissPres and unfamiliar with the story.) I’m sure it’ll be in the news again once the investigation is done.
In Clinton, the Clarion Ledger reports that the city has condemned buildings in the Old Towne Historic District that will be torn down. I don’t know the ages or styles of the buildings on the City’s list. These demolitions are part of the City’s effort to encourage the renovation of older homes and construction of new family dwellings in the district. I can see how demolition of condemned buildings would encourage new construction (the land would be there) but not sure what kind of message it sends about fixing existing historic structures.
Finally, sad news out of Memphis about the death of preservation consultant John Hopkins. The Commercial Appeal ran a nice piece on him highlighting his preservation work in the region – including Mississippi. Hopkins’ work in Mississippi over the last two decades included historic districts in Corinth, Senatobia, and Oxford, survey work on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina, and a number of tax credit applications that helped renovate historic buildings in the state.
Categories: Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, Clinton, Columbus, Cool Old Places, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Historic Preservation, Hurricane Katrina, Jackson, Mississippi Heritage Trust, Mississippi Landmarks, MS Dept. of Archives and History, News Roundups, Preservation People/Events