As some of you may recall, last June we ran a post about the efforts of a group in Lawrence County to get their historic river road designated as a Mississippi Landmark. (Actually, as it turns out, the group was interested in the National Register, which is different than a Mississippi Landmark.) That post initiated a discussion in the comments section that clarified the history and significance of the road and I hope was helpful in writing up the National Register nomination.
A few days ago, Bo Bourne of the Preserve River Road group, passed along the good news that River Road was recently listed on the National Register by the National Park Service. This press release from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History confirms that. I know a lot of hard work and research went into this effort. Congratulations and continued success on preserving this rare historic landscape!
River Road Added to National Register
A five mile section of the River Road in Lawrence County has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the recommendation of the Mississippi Historic Preservation Professional Review Board, the Department of the Interior approved the addition of the River Road Historic District on March 21, 2011.
Established circa 1812, the River Road is the original pioneer road between Monticello, Columbia and Ford’s Ferry and was the primary corridor for overland travelers between the port cities on the Pearl River during Mississippi’s territorial era.
The River Road Historic District includes the China Lee community, located at the northern end of the district, and the White Sand Creek Bridge, located to the south. The China Lee community grew up around the founding of the China Lee Missionary Church in 1874. Today one hundred-fifty people live in the community.
One noteworthy landowner along the River Road was Stephen Arnold Douglas, the Illinois Senator known for his 1858 debates with Abraham Lincoln. Douglas received the plantation from his father-in-law Colonel Robert Martin.
Although the road was eventually paved with asphalt, this remaining portion of the road and surrounding landscape are largely unchanged and recall those pioneer years.
The National Register of Historic Places was established by Congress in 1966 to help identify and protect historically significant properties. National Register properties enrich our understanding of local, state, and national history by representing significant events and developments, the contributions of notable people, and important types of buildings and architectural styles. National Register listing can also help preserve these important properties through tax benefits, grant assistance, and protection from demolition or development.
National Register listing does not restrict a private owner’s use of the property, unless development of the property involves federal funding, federal rehabilitation tax credits, or participation in some other federal program. There are no requirements for public accessibility, and information about sensitive sites can be restricted from the public.
The Department of Archives and History is the official State Historic Preservation Office in Mississippi and handles all requests for National Register information and assistance. Congress established the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 as a list of federally recognized properties especially worthy of protection and preservation. Mississippi has more than 1,200 National Register properties, including archaeological sites, battlefields, bridges, buildings, cemeteries, forts, houses, and historic districts. For more information call 601-576-6940 or see the MDAH Web site, mdah.state.ms.us.