The All-New 2011 10 Most Endangered Places List

Duling School Auditorium, Fondren neighborhood, Jackson

You heard it here first (or second if you attended MHT’s Unveiling Party last night at Jackson’s Duling School, right in the heart of my funky Fondren neighborhood). As usual, I did not win any of the artwork I bid on, but I was responsible for bidding up the price on at least one, which fulfilled my responsibilities to MHT, I believe.

According to the nice booklet we received at the door:

The 10 places listed represent important historic resources around the state that are in jeopardy of being lost if something is not done to save them. Mississippians are realizing the value and importance of historic structures and are using the list to help raise awareness about the most critical places in need of saving.

The 10 Most list is compiled from nominations submitted by the public to MHT. Selections are based on the significance of the site to the community, state or nation, as well as the nature and immediacy of the threat to the property, such as development pressure or neglect. A jury of Mississippians carefully reviewed the submitted materials and collectively reached a consensus regarding the endangered places for 2011.

And here is the long-awaited list:

  • Amzie Moore House–a nice line drawing of the simple house (by artist John Home)

    Amzie Moore Home (1941), Cleveland, Bolivar County: “The house, which is important to the Civil Rights movement, is threatened by deferred maintenance, water damage, and the ill-effects of vandalism.”

  • Austin House (c.1855), Ocean Springs, Jackson County: “Built by prominent New Orleans physician Dr. William Glover Austin, the house is among the oldest in Ocean Springs. It has been vacant and for sale since being damaged in Katrina, and so far, all offers for purchase of the property have been made with requests to demolish the house, which the Ocean Springs Historic Preservation Commission has denied.”
  • Ceres Plantation (c.1860), Flowers, Warren County: “A rare surviving example of a 19th and early 20th century plantation complex in Warren County, Ceres is endangered by plans for demolition by owner Warren County Port Commission, which manages the industrial park that now surrounds the house and barns.”
  • Chickasaw Old Town–I nominate this for the most brilliant piece of artwork, a woven picture of the site today. (by artist/architect W. Briar Jones)

    Chickasaw Old Town (Chokkilissa’) (c.1650-1837), Tupelo vicinity, Lee County: “Containing the archaeological remains of the villages that comprised the political and cultural capital of the Chickasaw people during most of the 1700s, the Old Town site faces continuing threats from many type of encroachment associated with economic development.”

  • Fielder and Brooks Drug Store (1879), Meridian, Lauderdale County: “The headquarters of the Civil Rights organization COFO, this building was the center of Civil Rights activity in east-central Mississippi. Activists Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman left there offices in this building on their ill-fated trip to Neshoba County in June 1964, where they were killed while investigating a church burning.”
  • Holtzclaw Mansion (c.1915), Utica, Hinds County: “The last remnant of the Utica Normal and Industrial Institute for Colored Women and Men founded in 1903 by William Holtzclaw, the former president’s house now sits unoccupied and in an extreme state of deterioration.”
  • Oldfields–a Walter Anderson-inspired interpretation by Christopher Inglis Stebly

    Lewis House (Oldfields) (c.1845), Gautier, Jackson County: “A finely detailed Greek Revival house, Oldfields was also the home of Walter Anderson during the 1940s, a time when he completed some of his most important works.”

  • Markham Hotel (1926), Gulfport, Harrison County: “Designed by Chicago architects Marshall & Fox, the Markham was a central figure in a bustling and thriving downtown. Transformed into an office building in the 1970s, the old hotel has not been repaired since being damaged in Katrina.”
  • Mount Holly (1858), Washington County: “One of the largest early landholdings in the Delta, Mount Holly was the home of the prominent Foote family. Today, unoccupied and suffering from the damages of neglect by an absentee owner, this important antebellum house sits deteriorating.”
  • Prospect Hill artwork–certainly the most shocking piece, but the site warrants it. (by artist David Lambert)

    Prospect Hill (c.1854), Jefferson County: “Standing in the midst of deep forest in Jefferson County, the house and cemetery at Prospect Hill today seem serene, only hinting at a past both violent and paradoxically hopeful.”

Before the unveiling of the above list, MHT also hosted a special surprise announcement by interim MDOT Director Melinda McGrath about the longest-running public feud in the state, the widening of Port Gibson’s Church Street. Now that the new Highway Commissioner is on board, MDOT is backing away from its stated intention to take the new Highway 61 down Church Street and is looking again at options to the west (I think she said “west”–it was kind of noisy due to the usual rude people in the back who wouldn’t stop talking long enough for the rest of us to listen.) This is great news and reason for lots of cheering, which was duly commenced. Let’s hope this decision sticks!

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Categories: Historic Preservation

23 replies

  1. I also liked Briar Jones’ interpretation of Chocalissa. The weave pattern was inspired by actual Chickasaw baskets found at the Chocalissa site. The strips used to make the weave were from photographs of the site which were then cut into strips and woven into the beautiful pattern. It was a brilliant choice for a site which is very hard to visually interpret. Great job Briar.


  2. The MHT’s “Ten Most Endangered” gala almost inescapably brings to mind the grand exhibition of the Emperor’s new clothes. At the center we have the dramatic presentation of the “Ten Most Endangered.” But it appears that the ten are not really the ten most endangered if we assume that many of last year’s ten and the year before that’s ten are still around and still endangered. However, it appears that we are supposed to ignore that potentially embarrassing fact, because all of this is really about image making and generating enthusiasm. To say anything to the contrary would not be in the spirit of boosterism and thereby not wanted.

    Behind the extravaganza–and backed up by a government agency– is an institutional apparatus whose purpose is to make sure that only a positive image is presented to the public. The event is carefully choreographed with only the right people invited to speak on the right subjects.

    The overall impression is that the event is about selling something to the public and for generating public support. But for what? For culture and heritage? These are dimensions of human life that have historically been associated with questions of some profundity which means that they require thinking. But where in the over weaning concern for presenting a positive, if not fatuous image, to the public is there any profundity or even a recognition of the potential for profundity?

    Pointing out the discrepancy between the truth of the concern for heritage and its institutional reduction to vacuous images for placating the public will not be well received by the defenders of the status quo.

    Where is the one who would point out–as unpopular as it might be–that the emperor has no clothes? Where is the Toto who would pull away the curtain?



    • While I agree that many places on past years’ lists are still in trouble, people don’t forget about them just because MHT has a new list. MHT’s 10 Most booklet updates the status of places on previous lists – noting if they are “Saved”, “In Progress” (of being saved) or “Lost”. Local efforts to save these places talk about the 10 Most designation.

      Reading the other comments, I know I’m not the only one to mention this, but the gala does bring out some who aren’t as involved in grassroots preservation efforts like many of us, but at least it’s a way to get their attention and stir up some support for our efforts.

      This event is only one aspect of what MHT does to promote preservation of historic places – and MHT is not the only group trying to engage the public in a dialog about places that are historically significant and the need to preserve these places. While the National Trust can bring the academic / scholarly discussion with the general public advocacy, MHT is not nearly that large nor do they currently have the funding or manpower to replicate this at the state level.


  3. I see nothing wrong with the desire to create public awareness of the need for preservation. The past successes or failures of the list point, at least in my estimation, that there is some worth to the list. If we must use the media to promote preservation, so be it.


    • There’s certainly nothing wrong with using the media to create public awareness per se. But when the attention to image becomes so obsessive that it marginalizes constructive criticism and debate, that’s where the problem arises. When was the last time that you heard the MHT, or the MHS for that matter, issue a call for papers?


    • I don’t think MHT has ever made any claim that the 10 Most Endangered Unveiling is anything but a party to generate enthusiasm and hopefully money for the sites on the list. Holding MHT to the standard of academic societies, which it seems you’re doing with the comparison to the Mississippi Historical Society, is like comparing a non-profit charity with a large business concern–they’re not in the same category and never purport to be.

      Obviously, if you’re not a wine and cheese person–and many people aren’t–then you probably wouldn’t enjoy MHT’s party. On the other hand, the unveiling event does attract many people who aren’t necessarily preservationists in any sense. I get that and I think it’s a valid question to ask whether the event is accomplishing its purposes and whether MHT is making preservationists out of the non-preservationists who attend its parties or not. But I don’t get how we get from there to “the emperor has no clothes.”

      In your ideal world, what would MHT look like? How would it accomplish its mission to preserve the state’s built heritage? Or would you even have such an organization in your ideal world?

      As for MHS, I agree that they should have a call for papers, because they claim to be an academic society, and that’s how most academic societies (although by no means all) create their paper sessions. But MHT is not and has never claimed to be an academic society. It’s an advocacy group, and people who come to their conferences are there for different reasons than those who attend academic conferences.


      • In my “ideal world,” so to speak, I would simply have an environment that is not confined to theatrics and salesmanship but includes openness to ideas coupled with an awareness of thought relevant to understanding the nature of heritage. This would seem to be a small enough order.

        The MHT might well not define itself in terms of being an “academic” organization. It might well see itself as merely an “advocacy group,” but what are they advocating? The object of their concern is purported to deal with the symbolic dimension (“significance”) of history. Advocacy entails an obligation to understand what one is advocating and be able to communicate that value to the public. To abandon this obligation ultimately transforms preservation and heritage into little more than a preoccupation with saving old stuff.

        The problem is exemplary of bureaucratic behavior and the squandering of enormous sums of government money. As the money begins to flow, people come into power who have little concern for higher ideals of their concern. Their highest ideal becomes to “Preserve the Program,” and if the program continues then the focus becomes “Expand our Program.” Those who toe the party line are rewarded. Those who raise questions are excluded.

        Our heritage of human achievement can, at best, provide perspective on life, that is, an awareness of our place in the bigger scheme of things. To reduce it to merely saving old stuff is to overlook this potential and in the long run to undermine the very reason for preserving in the first place. It is tragic when we think that we no longer need to understand, that all we need to do is to peddle our program. Unfortunately it is all too easy to do that. The boosters flourish, and the critics are marginalized as threats.

        As the insights and thought from the past are forgotten, the object of preservation becomes a mishmash of old stuff, devoid of meaning. A clandestine materialism with all of its nihilistic and atheistic implication comes quietly to the fore, and the very object of preservation is reduced to rubble.

        The emperor with no clothes is exemplified by a movement that speaks of things about which it has little to no understanding nor any concern for understanding, as long as the program is being funded. Nor is anyone likely to stand up and say that the emperor has no clothes because of the price they will have to pay.


        • Jack:

          Have you attended an MHT event in the last several years? Have you made an effort to contribute your thoughts to the organization? Have you even joined as a member, to perhaps effect a change in attitude from the inside? I agree that there are things the organization could do better and I appreciate the need to think more deeply about why we preserve places and what it all means. But unless you are contributing to the effort, then all I see is someone throwing stones from the outside.


          • If I am not contributing to the effort, it is because I have been prevented from contributing. I attended the organizational meeting of the MHT about twenty years ago and made the point that the organization could be used as a forum for discussing ideas pertinent to preservation philosophy. I was greeted with awkward silence. Subsequently, I belonged for a while, but quickly saw that the meetings were organized to effectively preclude discussion, primarily through having meetings fastidiously choreographed by a central authority which is beholden to MDAH.

            25 years with MDAH has shown me that the least of its concerns is with promoting dialogue. I have been told more than once within its walls that “preservationists are not paid to think.” Of course, they wouldn’t say something as outrageous as this to the public. Instead they will grin and smirk and placate, and the public will think that they’re wonderful. Never mind that this consequently becomes the face of preservation–all smirk and no substance.

            I’ve had three contributions to the NT’s Preservation Forum journal. Not one was acknowledged within the ranks of MDAH. I’ve had four articles to win the Halsell award for best article in the JMH (no one else has ever won more than once), but despite my best efforts I’ve never been asked to speak on a preservation philosophy at MHS meetings.

            Despite this I was invited by someone I had never met before to speak at Colorado’s preservation conference last year (the paper on “First Principles” of preservation can be found on this blog). The invitation was extended because of my publication record.

            In sum, my experience has indicated that at least in the state of Mississippi the preservation establishment is not open to any one who is not an uncritical booster.


            • I have continued to think about your statement– “unless you are contributing to the effort, then all I see is someone throwing stones from the outside”–and what it represents, namely the perception that I have nothing constructive to offer, a perception that in itself represents the success of the preservation bureaucracy in excluding me from dialog. Such is the price for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.

              The thrust of my thought for several decades has been on recovering an understanding of the first principles—i.e. the basic principles–of historic preservation, which like all realms of culture and the humanities supposedly involves the goal of personal transformation—raising horizons of understanding and moral concern. Understanding these principles is critical to justifying and practicing preservation and without which preservation is little more than government-sponsored hype.

              (In this regard see my article: “Historic Preservation: A Remembrance of First Principles”

              To raise the question of first principles in the historic preservation community is to be greeted by blank looks by those who have little understanding of them and no need to understand because there is neither money nor institutional support for it. If one persists in raising the question, one will encounter more than blank looks, one will encouner the angry looks of the institutional defenders of the status quo who will state in no uncertain terms that preservation is not about thinking but about mindless conformity.

              The ultimate goal, it appears, is uncritically pandering to the public and to power—those who get in the way will be run over. Of course, this is seldom seen by the public who are more likely to encounter ingratiating smiles and assurances that everything is wonderful (so give us more money). However, the underlying Orwellian reality can be illustrated by a couple disturbing experiences.

              First, a few years ago I submitted an article to the Journal of Mississippi History entitled “Preserving Our Heritage,” a critique of the preservation movement. The article was sent out for peer review and accepted then placed in the waiting line for publication. A year later when publication was eminent I was informed by Hank Holmes, director of MDAH, that the article would not be published because the journal’s reader “might not understand it.” In other words, discussion of the basis of preservation was out of bounds seemingly because the discussion, it was claimed, might not be understood. But the JMH is supposedly an academic publication aimed at generating thought, and the peer review process is generally regarded as sacrosanct among scholars. However, when I wrote to a number of members of the MS Historical Society’s publication committee—all academics—requesting that I be allowed to address the committee, I was not even given the courtesy of a reply, this despite the fact that my publishing record with the Journal had been superlative—having won the award for best article on four occasions, four times more than anyone else has won it.

              A second and earlier experience was even more traumatic. A decade ago I was asked by then MDAH director Elbert Hilliard to write a book on Cotton Gin Port. To simplify a very complex story, an MDAH board member wanted the book to be written. After he discovered that he could not obtain a tax write off for donating money for the project to his own family foundation, someone decided that he could get his tax deduction by giving the money to the MHS, a private non-profit organization seemingly separate from the MDAH. However, behind the scenes the two organizations are not that separate with the MDAH director being ex-officio secretary-treasurer of the MHS. So he could donate his money while having considerable control over its disbursement.

              So, I was asked to write the book. After I completed the manuscript, then director of MDAH’s historic preservation division, Ken P’Pool, like a machine gone awry, started a hue and cry that I needed to be punished for working on the book on MDAH time. Hilliard, instead of defending me, allowed P’Pool to call a number of meetings to determine how they should punish me. Hilliard attended the meetings, but they did not extend me the courtesy of attending to defend myself, nor did any at MDAH attempt to defend me. After dithering about, they decided on a punishment. They would require me to retroactively take leave time for the hours that I had worked on MDAH time (unpaid of course).

              Unaccustomed as I am to such perverse harassment, it took me some time to become aware of their Achilles heel, namely by making me write much of the book on my own time, I thereby owned a large share of its copyright. In their mad rush to judgment, they had effectively cut their own throats. When I broached the copyright question to Hilliard, I saw a complete turn about in his demeanor. Having something to hang over his head, he suddenly became contrite and repentant. However, such behavior is all too transparent.

              The two experiences revealed the ruthlessness behind the smiles, the willingness to subvert and exploit those beneath them regardless of their abilities, all in the cause of placating and pacifying the public and power. It also revealed that to stand for something, one will likely get no support from colleagues and peers. Who are they, I guess, to question the authority of the Bureaucracy? It is troubling to me that a man I once admired, former Governor William Winter, the “education governor” and, I thought, a symbol of enlightenment, sat at the helm of these organizations for decades and seemingly allowed this mentality to reign supreme.

              Perhaps then it is no wonder that the public promotion of historic preservation consists largely of superficial publicity stunts and the denial of responsibility for a higher good. If anyone attempts anything else they will be marginalized or crushed.

              If I am reduced to “throwing stones from the outside,” it is not by my own choice. The preservation establishment clearly has no interest in intelligent dialog, certainly not generated by those who engage in too much reading and thinking. With their fixation on power, it would seem that stones are all they understand.


          • Obviously you have been treated badly, and that is unfortunate, although not unprecedented. But I guess we return to the question of where you go from here? How do you move on from that treatment (because I suspect everyone else involved has) and continue to advocate for your vision for preservation? Or is your vision so tainted by these experiences that you don’t even want to be involved?

            I think it’s unfair to expect everyone in the preservation movement to be motivated by the same deep founding principles you are. Some are into the philosophy and that’s certainly necessary, but many others just like good architecture, a particular architectural style, old rooted places, grandma’s homeplace, whatever. A good number just like “saving old stuff”–you’ve mentioned this as a bad thing, and certainly the preservation movement as a movement needs to have a more focused and mindful philosophy, but we also can’t lose sight of the fact that many people just want to save old stuff and they don’t really want to talk about why.

            We see the same diversity of motivation in all walks of life, including religion. I like a good doctrinal dispute late into the night, but I’m aware that many people, good Christian people who are out working in various charitable causes, don’t enjoy these discussions and liken them to figuring out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Should I then conclude that these people are lesser Christians than me? No. Both the thinkers and the actors are necessary, and while it’s hurtful that some of the “actors” in preservation treated you badly and disparaged the very idea of deeper motivations, it seems a knee-jerk reaction to then call the whole preservation movement in Mississippi “emperors with no clothes.”

            Besides, to return to the original topic, which was MHT’s 10 Most Endangered list, your explanation doesn’t point out why they came in for particular venom, when I don’t see them mentioned in your account above.


            • Malvaney,

              I will attempt to address the issues that you raised, not necessarily in the order presented:

              Malvaney: to return to the original topic, which was MHT’s 10 Most Endangered list, your explanation doesn’t point out why they came in for particular venom….

              Jack: That’s because my entries addressed Theodore’s perception that I am not contributing to the preservation effort. This disturbing perception represents the culmination of intellectual marginalization by the preservation movement which excludes those that don’t conform to the boosteristic images that it wants to convey and don’t fit into the needs for well choreographed programs. Once one is on the sidelines then the perception can easily arise that one is there through lack of personal effort. The perception—if widespread—represents the ultimate triumph of those who would exclude those who don’t conform to their rigid image of preservation.

              Malvaney: I think it’s unfair to expect everyone in the preservation movement to be motivated by the same deep founding principles you are.

              Jack: It seems commonplace to expect that anyone involved in a profession should be motivated by its founding principles. After all, why are they involved in the first place? Can they not articulate and defend their interest in a compelling manner? However, historic preservation organizations usual pay no lip service to founding principles to the degree that the principles are usually obscured if not forgotten. Eventually it becomes almost an embarrassment to raise these issues, when even the professionals can no longer intelligently discuss them. Better to silence those who raise these questions than expose this deficiency to the public.

              Malvaney: A good number just like “saving old stuff”–you’ve mentioned this as a bad thing, and certainly the preservation movement as a movement needs to have a more focused and mindful philosophy, but we also can’t lose sight of the fact that many people just want to save old stuff and they don’t really want to talk about why.

              Jack: Preservation is based on “significance,” which implies an intrinsic symbolic dimension at the heart of its concern. To understand this fundamental concern requires a certain degree of reflectiveness. To ignore this is ultimately to subvert the value of preservation itself. Unfortunately, once bureaucracies are in place, their focus typically becomes self-maintenance through protecting their power bases and revenue flows. There’s plenty of support by the bureaucracies for those who “just want to save old stuff …[without wanting] to talk about why” because the results be easily presented to a public (a public not likely to question the professionals) as “productivity” with little regard for why preserving is of value to the public. If someone wants to save old stuff without asking why this is fine as a private concern, but not as a public concern, because it undercuts the foundations of preservation and leads to a publically sanctioned capriciousness–only a hop, skip, and a jump away from such publically funded monstrosities as “Piss Christ.”

              Malvaney: while it’s hurtful that some of the “actors” in preservation treated you badly and disparaged the very idea of deeper motivations, it seems a knee-jerk reaction to then call the whole preservation movement in Mississippi “emperors with no clothes.”

              Jack: A “knee-jerk reaction,” meaning an “unthinking” reaction according to my dictionary—really an UN-thinking reaction? Why, Malvaney, such an accusation could get me reinstated within the preservation bureaucracy in that the main accusation against me has always been that I do too much thinking! Being unthinking in these digs must certainly be a virtue.

              Seriously, as you should know, my characterization comes from over two decades of experience, which has revealed to me, on one hand, the means to which preservation bureaucracies will go to subvert and marginalize those accused of thinking and, on the other, the complacency of the constituencies who stand idly by while constructive criticism is silenced.

              Malvaney: MHT’s 10 Most Endangered list, your explanation doesn’t point out why they came in for particular venom….

              Jack: The 10 Most Endangered list is first and foremost a symbolic device gendered to promote public interest and support. By its very nature it tends to serve as a rally point and a summation of what preservation is supposedly about. In this case the list has intimations of an incoherent, superficial publicity stunt designed to lure folks in and organize them as another fifth column. The problem is not in the list per se so much as in the fact that there is little else of substance. The resources of the past have been reduced to something to gawk at over cocktails, where attendees are content in the knowledge that the overseeing powers have provided a pleasingly choreographed gala—a wonderful time guaranteed for all. All of this is summed up by the list.

              Malvaney: How do you move on from that treatment … and continue to advocate for your vision for preservation? Or is your vision so tainted by these experiences that you don’t even want to be involved?

              Jack: Despite my experiences, I could hardly not want to be involved. After all my concern with history and place is at the core of my experience, living as I do on ancestral property in an antebellum house and with the thrust of my studies oriented to understand the symbolism of history, place, and heritage. All of this seems to be of concern to few.

              I continue to plug along serving as best I can as a seldom heard gad fly. What else can I do?



  4. Alabama’s Places in Peril List is better.

    “It goes up to eleven.”


    • I hope your Alabama home is safe and sound after this week’s tornadoes, W.?


      • The Shoals proper (the four cities and two counties) were unscathed by the tornadoes and did not lose power thanks to TVA’s only Neoclassical dam, Wilson Dam (take that modernist dams and nuclear plants). Franklin County and basically everywhere else south and east of the Shoals had some damage with some entire towns basically obliterated. Phil Campbell is one of those that I have passed through many times and probably taken some pictures of. Cullman, a nice town to the southeast that was formerly full of nice Victorian and turn-of-the-century architecture is now fairly destroyed. The tornado went through downtown and destroyed blocks of intact streetscape which had never been urban renewaled.


    • I like the Spinal Tap reference!


  5. The Austin House artwork is based on (or at least similar to) the late 1940s and early 1950s work of Alabama painter Shiney Moon. He melded abstraction with the Southern landscape, focusing on the historic and vernacular.

    Alabama Heritage Number 67:


    • Thanks for that link–great connection! I really liked the Austin House painting. Wish I could have added it to my wall.


      • I am surprised by the quality of the paintings shown in your photographs. I hate to say this, but the quality of much of the art in such situations leaves something to be desired most of the time. I like every piece of artwork exhibited except the Ceres Plantation artwork. I even (actually especially) appreciate the Prospect Hill painting. I often enjoy shocking and offending people in my comments, bringing an edge to a sedate, tranquil website, and I admire artwork that does the same thing. While the Prospect Hill painting is no “Piss Christ” (a favorite of mine), I still like its placement in a formal function. It is not everyday that a room full of Mississippi suits ventures anywhere near the image of lynched blacks.

        Which leads me to a question, Malvaney, did any African Americans attend the unveiling? Your crowd photograph looked, demographically, like a photograph from the 1960s.



  1. Warren County Port Commission spending $29,000 to demolish . . . uh . . . “recycle” Ceres « Preservation in Mississippi
  2. Port Commission Gets Its Wish on Ceres, Gains Large Vacant Space to Go Along With All Its Other Large Vacant Spaces « Preservation in Mississippi
  3. MHT Announces New Executive Director « Preservation in Mississippi
  4. The 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi-Where Are They Now? « Preservation in Mississippi

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