The news was not fun to read this week. Reports from the damage of the tornadoes in Mississippi (and Alabama of course) are still coming in, with new information added each day. We’ll keep on it and report what we know as we know it.
Before we get into state specific news, remember that May is nationally known as “Historic Preservation Month.” I haven’t seen any news related to Preservation Month (although some communities focus on a Preservation Week in May) for the state, but I’m sure they are out there. Get out and see some cool old places before the summer heat drives us back inside!
We have to start with weather news. From news stories, such as this one in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, and conversations with people from the area at MHT’s 10 Most unveiling, we know that the East Webster High School complex is a casualty of the tornado that struck Cumberland last week. One person I talked to who was able to tour the school in the aftermath described a “ribbon effect” of the walls of the 1930s classroom building. It didn’t sound good for the future of the building.
According to a Clarion-Ledger report, East Webster will finish out the year using local churches and then relocate to Wood College next year while repairs / rebuilding is done on their campus.
Another school complex badly damaged was in Smithville. The whole town took a direct his, but the NEMS360 story did focus on the school itself as well:
Roofs were damaged on every building on campus and downed power lines wove multiple webs around the facilities. Trees were cracked, limbs were everywhere and fence posts were bent to the ground. The tornado leveled the school’s gymnasium, ripping open its roof and leaving its contents exposed to the elements.
From pictures of the school on various sites, it looks like the two main 1920s and 1930s buildings are standing, with at least major roof and window damage. I haven’t heard anything about the structural stability of those buildings.
Malvaney wasn’t the only one to report on the MHT 10 Most List – the Clarion-Ledger ran a piece on the full list that includes a slide show of images of the places. The Bolivar Commercial and Gulflive.com both ran reports on their local places on the list.
Gulflive.com also ran a story on a Pascagoula house that is getting a new life as a Bed & Breakfast. The house, a Queen Anne dating back to 1894, is on the corner of Live Oak and Magnolia near downtown Pascagoula. The family that owns the property used Katrina Grant Funds to get the restoration started and then invested more of their own money in the property to establish the B&B and reception facilities. One of them told the reporter that they hoped their new business would help encourage others to invest in rejuvenating downtown Pascagoula – and I echo that, especially if these other investments involve bringing new life into old buildings.
And it seems that it is already starting. The same site also ran a piece on a new arts center, music club, and attorney’s office moving into spaces on Delmas Avenue downtown. The arts center looks to be headed by the City – with some grant help from the Mississippi Arts Commission. Main Street and the City will run the center. The two businesses are getting help with the exterior of their buildings with Main Street facade grants.
More news on a story we’ve been following in recent round-ups regarding the “Friendship House” in Columbus. This week the Dispatch headline read “If no buyer steps forward, Friendship House could soon see demolition.” While the previous articles have centered on people in the community who have expressed interest in the house – with no response from the church – this most recent piece actually does list the church’s terms. They are willing to sell the house “as is” for $1, but the buyer must take on the cost moving the property.
The paper estimates at least $70,000 to move the house a couple of blocks and additional costs to prepare a new lot for the structure (assuming the buyer already has a vacant lot to move the house to of course). I have to disagree with the pastor who, according to the paper, “said he felt the one-week time frame for closing the sale, along with the 30-day removal requirement, was ‘adequate time'” – especially since the earlier stories talked about the church’s delay and lack of response to offers received. I’m trying to stay positive that a solution can be reached on this one, but it’s hard to do with such absurd terms.
Moving back down to the Coast, Ocean Springs has slowly (but steadily) been working on the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center – which, according to the article, has grown “one room at a time.” The “Mary C.” as it’s referred to is in the old Ocean Springs Public School building. From 1998 – 2008, renovation was done to the 1920s building as their were funds to do so. Since 2008, the goal has been to take the empty, renovated building and put it to use in the community – which they have done. The number of special events grows each year and they have regular classes for all ages and in a variety of arts. I’m just glad that they stuck with the renovations and their goals – especially since Katrina hit during this process and could have completely derailed them.
A couple of quick-hits to wrap things up this week:
- Renovations are progressing on the 1910 George County Courthouse. The work began in September 2010 and, from the article, sounds like most of the work is being done in the courtroom itself.
- People in Natchez gathered to remember the victims of the Rhythm Night Club fire on the 71st anniversary of the tragedy.
- A historical marker will go up in Falkner to honor World War I veteran Orvil Lucian Cotten. Since there are so many marker programs now, I should clarify that this is one of the Magnolia markers done with the help of MDAH.
I’m going to keep watching for news about structure damage from last week’s storms – but please let me know if I’ve missed anything already.
Categories: Cleveland, Cool Old Places, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Mississippi Heritage Trust, MS Dept. of Archives and History, Natchez, News Roundups, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, Schools
News of the day is not good for Natchez Under-the-Hill. The Mississippi River crest prediction has been raised from 60′ to 65′, meaning floodwaters will incroach further northward up Silver Street. So far, projections are that the Magnolia Grill structure will have water in it, but it is unclear whether the water will make it up to the Under-the-Hill Saloon. The old Wharfmaster Restaurant building, the southernmost structure remaining, is being demolished for construction of a floodwall. It had some historic fabric but had been considerably altered for use as a restaurant (walls removed, windows taken out), plus the deterioration of sitting empty for a decade.
The impending flooding was another reason why the news hasn’t been fun to read lately. I’m hearing similar fears and predictions from north of Natchez as well. I’m hoping that things won’t be as bad as they are predicting, but it’s tough to stay optimistic . . .
Smithville itself (the school complex is slightly removed from the town) had a small section of historic commercial structures along with at least three antebellum houses (the houses appeared to be antebellum) and other residential architecture ranging from Victorian Vernacular to 1930s eclectic. I assume all of it was destroyed. I have passed through Smithville several times and always enjoyed the fact that the historic school complex was still in use and generally intact architecturally.