The Future of Mound Bayou: Saving the Legacy

At the beginning of the week, I outlined the plans for the series about Mound Bayou, which just commemorated the 124th year of its founding.  The intent of the posts was to provide a brief history of the origins and beginnings of the town, and its economic and physical decline.  There are some remaining historical buildings, although most of the downtown was lost in a major fire in the 40s.  The community has struggled in efforts to save those important buildings: the Isaiah T. Montgomery house, the Taborian Hospital, and the Bank of Mound Bayou.  The community has struggled in efforts to revitalize the community economically, although it still maintains a thriving spirit, a sense of history, and a sense of community.  There are resources and strengths present and evident.  I will conclude this series today with an update on where the town is in regard to saving these three historical buildings, and what other plans are in place or in process.  I rely on some newspaper accounts, which are probably well known to MissPres readers, as well as other sources including my recent visits to the community.  Along the way, I’ll throw in a few other pictures of the town.  I wish I had better news and more news, but at least there is news.

Powell’s Funeral Home, 1939

Old Bolivar County Funeral Home

National Trust for Historic Preservation Save America’s Treasures awarded a grant of $12,500, and Mississippi African American Heritage Preservation fund awarded $87,500 in 2002-2003 for work on the Isaiah T. Montgomery house.  It was reported that those monies were used in shoring walls, floors, and other areas of deterioration in order to prevent further damage to the house.  As of now, additional money is needed for other areas, such as the first floor, and portions of the house.  The National Parks Service will be conducting a feasibility study in the next few weeks.  There are two goals to the study: determine the cost of the immediate needs to prevent further deterioration, and determine the cost of renovation to return the home to viable use.  The plan for the house is to establish a bed and breakfast, so the feasibility study is critical to determining if those plans are realistic.

Downtown 2011

The first priority to the community is the renovation of the Taborian hospital because it has the greatest potential to contribute to economic development in the community.  The Jackson Medical Mall, the city board, and the Knights and Daughters of Tabor collaborated on a USDA grant in 2009.  Plans for the building included its development as a museum and cultural center.  The grant has been approved for building renovation, and a second part of funding is in progress.  The second portion of the funding relates to using the building in further economic development and job creation, and it requires additional partnerships, which the city is in the process of acquiring.  The specific details of that process are not yet ready for public release, but should be soon.  A fundraising benefit was held in March, 2011 towards this project.  The Saving Our Legacy group was able to raise sufficient funds to clear the debt on the building in order to move forward with the grant and renovation.  Clean up of the building should begin in the fall in the form of a service project, and the news release on that project will occur sometime in the near future.

Isaiah T. Montgomery gravesite

The Bank of Mound Bayou building is in the best condition and needs the least amount of work and least amount of investment to restore the building.  It is a possible site for the proposed cultural center/museum.

Intersection of Montgomery and Green Street

There is one definitive plan that has emerged this week as related to historic preservation in Mound Bayou. The city is partnering with a university social work service learning project to hold a workshop for youth on historic preservation.  The workshop will be scheduled for mid-fall and the students will produce photographic displays, a photo-journal, and an art show.  The workshop will conclude with a fundraising event to benefit the Taborian project.

I will be keeping tabs on the progress of this work during my upcoming travels to Mound Bayou, so as soon as I hear it, I’ll let you in on it.  It’s been a great week being with MissPres, but for now, I’m going home to Lottabusha County.



Categories: African American History, Delta, Historic Preservation, Mound Bayou, Preservation Education

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