MissPres News Roundup 10-17-2011

Compared to the last couple of Mondays, this week’s roundup feels pretty short.  So after you’ve caught up on the news, go check out the voting on the Delta Poll for our 101 Places list.

We’re going to start in east Mississippi where the news is that the demolition process for the Hotel Meridian has begun.  The story from WTOK spins it as the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center “moving forward” – and the only “negative” they talk about is how the work on the site affects parking for businesses in that part of town.  Of course, they’re ready to demolish the Hotel without having ANY plans for what the center’s design will be – nor do they have nearly enough money to even begin construction.  The comments on this video story aren’t really “preserve the building” minded (like we all would be), but they’re at least of the idea that the current building should remain since the plans and money aren’t in place. Most of them seem to think that all Meridian is going to get is more vacant lot space.

News out of Natchez this week is that the local Preservation Commission has approved an oil well not far from the National Cemetery there.  This is the follow-up to a story from a couple of roundups ago when the story included a “change of plans” for the well.  The new story outlines the compromises the company made with the City and the Cemetery Association: the oil tank farm will be out of sight from the road, the company will use electric motors rather than gasoline motors to operate equipment (less noise) and, most importantly, the site itself has been moved further away from Cemetery Road – which changes the access for the big trucks.  They will now use a road left over from previous oil operations – which is otherwise unused.  There are still a couple more steps before the well can go up, but I do like how the company is trying to mitigate a lot of the community concerns.

News out of Smithville is that “A delay has surfaced in the rebuilding of Smithville School.”  This is the community in Mississippi that suffered the most damage in the tornado in late April.  The “delay” the story refers to is the Section 106 Review of the plans for the site since the community is receiving federal funding to do the work.  Although it is a short article, it raises concerns for me to read where the superintendent  “says construction will go ahead once everything is ironed out” – especially because I get the impression that whatever they are planning isn’t preservation friendly.

Moving to Oxford, the community is looking at planning for their “Heritage House”– also known as Cedar Oaks.  The City, which owns the property, and several groups who had owned (and still manage) the property are coming together to outline both short and long-term goals that include preservation, maintenance and ways to increase ease of use (such as parking and additional facilities).  I think it’s great that they’re evaluating and planning for the property.  What really strikes me about the story is that the lead describes the house as “an 1859 Greek Revival home built by the designer of the University of Mississippi’s Lyceum.”  Didn’t know that William Nichols was still designing buildings in 1859 (especially since he had died 6 years before).  Later it mentions that the architect/builder for Cedar Oaks was William Turner. Maybe Turner worked on the Lyceum, but he wasn’t the designer or architect.

Finally, here’s a link to a story about the mural at the Eastland Courthouse Building in Jackson.  I know we’ve talked about this “problematic” mural before, so I won’t go into it here. The mural at the Eastland Building is making the news because the building is being sold by the Federal Government and has been “uncovered” (the curtain removed) for all to see.  The director of Historic Preservation for MDAH Jim Woodrick told the reporter that painting over the mural “is not an option because it’s part of the historic fabric of the building. I don’t think that would be an option that would be considered.”  Woodrick continued by saying that an option for the new owners (whomever they end up being) would be to once again use a curtain to cover the image that troubles so many because of its romaticized version of cotton plantation life in the state.  I agree with Mr. Woodrick in when he said “to permanently cover over it would be to cover over history from that time period.”

Last I checked, the bidding on the building was up to $1,150,009.  In case you missed the link for the auction site in “Eastland Bidding Heating Up,” last week, here it is again.  I thought it was supposed to close on Friday, but they keep extending it, so I don’t know when it’ll end. That’s a good sign though that the building has attracted the attention of at least three serious bidders.



Categories: Cool Old Places, Courthouses, Demolition/Abandonment, For Sale, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Jackson, Meridian, MS Dept. of Archives and History, Natchez, News Roundups, Oxford, Schools

7 replies

  1. Yes, for some reason, the city tourism board insists on identifying William Turner as the architect of the Lyceum. I contacted them to correct it months ago after Malvaney pointed out my inaccurate attribution on that when I posted on Cedar Oaks. Never let it be said that facts should get in the way of a romantic story.

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  2. I’m very discouraged about Meridian. I guess I have to hope for the sake of the city that it works out, but as I said earlier, my experience is that they now have a long-time vacant lot greeting visitors to their increasingly less-historic downtown.

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  3. I simply hope that this won’t be their answer to the Threefoot Building. It’s terribly stupid to destroy the Hotel Meridian.

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  4. No news on the Grenada Railway trying to abandon its line? This is of historical significance to Mississippi since famous engineer Casey Jones met his end on those tracks.

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  5. Matt, do you have an article you could send our way, or is there a link to the story? We have to rely on readers to bring some of these stories to our attention, since not every paper is online or accessible without a subscription.

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  6. For me, a factor compounding the worries about downtown Meridian are the continuing stories about the City Hall project being late and $millions over budget that keep getting printed in the paper and shown on local TV stations. One would hope that Meridian (and the local government) doesn’t become even more reluctant to seek preservation solutions, given this and the track record of the Threefoot project…

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