MissPres News Roundup 11-7-11

Tomorrow’s election day – so go vote.  While you’re at it, remember to vote in the latest 101 Places Poll.

Now on to preservation news:

First, found a story about an historic marker unveiling in Winona honoring the first American aviator to die in the line of duty nearly 100 years ago – Ensign William Devotie Billingsley.  The commanding officer of Naval Air Station Meridian, Captain Charles Moore, was on hand to help honor Billingsley with a ceremony that included a flyover, a wreath laying and a keynote address given by Senator Roger Wicker.  The story, which is on the military’s news website, is a good read – especially since Friday is Veteran’s Day.

Something I hated reading up in Columbus this week was a story that the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors will be seeking permission of the Columbus HPC to potentially demolish the Lowndes County Extension Building. While the article says the building dates to the 1940s, the picture shows a nice Craftsman bungalow that appears to go further back, maybe to the 1920s. According to the article, the Board wants it to be clear that they don’t have to go through with the demolition if it’s approved by the Commission. Unfortunately, the County Administrator (who will be presenting the case to the Columbus HPC tonight) is very clear in his opinion that tearing down the building is best.  He’s quoted as calling the building “old and run down.”  This in a town that relies heavily on heritage tourism. Since it is not currently in use, and apparently not needed by the County, the Administrator suggests that it is a good time to tear down the building to make way for more parking around the courthouse.  The lyrics “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot” seem a little too accurate on this one.

On the Coast, the story in Biloxi is that city officials will start cracking down on neglected buildings.  According to the Sun Herald, this is thanks to a Senate Bill which is meant to encourage property owners to do something to buildings that were damaged during Katrina and have not been repaired.  The city can step in and do work on the buildings if the owners don’t and will be able to recover its expense plus a penalty of $2,000, interest and court and attorney fees. These fees will have to be paid before the owner can pay their real estate taxes.  Sounds a lot like how demolition by neglect in historic preservation ordinances work – and most of the properties on Biloxi’s list are in the historic district.  Here’s hoping that the measure puts historic buildings back into good use.

Down in Hattiesburg, the American ran a piece on Recover, Rebuild, Restore Southeast Mississippi’s Community Volunteer House rehabilitation project. This is the old boarding house across from the Union Station that MissPres covered back in March 2010. The article says that the first floor is nearing completion and will be ready to house volunteers soon.  This building, located on the corner of Buschman Street and River Avenue, was once a boarding house.  I couldn’t find more information on the building itself, but I commend the non-profit group for taking on a rehab of an existing building to become their headquarters.  There is still work to be done on the building, but the group hopes that enough will be done on the building to move in by the end of the year.

The Natchez Democrat reports that “Former Natchez High School students raised $16,000 in just two days to go toward a grant for their old school building, the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center on Homochitto Street.”  These funds, combined with previously raised monies and a match from the City will go towards the required match needed if the project gets a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.  It’s great to see community support for the building.

A story that made the rounds in Mississippi papers (I saw it in both the Clarion Ledger and Hattiesburg American) could be a problem for historic schools.  According to the articles, “School buildings in poor condition can impair students’ learning.”  They go on to say, “If everything else is equal, students in a building that’s in better condition and has a better design perform better.”  The problem is that the articles make it sound like all historic schools should be abandoned for the latest modern structures.  Of course, districts willing to invest in maintaining their current buildings are also more likely to be interested in investing in other factors that impact student learning – such as teachers and technology in classrooms.



Categories: Historic Preservation

1 reply

  1. RE:Columbus – Lowndes Co Extension Building: GRRRRRR! Parking lot? Insane! OOOO and let’s put a dollar bill taking machine like at the carwash to make money off courthouse patrons.

    It would not do for me to be on the board of supes. The County Administrator would get an ear FULL after he gave his sshpeill. Lowndes County Supervisors UNITE – give Ralph Billingsley the Gong!

    I can’t think of another town in Mississippi that has “an extra” courthouse parking lot if the courthouse is an historical building still in use for court. Many of our courthouses are on the square, right smack-dab in middle of town, and there is NO parking lot anywhere in site and they all seem to make do when court is in session.

    Must be something about this Extension Building being on “county-owned” property or State-owned property not even to try to sell it? That could probably be remedied for enough $.

    Our family dentist office is in a big old house similar to this one on Main Street in the 7th largest city in Mississippi. Two young professionals have done an amazing job preserving the old home in which they chose to create a fabulous high tech office. The restored hardwood floors are gorgeous! They added on to the back but continued with architectural design of the front of the home. The living room with fireplace and bookcases on each side is a waiting area decorated with beautiful furniture one would have in a home. They preserved the exterior integrity and created a non-scary office to practice a white-knuckle profession in. Surely this building in Columbus, where historical buildings are the city’s calling card, could be restored and used for something? Come on people! Demolish?

    No signs of rotten wood in the photo. See if you can get some interior shots. Probably some great hardwood floors and other great wood features. Beautiful brick too. Don’t let up on this one EL!

    Like

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