MissPres News Roundup 1-3-2012

Happy New Year MissPres!

I was on vacation for the holidays – but preservation in the news kept going (and thanks to Malvaney and Theodore who helped make sure I didn’t miss these stories while I was gone).  Unfortunately, the last weeks of the year brought bad news from a couple places . . .

We’ll start with the bad news out of Bay St. Louis.  On Christmas Eve, two weeks after City Council declared that the property was “a menace to public safety,” Hotel Reed was the victim of a major fire.  According to one story on Boxing Day, winds through the building over the weekend led to some flare ups that meant repeat trips to the building by firefighters to get it under control.  The hotel was built in the early 1920s and later was converted into a nursing home which closed in the 1990s.  It’s been vacant for about a decade – becoming the “home” to all the usual people and critters that frequent abandoned buildings.  Since the building did not have any electrical service, reports following the fire suspect arson – although the investigation is still on going.  One story on the fire said that the “blaze likely ensures demolition of the historic building.”  Even before the fire, the outlook was bleak for this building – despite some rezoning done to try to encourage development.  The mayor told a Sun Herald reporter that studies done before the fire (by “architects and others”) did not find any “cost effective” uses for the property.  I hope I’m wrong, but I have a feeling that the Hotel Reed will be on our 2012 “Lost” list come December . . .

Early panoramic post card view of the White House Hotel in Biloxi

Staying on the coast – over in Biloxi, the Sun Herald reports that the White House Hotel is now on the city’s blighted list.  I know we’ve shared previous stories of the city creating and adding to this list.  The buildings on the list have been vacant since Katrina – and many have not any work done.  Biloxi’s goal in working with this list is, at a minimum, to get the exteriors of the building cleaned up / restored and hopefully the inside cleaned up some as well.  Ideally, the buildings need to be made habitable again.  Unfortunately, the list also allows for demolition of buildings.  The Mississippi Heritage Trust placed the White House on its very first 10 Most Endangered Places list in 1999, so this once-grand place has been struggling for a long time. Here’s hoping, as Tom Barnes did in a post a while back, that someone steps forward to help the White House bloom again.

The bad news out of Natchez over the holidays was the collapse of a building on Homochitto Street.  According to the reports in the Democrat, the building had been abandoned for a long time – and was inspected by city officials who looked at its stability.  At the time, they found it to be stable – and were shocked by the collapse.  In the follow up article, City Planner Bob Nix speculated that sometime after the inspection, looting of materials that were providing the needed stability could have occured and led to the building’s demise.  None of the reports mention the age or exact location of the building other than being on Homochitto Street – but I suspect it’s an older commercial building.  Perhaps some of our friends in Natchez can give us a little more insight on this one.

Up in Starkville, the local Historic Preservation Commission is talking about the National Register of Historic Places – specifically looking at a potential Downtown District.  The story I read was leading up to a meeting the week before Christmas of the HPC to educate property owners on what NRHP listing would mean – including talking about Tax Credits.  I’m glad that preservation efforts are moving forward in Starkville, but I hope that a more informed commissioner starts to provide information to the press because the one quoted heavily in the article presents the facts in a confusing way – and in some cases is plain wrong.  Hopefully, the commission and other local groups can provide property owners with clearer information and prevent unwarranted opposition to the NRHP listing.

Photo by Mississippi Heritage Trust, Retrieved January 2, 2012 from Mississippi Historic Resources Inventory (HRI) Database

Finally, a story out of Northwest Mississippi where we learned that Rust College in Holly Springs is now the owner of the 1858 William Henry Coxe House – more commonly known as “Airliewood” after negotiations with the Memphis couple who purchased and restored the building in 2002.  The property, located just a few blocks from campus, will be used for “as a guest facility, museum facility, and entertaining and community use,” according to Rust College President Dr. David Beckley.  Estimates for the value of the estate are close to $3 million.



Categories: Abandoned Mississippi, Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, Civil War, Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Holly Springs, Hotels, Natchez, News Roundups, Starkville

6 replies

  1. Very sad news about the Hotel Reed. While it may not have been the most handsome building, it was undoubtedly a structure which could have been reused. I’m often suspicious of architectural and engineering reports about historic buildings- especially when those buildings stand in the way of the potential for new development. This is not to say that redeveloping the Reed would not have been a huge challenge. Indeed, it’s sometimes even more important to preserve those structures which do not possess immediate “curb appeal.” I fear that J.R. Gordon may be correct about the ultimate fate of the Reed.

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  2. Here’s to hoping 2012 has more good news than bad!

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  3. Glad for the house that is saved, sad for the losses are near losses. Appreciate the story and your loving the field of preservation, always good to have people with heart getting involved in saving (or at least reporting on) our countries beautiful architecture. Happy 2012 from a fan in Arizona!

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  4. With all due respect to preservationists in Natchez (since they have done some good work in the past preserving various historic structures and do stellar research on architectural history – that they never release to the public for anyone else to read and learn from), they need to really get serious about preserving Natchez’s historic architecture or all they will have is a few mansions owned by the National Park Service and a bunch of vacant lots.

    The building on Homochitto Street is the second historic building that has collapsed into the street in the past year. This latest building at the corner of Homochitto St. and Dunleith St. near Duncan Ave. was not an architectural masterpiece, but it was from appearances (my thanks to Google Streetview and the Natchez Democrat photograph) a two-story, hipped-roof, early Twentieth Century commercial building that really anchored the surrounding area. The commercial building was directly next to a very interesting looking Victorian that contains nice, historic woodwork on the inset porch and which looks vacant and abandoned. Across the street from these historic buildings is a sparkly-new Jefferson Comprehensive Health Center, which attempts to hide its hideous suburban look by placing a nice large parking lot between itself and the intersection of Homochitto and Duncan. Diagonally across from the vacant Victorian and the collapsed commercial structure is Hope Farm, where the tourists pay $135 per night (“plus tax and $2 city occupancy fee”) to experience “its unforgettable treasures” in “historic” Natchez.

    In April 2010, a two-story, hipped-roof commercial building at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. St. and Franklin St. collapsed after the city and out-of-town absentee owners allowed the building to deteriorate. That building was antebellum, constructed between 1835 and 1850. Its demolition meant that the intersection of MLK Jr. and Franklin now has only one building left that was constructed to the streetline. The streetscape at that intersection has been denuded now to a vacant lot, a parking lot, an old gas station (which is historic, probably from the 1920s to 1940s, it just likely replaced something more urban and historic), and the one-story building that adjoins the sidewalk as part of the remnants of a streetscape. The city of Natchez even had to threaten the antebellum building’s owner to clean-up and demolish the antebellum building’s remains, partly due to safety concerns but mostly as Alderman Tony Fields stated, “We don’t want our guests to come and have to look at that, nor do the residents want to.”

    Of course, back in 2009, Old First Baptist Church in Natchez was demolished without too much complaint after years of vandalism from its owners and others. The First Baptist Church building was a much bigger landmark architecturally and historically than the commercial buildings that have been allowed to collapse since then; yet, even the demolition of such a resplendently columned structure elicited no increased preservation ethic in a city that has billed itself as historic for over a century, a city that touted its historic nature when Roosevelt was President – Theodore Roosevelt – not Franklin.

    Which building will collapse or be demolished next in Natchez? Will it be the Brumfield School Apartments, who’s owners abandoned the building, defaulting on utility bills then attempting to auction the leaking, trashed structure off for $400,000? How about the small commercial building next to the apartments, boarded-up, broken windows with missing metal roofing? Will it be more buildings on Martin Luther King Jr. near the collapsed and now-demolished building at the Franklin St. intersection? Those buildings are of similar construction, style, age, and deterioration. Will it be the vacant Victorian at Homochitto and Duncan; will that building collapse like its neighbor; will it be demolished as an “eyesore”; will it be arsoned by delinquents or vagrants? Or, will it be Arlington, burned-out, vandalized, and abandoned by an owner who could not care less about the property and a city competing with him for that title? Will the City of Natchez allow a National Historic Landmark to be demolished? After years of allowing a National Historic Landmark to be burned and looted, you better believe they will. Will Natchez preservationists allow a National Historic Landmark to be demolished? Will Mississippi preservationists allow a National Historic Landmark to be demolished? Questions…Questions…

    Vacant historic buildings collapsing into the streets because no one gives enough of a damn to save them, “historic” Natchez indeed. Hopefully, someday, I hope we can be as “historic” as Natchez.

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  5. Before anyone thinks that I am biased toward Natchez, let me discuss Holly Springs and Rust College and make multiple parts of the state angry at me before I jump off my soapbox.

    Rust College owns the former Mississippi Industrial College, which has been discussed on Preservation in Mississippi so many times that I cannot be bothered to recap the fact that an entire historic school campus has been allowed to rot into the ground and collapse into piles of wood and brick. Rust College has feigned financial inability to restore the Mississippi Industrial College or even perform basic upkeep on the structures. Now Rust College needs space for “a guest facility, museum facility, and entertaining and community use,” so they raised $750,000 to acquire a historic mansion a few blocks from campus instead of restoring the Mississippi Industrial College buildings that are right across the damn street from Rust College!

    What a load of f-ing shite!

    Let me repeat that!

    What a load of f-ing shite!

    I am angry! You should all be angry, as well!

    What a load of f-ing shite!

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  1. MissPres News Roundup 1-17-2012 « Preservation in Mississippi

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