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 . . .
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.
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