You may recall a post from long ago called “Hinds County Armory Shamefully Neglected.” If you weren’t around then, this is a bit of what I said:
Those of you who have visited the Mississippi State Fair might have noticed an exotic brick building with gothic arches off to the side near High Street in Jackson. This is the old Hinds County Armory, built in 1927 and designed by Jackson architect Frank P. Gates, one of the founders of the Mississippi chapter of the AIA. The old armory has been vacant for 30 years. It’s owned by the Mississippi Fair Commission, whose imagination apparently extends only so far as wondering what little patch of grass should be paved over next. Why in the world can’t anyone in that organization see that this should be the crown jewel of the fairgrounds?
The armory received a $100,000 grant to fix the roof from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History back in 2002, but never used it because, as Commissioner Lester Spell indicated in an interview with Bert Case in 2010, that wouldn’t have covered the full renovation of the building. Unfortunately, Bert Case–who famously went mano-a-mano with Kirk Fordice in one of the all-time classic video clips of Mississippi politics–didn’t press Mr. Spell on why he couldn’t just start with the roof and then work toward getting the rest of the building done.
As the pictures in that November 2009 MissPres post indicated, the roof was in sad shape then, but the exterior walls seemed sound. Now that Spell has retired, I’ve been thinking about the armory again and wondering if the new commissioner, Cindy Hyde-Smith, will be more open to finding a new use for this great building.
Along that line, and remembering my recent coup getting the pictures of the First Christian Church roof, I decided to try to find a good vantage point to see the Armory’s roof. Since the armory lies below the bluff that runs along the eastern edge of downtown Jackson, I was able to get a sight line from the hill where the new civil rights museum will eventually go. Due to the armory roof’s low profile, I couldn’t get quite as good an angle as I got on First Christian.
Turn on the handy super duper zoom and you get a better view:
Still a little hard to see what’s going on though. Let’s walk a little to the right and this is what we see:
Hmmm, that doesn’t look good. Still having trouble getting your bearings? Here’s a little help finding the holes, and remember that this is a really big building and these holes appear to be taking up a big chunk of the roof area.
I have no idea what the interior looks like at this point, but remember that this is essentially a brick and concrete structure with a steel roof system, so I’m still hopeful that a little imagination and of course money would go a long way to getting the armory back into the daily life of the fairgrounds. Does MDAH still have the $100,000 from 2002? That’s ten years ago so probably not, but worth asking. At some point, maybe soon, maybe later, this building will pass the point of no return. How long until we get to that point, and which person wants to be the Commissioner of Agriculture who tears down this unique and historic building? Wouldn’t someone rather be a hero and fix it up?