Got some troubling news in this week’s round up – so I’m trying to balance it with the joy of being able to type it up while sitting outside enjoying the wonderful Spring weather (thank goodness for laptops and wireless internet connections!)
Here’s the news:
The City of Tupelo is questioning if the $175,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to move the Spain House is worth entering into a required 25 year maintenance agreement for the property. The article in the local paper says that the “municipal leaders are leery of the commitment, saying it poses an unknown financial risk to the city.” I’ve seen the grant applications for MDAH before, and the one that Tupelo received for the Spain House clearly notes that successful applicants would have to enter into this agreement. Why this seems to have escaped city leaders until now is beyond my comprehension.
The article does a good job summing up how we got to this point with the Spain House:
Tupelo signed a contract 18 months ago with Calvary Baptist Church, which owns the property where the house sits. Calvary wanted to demolish the aging structure, but it agreed to delay action while the Historic Preservation Commission sought funding and a new site for it.
The contract sets an April 1 deadline with an automatic six-month extension in the case a site and funding had been secured by that time. Since it has, the new deadline is Oct. 1.
The article also notes that a non-profit preservation group might be formed soon to take over the responsibilities of the Spain House – including getting it moved and raising funds for its restoration. I hope there is a way that this new group can take on the existing MDAH grant award instead of the City. If not, then I really worry about the fate of the Spain House.
I hate to pick on Tupelo, but another story I was sad to see this week was that the City rejected a proposal to establish “Neighborhood Conservation Districts” in the community. The Historic Preservation Commission had proposed these as a way to offer added protection to historic structures and included a mandatory 90-day wait before a permit for demolition in those areas could be issued by the city. According to the paper, the proposal from the HPC was unanimously supported by the city’s Planning Committee, but some council members worry that the HPC would “use the 90-day period to drum up opposition to all demolitions.” Although “rejected” by council, the proposal is back in the hands of the HPC for revisions, so there is still a little hope that we will see established districts in Tupelo in the near future.
Same region, but shifting to the Aberdeen area where the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department arrested two men for violating violating the Mississippi Antiquities Act. The story says that the two men are “accused of digging into an Indian mound located next to the Canal Section Wildlife Management area near the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.” It is an ongoing investigation – and the paper reports that federal authorities are also involved. Even without the Antiquities Act, how anyone could think it’s okay to dig into an Indian mound (esp. without any kind of permission) is beyond me.
The Fondren Strip in Jackson is in the news again. Two stories in the Jackson Free Press (here and here) discuss the potential for Jason Watkins to purchase and turn the 1939 Pix-Capri back into a working movie theater. As a Mississippi Landmark, work on the Pix-Capri will have to be approved by MDAH. As you may recall, early plans for the proposed development called Whitney Place included demolishing the Strip, which is the oldest part of the commercial district in Fondren. But according to these articles, the plans have changed after the Save the Fondren Strip group started a petition:
After receiving the petition, Watkins Development announced they were rethinking their plans for Whitney Place. Jason Watkins told the Jackson Free Press Thursday that they no longer plan to demolish the strip, but plan to build Whitney Place behind and around it.
This is all still in the works, it sounds like, so we’ll continue to keep an eye on how this develops.
In Starkville, the news is that the Preservation Commission is reviewing a draft of preservation guidelines and the Certificate of Appropriateness process for their historic districts. The Commission is working with David Preziosi of the Mississippi Heritage Trust on the guidelines. It sounds like the commission is trying to make sure that the guidelines and the CoA process are both very clear before they go about establishing any local districts. Hopefully their hard work now will make establishing local districts a lot easier since a lot of the questions property owners might have about what local district designation means for them will be clearly outlined.
Most of us who travel Highway 49 south of Yazoo City have watched the long sad decline of the old Bentonia High School campus. The main building’s long roof gave way a few years ago and according to the Yazoo Herald, demolition began last week. The main building was built in 1929, the year that Yazoo County became the first county in the state to “super-consolidate” its white schools, taking the smaller campuses and consolidating them into Bentonia, Benton, Satartia, Holly Bluff, and Eden. All these campuses were abandoned when everyone was consolidated into Yazoo City in the 1990s. After this demolition, only Benton’s campus remains, and I suppose it doesn’t have long for this world either.
Down in Pascagoula, City Council approved a dozen or so interpretive historic markers to go up around town. From the article, it sounds like the local historical society is covering the costs of the markers themselves, but have asked the City to install them. Right now, the group has enough money for five markers, but hope to continue raising funds for up to three times as many. No word on when the signs will start going up.
Finally, a couple of Pilgrimage stories this week. If you are interested in following the regular stories the Democrat runs during Natchez Pilgrimage, here’s the latest which features the hostesses at Green Leaves. And the story on the Coast is that the Gulf Coast Pilgrimage started this weekend and runs through April 1.