Now that so many local newspapers have moved to an online subscription system, we rely on readers from around the state who subscribe to the print editions to let us know of important preservation issues in their neck of the woods. Last week, in case you missed it, Vicksburger Charles Bell sent us this clipping from the Vicksburg Post, about Ceres Plantation:
Louisiana company wins bid to raze house at Ceres
Will Branch Antique Lumber, of Bogalusa, La., is Warren County’s choice to take down the Ceres Plantation House, which officials said Monday could begin within three weeks.
On Monday, the Board of Supervisors OK’d the company’s low bid to demolish the house, two barns and fences on the 40-acre property at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex. Port commissioners recommended the firm after its $29,700 offer was lowest of 10 companies who sent in bids.
The company specializes in taking structures apart slowly, sometimes one brick at a time. In 2009, the company took down the former Speed Street School after it was condemned by the city, and the structure’s private owner chose Branch for the job.
Branch said “the bricks to the fence” will be recycled for use in private homes with which his company deals.
. . .
Ridding the 1,300-acre park of the house has been a goal of port officials since the last private tenant moved out in 2009. A plant nursery had operated there from 1998 to 2007.
Vicksburg has a history of spinning demolition of historic buildings as recycling, a very strange view of history and place for a city and county that tries to tout itself as a heritage tourist attraction. Different owners did the same thing with Speed Street School–one of the last few 19th century schools in the state–and you can read my response to that in “Just to Clarify, Demolition ≠ Preservation.” I was surprised to see the Post, which has consistently published the Port Commission’s spin about Ceres as truth, slip up and tell the real truth when they stated, “ridding the 1,300-acre park of the house has been a goal of port officials . . .”
I also notice that while the barns–icons of the property to drivers on the interstate–have never (to my recollection) been part of the discussion before, they are now coming down too. This even though at least as recently as 2010 they were being rented out for hay storage and thus earning a little money for the Commission. The Commission has noted no plans for the soon-to-be-vacant property, except pipe dreams about getting a bigger interstate exit put in–pipe dreams that MDOT does not appear to share.
Ceres was listed on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Endangered Properties List last year, leading to a brief period of hope for the property. But to my mind the deal was sealed when, on only the barest of pretexts, MDAH bowed to political pressure by refusing to step in to save the house in 2010. Back then we noted that Ceres Industrial Park isn’t exactly bursting at the seams, with about half its built properties vacant and lots of farmland rounding out the supposed industrial zone. I don’t believe anything has changed since then, but the Port Commission clearly saw its opportunity and is taking it. I would say “Shame on them” but I don’t think they’re really capable of shame, even when it involves destroying a historic property because their tired failed recipe for economic development (a recipe that taxpayers continue to get the bill for) demands it.
- William A. Stanton on Ceres Plantation
- Ceres Plantation Update
- News Roundup 8-23-2010
- News Roundup 10-18-2010
- Warren County moves to demolish listed historic house (Alan Huffman’s blog)