“Officially” Summer starts later this week, but some preservation news stories are already heating up – luckily, I found some good news stories that I hope will balance this week’s roundup out nicely.
First, Meridian where there were two stories about a proposed Dollar General slated to go in a commercial area near two residential National Register Districts. The first was published before a “Town Hall” style meeting and the second was the followup. Reading both, best I can tell is that there had been a proposal before City Council to place a moratorium on commercial permits because of concern over the feared impact of the store on the property values in both the Poplar Springs and Mid-Town National Register Historic Districts. The mayor vetoed this moratorium. It sounds like the concerns are more over the zoning – but the paper said that where the Dollar General is slated to go has been zoned commercial for a long time. The Town Hall meeting was not set up to deal with the politics of the Dollar General issue. David Preziosi of the Mississippi Heritage Trust was there to talk about the economic benefits of being a National Register District and, possibly, how these two districts might benefit from becoming locally designated historic districts in Meridian. Perhaps as they explore local district status, they will work with the Dollar General to get a structure that is sympathetic to the character of the neighborhoods.
Another hot issue in Natchez where Arlington is in the news again. As MissPres reader Kathleen Jenkins pointed out in last week’s comments, an oil company has been seeking permission to drill on the grounds. Best I can tell from the two stories (here and here), the company had been exploring the site for oil – and the preliminary exploration found a dry hole. They wanted to keep searching, but both the Planning Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission denied the requests. The oil company appealed these decisions to the City (which is what Kathleen mentioned in her comment) and the City agreed with its commissions!
Before we can really close this one and call it a big win for preservation – the company is now taking their appeal to the courts. And of course, the National Historic Landmark house still sits abandoned.
A week after we shared the story about the bid to move the Spain House, there are still no clear answers in Tupelo. An idea to trim some of the costs from the bid – which is to have city crews do things like the tree and limb removal instead of the moving company – is being frowned on by the City Attorney who said that doing so would violate the state bid laws. The city would have to reject the bid entirely and put the project out to bid again. A grant from MDAH was given to help save the house – which has to be moved by October 1 or the deal the City has with the Baptist Church is voided and the church will be able to demolish the house.
Okay – on to some fun stuff now. The Sun Herald ran a story about a documentary on the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum which won a Regional Emmy. The film – “Dancing with Trees” – features the Biloxi museum, which was designed by Frank Gehry, as well as the Gehry and Ohr families. I have not seen this 39-minute film, but it is going on my list. The museum itself seems to be planning a screening in the fall. Maybe one or more of the local film festivals/societies in Mississippi will also consider including it on their schedule too.
A nice feature in the Hattiesburg American this week about the ongoing renovations to the Lamar County Courthouse in Purvis. I like that the county is not shy about the fact that this is a big project – with a big price tag – but continues to keep people in the loop on where they are in the process. The officials also (rightly) think that the process will be worth it when it gets to the end. This current story is especially fun because it tells readers some of the “clues” about what details had been in place but are now missing or hidden. I know I love finding clues like these and working out what they mean – and I will wager that those involved in the project enjoy them too and plan to use them to shape where they go moving forward.
It’s not completely clear from the Clarion-Ledger article, but it sounds as if Belhaven College in Jackson has decided to demolish part of its Fitzhugh Hall, retaining and renovating the columned section and building a larger addition to replace the demolished section.
Fitzhugh Hall, an iconic, 100-year-old structure that has held among many things a women’s dormitory, a swimming pool and a coffee shop, will be partly demolished starting Monday. Its crumbling walls are weaker than the memories of those who lived and studied there.
As you may recall, Belhaven announced the structural problems back in December, and closed the building due to shifting walls. There’s a photo gallery showing historic pictures and a rendering of the proposed construction.
Finally, over in Vicksburg a grand opening for the “long-awaited transportation museum” in the former Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot (also known as the Levee Street Depot) is planned for July 15. There is apparently a “soft” opening now – so if you want to get over there an take a look it sounds like you can. Hard to believe that a little over a year ago, this same building was the “icon” of the Mississippi River Flood reporting coming out of Vicksburg and now the museum is ready for visitors!
Categories: Biloxi, Cool Old Places, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Meridian, Mississippi Heritage Trust, Mississippi Landmarks, Modernism, Museums, Natchez, National Register, News Roundups, Preservation People/Events, Purvis, Renovation Projects, Tupelo, Vicksburg