A few weekends back I made a day trip to Hattiesburg to check out the progress made on the adaptive reuse projects of the Carter and Ross buildings. I had been wanting to check these two projects out in person since I first mentioned them in the post “Big Doings in the Hub City”. Since that post back in November I saw that some pre-restoration photos of the buildings have been uploaded to the MDAH HRI database. I think these will give us a nice baseline to see how much progress has been made.
So fast forward to January and here is what I saw….
The America building was the first of the two I came upon and it turned out to look the most complete of the two projects. What I remember about this structure was that a previous renovation had not been seen to completion. During this work the building received the old “new” vinyl windows you see now. It might just be the lighting difference between my photos and the MDAH HRI photos but the exterior of the America building might have been painted. An “annex” space on the south side of the building was still gutted at the time of my visit, but it looked like a lot of interior work had been completed on the ground floor of the building proper.
Scaffolding was up on two sides of the Carter building. Looking back at the MDAH photos it looks like some brick work repair has been completed. The historic windows have been removed and some new clad windows had been installed. I am trying to hope for the best but I fear that the historic windows will not be restored. Now I didn’t have the chance to inspect each of the original windows to determine the condition but it’s sad to see an opportunity for restoration lost. Often the cost of a custom-made clad window is near equal or some times more than the cost of a sash restoration AND an interior storm (which can provide energy efficiency as well as buffer any ambient noise that was discussed earlier as a possible concern). I doubt that these clad windows were made in Hattiesburg so that is money and jobs that left not only Hattiesburg but probably Mississippi. If the windows would have been restored on site or near by, that’s money and jobs that would have stayed local. Now the historic windows are possibly filling up a land fill somewhere, not to mention the energy and off-gassing that occurred making the clad windows and having them delivered from who knows where. Thank you for your patience, I will now recycle my soap box.
On a positive note I was interested to see that a small Stripped Classical style building was being renovated as part of the Carter building. The Hub City National Register Historic District nomination Boundary Increase No. 2 calls this little structure the ‘O’Ferrall building. The MDAH HRI database says that this building was first built about 1905 but was remodeled in 1952. I don’t know what the building was built as, but a savings and loan bank probably occupied the structure when it was remodeled because the neat metal eagle holds a banner that says “Insured Savings”. While the building might not be anything to write home about, it’s nice to see a background building from this era getting some attention and hopefully it will be around for a long time.
At the time of my visit the cornices were not installed yet on either building but I am still holding out hope that they won’t be removed from the scope of the project. I really liked the construction fences. These types of fences probably get used often in urban settings, so obviously they are a rare sight on projects in Mississippi. The graphics, colors and fonts on the fences are very eye-catching and visually appealing. I hope to get back to Hattiesburg soon to take some more photos to share in a future update. While a few opportunities might have been missed all in all I think these projects are great and Hattiesburg has a blessing with the rebirth of these beautiful buildings.