The Mississippi Heritage Trust partnered with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History June 27-28 to get the plans rolling for the future of the Charnley-Norwood House in Ocean Springs.
Experts from around the country, as well as the agencies listed as stakeholders for the house, exchanged ideas on how best to manage the property now that its post-Katrina restoration is near completion. In addition, the symposium allowed them to celebrate the meticulous restoration work of the building, according to Lolly Barnes, executive director of the Mississippi Heritage Trust.
The home on East Beach Drive was designed in 1890 (and rebuilt after a fire in 1897) by renowned architect Louis Sullivan of Chicago, the father of the skyscraper, and his young draftsman, Frank Lloyd Wright. This nationally significant property illustrates how these two men revolutionized American residential architecture by “inviting the outdoors to come indoors,” according to Ken P’Pool, MDAH deputy state historic preservation officer. The house contains the nexus of ideas that would reshape American residential architecture in the 20th century.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina heavily damaged the Charnley-Norwood home.
Emergency stabilization work was carried out on the house under the direction of MDAH, and then the interior was restored with the aid of funds from the Mississippi Hurricane Relief Grant for Historic Preservation. The ownership of the house changed hands from a private family to a public entity, thus there are now a number of groups with an interest in the property.
The stakeholders attending the Charnley-Norwood House Strategic Planning Symposium June 28 were the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Mississippi State University College of Architecture, Arts and Design; City of Ocean Springs; the National Park Service; Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust; Mississippi Heritage Trust; and MDAH. The symposium was at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts & Education in Ocean Springs.
The day before, the group had the opportunity to tour the Charnley-Norwood House, which was followed with a “Welcome to Ocean Springs” dinner at Fort Maurepas Park on Front Beach.
The four expert panel members were Donna Ann Harris, an expert on managing house museums, who acted as the primary consultant; Emily T. Cooperman with ARCH Historic Preservation Consulting; John G. Thorpe with John Garrett Thorpe and Associates Architects; and Kenneth C. Turino, manager of Community Engagement & Exhibitions, Historic New England.
“This was an exciting opportunity to bring together both state and local organizations who are interested in collaborating on the future of this nationally significant site,” P’Pool said. “We were very fortunate to tap the expertise of these highly respected authorities to advise us on viable opportunities for educational and heritage-tourism uses of the Charnley-Norwood House.”
After spending the morning visiting in round-table discussions, the expert panel members presented their recommendations at 4 p.m. in the auditorium at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center.
Though there were no concrete decisions made on how the house will be utilized and funded, it was clear Mississippi State University College of Architecture, Arts and Design is interested in its use, as well as the city of Ocean Springs.
P’Pool will receive the panel’s final written report within the next three weeks, Harris said.
“We are just at the beginning of our journey now,” she said. “We are trying to get this off the ground, and want to see some good partnerships formed to make it happen.”
From his years of experience in pulling together projects state-wide, P’Pool said the opening of the Charnley-Norwood House to the public won’t happen overnight.
“No one partner has the ability to make the project work by himself. It takes everybody pulling together and everybody picking out a little piece he can deal with – and pooling his resources and efforts – to be able to turn this into something really important for our state,” he said. “I am convinced that is what will happen with this property.”