Good Morning MissPres community and a Happy New Year to everyone on our first News Roundup of 2014. Some of you may remember that I used to do the News Roundups a few years ago. I am kicking off the New Year by doing this roundup as a favor to Malvaney. This News Roundup will cover much of December’s preservation news.
And here is the news.
The SunHerald in Gulfport concluded the year by reporting on the deaths of two of the Gulf Coast’s noted public servants “Guice, Stiglet among South Mississippi’s most notable deaths in 2013.” Julia Guice, Biloxi’s former city historic preservation officer, died Aug. 5; she was 85. When she served as the city’s historic preservation officer, she helped in the restoration of several Biloxi landmarks, including the Tullis-Toledano Manor, Magnolia Hotel, and Creole Cottage. Guice also worked on the original edition of the invaluable book The Buildings of Biloxi: An Architectural Survey, as well as co-authoring When Biloxi was the Seafood Capital of the World. In Biloxi, Guice is most noted for her role as Biloxi’s civil defense director during Hurricane Camille. Along with her husband Wade, who was director of the Harrison County Civil Defense (now the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency), Guice warned coastal residents of Camille’s destructive power and urged them to evacuate. The couple is credited with persuading over 50,000 residents to evacuate before the storm hit. Guice remained a Biloxi resident until her death, with her historic house on Seal Avenue repaired after damage from Hurricane Katrina.
The Journal of South Mississippi Business profiled the work Moss Point Main Street is doing to revitalize their downtown “Moss Point Main Street polishing up the riverfront jewel.” Although Moss Point is often in preservation news regarding their endangered Moss Point Central Fire Station, it is always nice to hear good news of people trying to constructively revitalize a historic downtown.
The Mississippi Press reports that progress is being made on reopening the LaPointe-Krebs House, better known as the Old Spanish Fort despite the house being neither a fort nor of Spanish origin (LaPointe was French, Krebs was German), “Sampling History: Anthropologist, others work toward 2014 opening of La Pointe Krebs museum.” Despite being the oldest building in Mississippi, the house has been deteriorating since it suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina. Chronic financial difficulties have compounded the issue, with the house nearly entirely relying on donations for its preservation. As reported on December 9 here on Preservation in Mississippi, “MDAH Awards Community Heritage Preservation Grants,” the MDAH recently allocated $266,140 “for stabilization and restoration of the building envelope.” The Mississippi Press also reported on the MDAH Community Heritage Preservation Grant program in December, “Pascagoula’s LaPointe Krebs House, Gautier Colored School awarded Community Heritage Grants.”
The Enterprise-Journal reported on how the other half lives in regards to the MDAH Community Heritage Preservation Grant, “Grant rejected for courthouse renovation” (although the Enterprise Journal originally reported the story, their reporting is hidden behind a paywall, so the Sun Herald’s coverage will have to do). Pike County supervisors are disappointed that their application for funds was denied. Pike County applied for $374,536 to restore the old Pike County Courthouse in Holmesville. The article is referring to the Old Pike County Chancery Clerk’s Office, commonly referred to as the old Pike County Courthouse, which was constructed in 1848 and served as courthouse/chancery clerk’s office until the county seat was relocated to Magnolia in 1876 (although referred to as the old courthouse, the building’s small size indicates that it was likely not the courthouse). At least Pike County’s supervisors seem to possess a rare, seldom seen gift in Mississippi politicians: common sense “‘At this point we need to scale back, make sure we get the basic necessities fixed — stop leaks, get the air conditioner fixed,’ said Supervisor Chuck Lambert. County administrator Andrew Alford suggested the board continue applying for the grant when it becomes available again.” (Warning! Sarcasm ahead) Imagine a glorious, brave new world where practical things might be advocated by public servants, like fixing leaks and air conditioners and doing small things to maintain historic buildings while at the same time actively seeking the resources to restore historic buildings. It’ll never catch on, I tell ya; it’s too crazy an idea! Hopefully, Pike County will receive funds in the future to restore such an important, early institutional building (and that is not sarcasm).
Other newspapers covered the awarding of MDAH Community Heritage Preservation Grants, each illustrating local opinion on the program. Though as can be expected, anytime money is awarded to projects in a community, it is always positively covered by the local media. Holly Springs’s The South Reporter’s “Museum Report” is a regular feature in the society section. The December 19 edition is something I could not help but point out, since it references Preservation in Mississippi. Which is why you are currently reading a Preservation in Mississippi post that references a newspaper article that references a Preservation in Mississippi post that references a news release. It is an M. C. Escher of preservation news posting. Also, the Natchez Democrat gives some extra details on the grants issued for Natchez, “Help set for Historic Natchez Foundation, Auburn.”
The Hattiesburg American reported on December 14 that the University of Southern Mississippi has had a setback in their repair efforts to the Ogletree House, “Ogletree House fix hits snag.” One of the most historic structures on the USM campus, the Ogletree House was severely damaged by the February 10 tornado. Southern Insurance Company, the USM Alumni Association’s insurer, claims that it owes no money towards the repair of the Ogletree House since the house is USM property, not Alumni Association property. USM has a different insurance company, Affiliated FM Insurance, which claims it owes no money towards the house’s repair. As with all matters insurance policy, it is a convoluted mess. USM plans call for the structure’s repair by June 2014, and Alumni Association Executive Director Jerry DeFatta believes that the University can maintain that schedule, even with the financial setback.
McComb’s Enterprise-Journal reported that a group is renovating the Palace Theater, “Owners intend to bring McComb theater back to life” (although the Enterprise Journal originally reported the story, again, their reporting is hidden behind a paywall, so the Hattieburg American’s coverage will have to do). The Palace Theater was originally constructed as a store in 1889 before being remodeled into a theater by the Solomon brothers in 1924. Judging by the façade remnants and older photographs, the theater was remodeled again in the 1940s into a more Art Moderne structure, since Vitrolite was an uncommon material in 1920s Mississippi movie theaters. The theater remained open until the 1970s. At some point after 2006 (indicated by these photographs), the marquee, which still retained its original neon, was removed and scrapped, likely during the scrap boom of a few years ago. Also, nearly all the Vitrolite on the façade has had the indignity of being broken or removed entirely, leaving hockey puck-sized globs of adhesive where gleaming sea foam green and black panels should be. The article mentions that the group renovating the theater lacks deep pockets, but they have been able to locate the original glass front doors and replace the deteriorated roof. If they can grow some deeper pockets, it would be worth their money to hire the Vitrolite Specialist to restore their façade. I have seen the great work he did restoring the Princess Theater in Decatur, Alabama.
McComb’s other two articles of preservation news come to us from The Clarion-Ledger, “Historic McColgan Hotel snapped up by young investors.” The restoration efforts for the Palace Theater are already beginning to have an effect on downtown McComb as another separate, yet equally important group of young investors has purchased the McColgan Hotel. The McColgan Hotel was constructed in 1889 and despite reconstruction after a 1904 fire has occupied the corner of Main and Front Streets for 125 years. Tenants remain in the first floor storefront, but the upstairs hotel area has been abandoned for many years, retaining much of its original historic fabric in the process. Although the new ownership group has not disclosed any concrete plans for the McColgan Hotel, they “want to keep the building as original as possible,” and in this age of gut renovations and vinyl windows, that is a great commitment to hear.
The other Clarion-Ledger article, “Revitalization unfolding in McComb,” gives an overview of the third historic preservation effort currently underway in downtown McComb – the restoration of the West Harlan Building. That building was constructed in 1909 as an automotive assembly plant and showroom. The West Harlan Building, a much simpler project than the Palace Theater and McColgan Hotel, is to be utilized for office space, with the restored first floor storefronts leased by various professionals. It is promising that within a short span of time so many preservationists have devoted their time, energy, and money to revitalizing McComb’s downtown.
The Natchez Democrat has reported on a few preservation-related news items recently. First, demolitions began at the beginning of December at the Fort Rosalie site, “Demolition to begin for Fort Rosalie site.” According to that article, eight structures and two concrete slabs were scheduled to be removed. My concern, noted in a comment last week, is that 512 S. Canal Street (switch from Road to Bird’s Eye view and zoom in a few times to get a nice look at the house, it is the white one with dormers, slightly set back from the road), on the Fort Rosalie site, is a historic structure, a nice Queen Anne house listed in the MDAH Historic Resources Inventory. The National Park Service has been very vague on their plans for Fort Rosalie but there was previously talk of relocating some of the structures located on the site. Of all the structures to relocate and preserve, 512 S. Canal Street would be the one most historically and architecturally worthy.
The Natchez-Vidalia Bridge tollbooth colonnade, also known as Natchez Toll Plaza for Mississippi River Bridge and profiled previously on Preservation in Mississippi in the posts “Mississippi Landmarks 2012,” “Dedicated to the People: Natchez-Vidalia Bridge,” and “Mississippi by Air: Natchez-Vidalia Bridge,” is in the beginning stages of a renovation. On December 30, the Natchez Democrat reported, “City in planning stages for renovation of historic colonnade,” that preliminary planning permission for the project has been granted by the MDAH, and engineers are currently working on plans. According to Natchez City Engineer David Gardner, the wood that comprises the columns is rotted and will be replaced, with additional repair work undertaken as needed. The project, which should begin in six months, is being funded by grants from the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
The Natchez Historic Preservation Commission tabled approval of the Bridge of Sighs pedestrian bridge project during their December 18 meeting. The article “Commission requests more details for bridge project” states that the commission felt that more details were needed in the renderings in order to make sure that bridge trusses, handrails, and other features are compatible with the surrounding area. The issue will be taken up again at the January 8 commission meeting.
There is actually good news out of Meridian, of a sort. The Meridian Star reports that downtown Meridian is getting development that does not involve demolishing historic buildings, “Downtown welcoming new development.” The Old Citizens Bank Building at 2212-2214 Fourth Street is being redeveloped into condominiums. I say redeveloped because it is not a restoration, even renovation might be a stretch, as Graham Behringer is redeveloping the second story into two “New Orleans warehouse style condo[s]” with a “significant amount of demolition to the property.” I am not entirely sure what a “New Orleans warehouse style condo” looks like, but I am sure that the upper floor of any historic bank building does not resemble a warehouse in any fashion. The original façade will be preserved according to Behringer, and he has removed the horrible covering on the first floor, exposing the stone and wood of the original storefronts. Unfortunately, the original windows were long ago replaced with inappropriate metal windows. Hopefully, the developer will replace those windows with something other than fake mullioned vinyl sash windows. Later in the article (and I know Malvaney will jump for joy and shout with glee at this news), the Star mentions that a major fundraising campaign is now under way to raise $44 million ($44,000,000.00 makes it seem like so much more money) to construct the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center at the intersection of 22nd Avenue and Front Street. I wonder how much of that will be spent on vacant, grassy lot maintenance. Oh, and for everyone around Malvaney, make sure that those jumps for joy and shouts with glee do not turn into running with delirious rage and screams of anger.
The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reports on the Mississippi Delta as part of its regional coverage. Unfortunately, The Commercial Appeal is a subscription, paywall site, removing a great source for Mississippi preservation news. Thankfully, The Clarion-Ledger has republished a Commercial Appeal article on the renovation of the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner and racial reconciliation in recent years over the Emmett Till case, “Town of Sumner faces tragic legacy of Emmett Till case.” Belinda Stewart Architects are overseeing the major renovation to the courthouse, which seeks to return the building to the condition it was in during the 1955 Emmett Till trial and is funded largely by $1.8 million in Federal grants. Although the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner (an essential labeling since Tallahatchie County also has a courthouse in Charleston) is a nice Romanesque courthouse designed by noted Mississippi architect William S. Hull (twice designed by him, once in 1902, the second time in 1909 after a fire), the courthouse is most infamous as the site were an all-white jury acquitted Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam in the brutal murder of Emmett Till. The article focuses on how Sumner citizens, black and white, are trying to move beyond that dark chapter. The article is lacking in details on what work is being done to the courthouse. The only photograph provided by The Clarion-Ledger shows the old courtroom without a finished ceiling and some wall sections gutted to the studs, which is troubling. However, Belinda Stewart, a regular commenter on Preservation in Mississippi, does the highest quality historic restoration work, so whatever has been done is likely only necessary to undo inappropriate alterations. It would be helpful if she could provide more information as to the details of the project, either on the project page on her website or in a comment here on Preservation in Mississippi.
The Clarion-Ledger reported on December 31 that the Vicksburg National Military Park is hosting an open house on January 27 so that the public can make recommendations and comments for a new park management plan, “Vicksburg National Military Park to get input on future.” The management plan must be in place by 2016 and is a requirement for all national parks.
Finally, the New Capitol’s exposed light bulbs are getting an upgrade to energy efficient bulbs, according to The Clarion-Ledger, “Mississippi Capitol switching to more energy-efficient bulbs.” As of January 1, 2014, American manufacturers no longer produce the incandescent bulbs that have graced the building since its spectacular opening in 1903, so those who maintain the building have had to find another option. The new energy-efficient bulbs will not be the standard compact fluorescent lamps ( or “ugly spiralling bulbs” in Malvaney’s words) that we’ve become familiar with, but will be globe-shaped and look almost identical to the old bulbs. The article does not state whether the lighting produced by the new bulbs will be identical to the old bulbs. But at the same time, the new bulbs will last six years instead of having the four month lifespan of the old incandescent bulbs. The article also notes that a major renovation of the dome, the first in over thirty years, is set to begin in 2014.
And that was the news.
Categories: Biloxi, Courthouses, Gulf Coast, Hattiesburg, Historic Preservation, Holly Springs, Hotels, Jackson, McComb, Meridian, Moss Point, Natchez, National Park Service, News Roundups, Pascagoula, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Preservation People/Events, Theaters, Universities/Colleges, Vicksburg