At the October 17 meeting of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees, the trustees voted to consider the Meridian Police Department as a Mississippi Landmark. The City of Meridian has requested permission to demolish this outstanding modernist building, but has not announced any plans for the site. To my knowledge, the city has not considered any alternatives to demolition. This building could have a bright future as an office building, apartment complex or super cool hotel. Unless we ask the question of whether there is a way to repurpose the Meridian Police Department, how can we know that demolition is the right answer?
If you are from Meridian, please reach out to your elected officials and ask them to consider options other than demolition for the Meridian Police Department.
If you are from anywhere, and care about what happens to one of Mississippi’s finest examples of modernist architecture, let your voice be heard. Write to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and ask that the Board of Trustees designate the building as a Mississippi Landmark at its January 2015 meeting.
Letters can be addressed to:
Kane Ditto, President
Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Board of Trustees
P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205
Categories: Demolition/Abandonment, Meridian, Mississippi Landmarks, MS Dept. of Archives and History
This really angers me. Why on earthier must we be saddled with lobbying A&H when we should be concentrating all our attention on Meridian? How How may we lobby to replace this board? Who is responsible for staffing it?
Lulms has a good question—what is the stance of the board on this? Why is there any question? And if there are substantive questions, what are they? The building was designed by one of the best and most influential architects (we are lucky to still have) in Mississippi.
Yet again, the lack of a “flying preservation project team”, even more than the apathy and cluelessness of owners and local officials, endangers another landmark building. We need a way to swoop in and save buildings in extremis. There are too many examples, like Mississippi Industrial (still standing?) or the Corinth Machinery Building (gone now, there’s another oldest industrial building somewhere; it could have been saved from demolition for the price of the brick). A&H desperately needs the ability to put together developers, projects, and investors, to save buildings (using a subsidiary 501C3, or similar, to temporarily purchase and own endangered properties), especially those with obvious value and easy reuse scenarios. Mississippi is just not that big, and a connections strategy on the part of A&H could work very well here.
Should I note that none of these projects are in the Jackson area or on the coast?
Does the board have an email address, or is the USPS the only access?
It looks like the generic email to MDAH is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you address it to the Board, I assume someone will direct it there.
My understanding from people who’ve talked directly to a few board members is that they just don’t “get” the building, aren’t really into Modernism, and it’s not 50 years old.
The MDAH Board of Trustees has been self-perpetuating since its inception in 1902. It elects new members and the Senate votes on them, at which time, I believe they are on until they don’t want to be.
I have talked with many preservationist friends about the discouraging decisions and non-decisions of the Board of Trustees in recent years. Some say that MDAH has always been a political animal, others that the last six to seven years have been unusual and out of character. I fall on the latter side and trace it to the change in leadership in 2005/2006 between Elbert Hilliard, longtime director, and Gov. Winter, longtime board president to Hank Holmes as director and Kane Ditto as president. Some people believe these demolition permits are being given away as favors to get more funding for the Two Museums now under construction, but I seem to recall this going back further–to 2008 at least when dedicated residents of Clinton launched a smart and passionate campaign to save the Clinton H.S. gymnasium and were practically ignored at the MDAH board meeting–legs pulled right out from under them. Then of course, there was Ceres Plantation, Mendenhall, and several others, where the board just seemed intent on allowing demolition of historic buildings that were under their purview and could have been saved and renovated.
Then there’s other less-publicized board decisions such as happened this last Friday, that don’t involve demolition but still are anti-preservation. Last Friday, the board voted on a “compromise” to allow MSU to remove two of the three large neon signs that are character-defining features of the Kress Building in downtown Meridian (yes, this is also in Meridian!). When I heard that I couldn’t believe my ears–it doesn’t take an educated architectural historian to know those signs make the facades of that building. They also are allowing MSU to cover the “5 & 10c” parts of the terra cotta signs, reportedly because MSU is so self-concious that it feels people would make jokes about their “5 & 10c degrees.” Weird.
So in summary, I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes, but I do know what’s going on behind our backs and without much transparency, and if you are upset about it, you should talk to your legislator, since MDAH apparently does respond to elected officials, especially when they want to tear down buildings. Maybe those legislators who think MDAH should be about preservation, not cow-towing, should let MDAH know their thoughts.