Much adoing out in the Mississippi preservation world in the last two weeks. Let’s get started.
Former Mississippi First Lady Carroll Waller died Tuesday, October 28, in Jackson. Mrs. Waller was instrumental in the last major renovation of the Governor’s Mansion and co-authored the detailed and helpful A History of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion with David G. Sansing (1977). In her introduction, Mrs. Waller recalled,
When I began collecting information to aid in the restoration of the Mississippi governor’s mansion, I was surprised to learn that a full-length history of our antebellum mansion had never been written. As a native Mississippian with an interest in the state’s past as well as its future, my personal thoughts turned toward some means of preserving and publishing the history of this building which has been used as the official residence of Mississippi governors since 1842.
Mrs. Waller did her homework too, interviewing former governors and first ladies, as well as secretaries, hostesses, architects, security guards, and even inmates who had worked at the mansion, and she also visited William Nichols’ University of Alabama president’s home and the Gorgas House in Tuscaloosa.
Sansing’s comment upon her death was, “Whenever you pass the Governor’s Mansion, remember that without Bill Waller and his lovely wide, Carroll, there might be a hotel on that historic site.” Here’s thanking this preservationist for saving this lovely historic building.
Speaking of state-owned historic buildings, an article in Jackson’s Northside Sun had this not-great headline: “Manship House: Museum closed several years more than estimated for repairs; additional work needed.” The 1857 Gothic Revival house has been a museum operated by the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History since 1982. Closed in the summer of 2010 for major foundation repairs to correct areas that were 13 inches off level due to shifting Yazoo Clay, the house has never reopened even though the repairs were completed in late 2013. According to the article,
When the foundation work was completed, MDAH discovered that there was significant damage inside the house as well.
“The interior walls are plaster, and because it’s so brittle, it doesn’t react well to movement, so the cracks have to be repaired,” [Marilyn] Jones said.
The wallpaper presents another challenge. “Mr. (Charles) Manship was a merchant craftsman who had a paint and wallpaper business. The paper in the house is a reproduction of what he carried in the shop,” Jones said.
Interior repairs–which shouldn’t have come as a surprise to MDAH–are estimated at $300,000, but MDAH is still “working with the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) to secure funding for the work.” No word on when this museum might re-open, but thanks to Northside Sun, it’s now on our radar.
A parable from the Gospel of Luke in the old King James version comes to mind: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”
Two articles deal with possible impending demolitions in Jackson and Meridian. According to the Mississippi Business Journal’s article “Close to Collapse: Engineers warn of dangerous structural deficiencies of Farish buildings“:
Buildings on the 300 block of downtown Jackson’s North Farish Street could soon be demolished if the Jackson Redevelopment Authority decides not to spend money to make them structurally safe.
Engineers who spent some of July and August inspecting the crumbling row of former stores, eateries and nightclubs estimate repairs costing nearly $200,000 must be spent to keep them from collapsing.
Jackson’s Historic Preservation Commission would have to approve any demolitions in the multi-block district that until the late 1970s was a cultural and shopping destination for Jackson’s African-American population. Some Jackson Redevelopment Authority board members are concerned that tearing down too many of the structures could jeopardize the district’s designation as a National Historic District.
One of the buildings is the old Palace Auditorium, which I believe is also the building that housed Trumpet Records, which we’ve mentioned before here on MissPres. As for the concern about too many demolitions putting the National Register listing at risk, I think it’s a valid concern and I’m glad someone is thinking about it. As with so many aspects of the multi-million dollar revitalization project on Farish Street, there’s so much that’s already gone wrong, I don’t really know how to move forward. Former developer David Watkins claims he has invested $4.5 million in the project, but no one who has walked down Farish Street in the last five years can see any evidence of that amount of money anywhere, and if that money had been put into actual structural work, these buildings wouldn’t be so endangered.
If someone says “demolition,” Meridian officials say “yes, please,” so it’s no surprise to see yet another article from the Queen City, this one titled “County moving on downtown property,” and indicating that Lauderdale County’s Board of Supervisors has bought a $130,000 building downtown at 1917 Sixth Street (built in 1947 but listed as non-contributing in the Meridian Downtown Historic District) so that they can move out of the Ulmer Building, built in 1918 and listed as contributing in the district and a designated Mississippi Landmark since 1999.
“We’re going to put the maintenance crew in there because that building is falling down. As things become available and as space is needed, we can tear it down, we can move stuff into it,” [Josh] Todd said. “That’s all for future expansion. We’re trying to think ahead.”
Hmm, planning ahead used to mean maintaining your buildings so they wouldn’t get into such bad shape.
To end on a lighter note, congratulations are in order to the projects and firms recognized in the Mississippi AIA’s recent design awards, especially a few preservation projects we’ve highlighted here over the years. Jackson’s WFT Architects received citations for their rehabilitation projects at the Medgar Evers House in Jackson and the John W. Biddie Mansion at Tougaloo College. Eupora’s Belinda Stewart Architects received a citation for the Muddy Waters addition to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, housed in the old railroad depot. And Hattiesburg’s Albert & Associates received an Honor Award for the impressive Charnley-Norwood House restoration in Ocean Springs.