MissPres News Roundup 12-1-2014

MissPres may have taken a week off for Thanksgiving, but preservation in Mississippi still made the news.


Mississippi State Senate chamber (photo July 2012, Jennifer Baughn, MDAH). Showing back wall that was inundated with water, damaging the scagliola (art marble) in the lower wall.

Mississippi State Senate chamber (photo July 2012, Jennifer Baughn, MDAH). Showing back wall that was inundated with water, damaging the scagliola (art marble) in the lower wall.

First the bad news. Remember that long day of pouring rain two Sundays ago, Nov. 16? I remember it because it put the kabosh on my weekend house project plans, but more importantly, the rain came in the middle of the New Capitol renovation project and hit at a critical time when the roof over the Senate was in the middle of construction. Rain poured down the walls of the Senate, damaging the plaster and the scagliola, and even made it down to the first floor. According to the Clarion-Ledger’s “Capitol Leak Floods the Senate“:

Water from Sunday’s downpour pooled in the attic space of the east-side gallery at the Capitol and atop stone soffit above the colonnade. It ran down the east wall of the Senate, soaking most of the third-floor chamber, and into part of Committee Room 216, the former Supreme Court Chambers, on the second floor.

Moisture saturated masonry walls and ceiling plaster, scagliola (man-made marble), wood windows, window blinds and carpet.

The Senate chamber will be sealed off for the next two to three weeks, as workers blow heated air through the chamber and through walls and ceilings. The state will have architects expert in historic renovation and preservation overseeing the work on the 111-year-old building.

A longer follow-up article in Sunday’s Nov. 30 Clarion-Ledger indicates Johnson Construction Company, the contractor on this multi-million-dollar project will be paying for the damage from this “mishap.”

Recent reports from MDAH staff indicate the staining on the scagliola walls is the biggest long-term concern, and we won’t know until the walls have dried how permanent the staining will be.


toll plaza bridge in backgroundThe Natchez Democrat reports that “Work on historic tollbooth colonnade to begin soon.”

The City of Natchez awarded bids to start contract the work [sic], which City Engineer David Gardner said will include replacing column exteriors and interior damaged wood, painting and cleaning of bricks and replacing exterior and interior of architrave wood.

Thompson Tree and Spraying Service–part of Dick Thompson’s Live Oak nursery and construction business–was awarded the contract [$430,000]. . . .

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is paying $200,000 for the renovations, while the Mississippi [Development] Authority will come up with $300,000 and the City of Natchez will come up with the rest.

As you may recall from Suzassippi’s post about the colonnade, it was completed as a toll plaza in 1940 by the PWA in conjunction with the opening of the Mississippi River bridge.


"Abandoned Mansion in Natchez" by C-Ali (Flickr)

“Abandoned Mansion in Natchez” by C-Ali (Flickr)

Across town from the toll plaza, poor old Arlington, bless its National Historic Landmark heart, may or may not be getting some much needed attention, according to “Arlington owner beginning repairs on historic house,” also in the Democrat. After that hopeful article title, I was disappointed to read further down that owner Thomas Vaughan (and the municipal judge overseeing the work) seems to be concentrating mostly on keeping the grass cut and fixing the fence.

Municipal Court Judge Pro Tem Tony Heidelberg said Vaughan is making efforts to work on the estate following a series of court proceedings that nearly cost the homeowner thousands of dollars.

. . . .

“The main thing is taking down the graffiti and start to make the house externally look like a grand home,” Heidelberg said,

. . . .

“We are working with (Vaughan) to keep things moving,” Heidelberg said. “At this point, he’s not in violation or contempt of any city ordinance. He’s doing a good job with the grass.”

Did I mention this house is a National Historic Landmark, “officially recognized by the United States government for its national-level architectural significance”? The suburban estate was also listed on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Endangered Places list in 2009.

In case you’ve only just heard about this story, you can read the whole sordid tale, and it’s a doozy, Natchez-worthy tale, in these previous MissPres posts:


Over in Vicksburg, the county continues its 10-year effort to demolish two nineteenth-century houses on Adams Street behind the county courthouse for a parking lot, something the City has so far rejected. The Clarion-Ledger carried an article from the Vicksburg Post, “Archives and History suggests Warren County keep buildings“:

A letter from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History received by Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. urged the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to uphold the Board of Architectural Review’s Oct. 14 decision that denied the county’s request to raze the buildings. An appeal hearing on the decision will be Monday.

“As you know, these two houses are located within both the Grove Street-Jackson Street National Register District and Vicksburg’s local Historic District,” wrote Barry White, a local government coordinator for MDAH.

“I am writing to respectfully request that the Vicksburg Board of (Mayor and) Aldermen uphold the Architectural Review Board’s denial of a certificate of appropriateness for demolition of the structures.”

From the article, it seems Mayor Flagg wants the county to sell the buildings instead of demolishing them, but the county supervisors have directed the county administrator, John Smith, to demolish them.


On its face, this story on WLBT, “Chancery court upholds Secretary of State’s ruling against Jackson developer” doesn’t seem to have anything to do with preservation, but then you read this paragraph:

The court upheld the Secretary of State’s ruling that Watkins took bond money from a mall project and diverted it to a project to build a new police station in Meridian.

You may recall that the “old” Meridian Police Station (1977) is now endangered because it was abandoned for this “new” one, which is a remodelled shopping center. Bad mojo all around on this project.


If you’re interested in historical archaeology, you may want to check on the Preserve Marshall County and Holly Spring’s Facebook page for running updates on an Ole Miss field school dig around the Hugh Craft House’s kitchen and slave quarters. Insights gathered in this dig will help in the next Behind the Big House tour.


And finally, look at these Before and After photos of work done by volunteers at Rodney Presbyterian Church this weekend–great work y’all!


Categories: Capitols Old & New, Churches, Demolition/Abandonment, Holly Springs, Jackson, Natchez, Rodney, Vicksburg


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