Our President’s Day special edition roundup covers the state from Natchez to Oxford, from Greenwood to Waveland, cheap standardized homes to expensive standardized homes.
First, if you don’t read anything else in this post, click on this link to an article in Garden & Gun magazine titled “Destination Oxford, Mississippi.” Written by Lisa Neumann Howorth, it makes the case that Oxford has sold its soul and has lost its sense of place through uncontrolled development. You may agree or you may disagree, but you’ll have to do one or the other.
Whether they believe in ghosts or not, everyone agrees that if Faulkner returned for a visit to what he liked to call his “little postage stamp of native soil,” and the place upon which he based his mythical town of Jefferson and Yoknapatawpha County, he wouldn’t recognize it. Like they say about Jesus’s second coming, “He’s back. And he’s not happy.”
In Jackson, the “Owners of iconic Hal & Mal’s could finally own property,” according to the Clarion-Ledger. Hal & Mal’s occupies a building that was built by W.J. McGee as the NOGN/GM&N Freight Depot in 1927 and later became the Merchants Company Warehouse (their painted sign is still visible on the facade). The state has owned the property since the 1970s but has leased it to the famous restaurant and music venue. Something I learned from this article that I hadn’t realized was official is that the much-touted “Old Capitol Green” redevelopment project, long promised and just over the horizon, is dead.
Also in Jackson, the energetic Greenwood Cemetery Association spent last weekend cleaning up downtown Jackson’s cemetery, the final resting place of Eudora Welty and several governors among others. They were joined by the Old Garden Rose Society, which pruned the many roses that adorn the cemetery, and Walt Grayson highlight their efforts on his “Look Around” series on WLBT.
After being sold to a new owner, attorney Robert Lubin, in January (and that was after other new owners in 2009), the historic Eola Hotel in downtown Natchez is now slated to be turned into a senior living complex, according to the Natchez Democrat. Lubin, who owned the hotel in the 1990s, expects a 60-to-65 unit building, and says that the current layout of 125 rooms results in rooms too small to sustain a hotel. Built in 1927, the hotel, Natchez’s 6-story “skyscraper” was designed by the New Orleans firm Weiss, Dreyfous, & Seiferth. Good senior living facilities can be an asset for a downtown area, so here’s hoping this one turns out well for the Eola and Natchez.
The Democrat also notes that a centerpiece of the Natchez Pilgrimage since the 1930s, the Historic Natchez Tableaux, is about to change dramatically spurred by this year’s Pilgrimage Garden Club Queen Madeline Iles and her father Greg. The two-hour production, previously a series of vignettes, will now come in at a slim 65-minutes and will be more of a musical play that tells a more complete pictures than the romanticized “Gone With the Wind” version. I’m glad to see the pilgrimages open up to a more nuanced recounting of Mississippi’s history, especially its history of slavery and racial oppression. The beautiful houses we all love “ain’t all moonlight and magnolias” and it’s best to set the record straight, even at this late date. On that note, see the recent post at the Atlantic’s City Lab blog, “America’s Failure to Preserve Historic Slave Markets.” (It incorrectly locates the Forks of the Road market in Natchez as “downtown” when in fact it was situated on the outskirts of town, but the article is food for thought for those of us who actually live in places that once had markets that sold people.)
A strange brouhaha down in Waveland, and I admit I don’t necessarily understand what’s going on from this Sea Coast Echo article, but it seems the City of Waveland has padlocked the Waveland Civic Center (formerly the Waveland School, built in 1927), one of the few buildings in Waveland to survive Katrina and closed the Ground Zero Hurricane Museum. This action apparently came after the city heard the museum might be moving, and they wanted to be sure no city property in the museum left the city.
If you have a story you want preserved, now’s the time to head to Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood, where the NPR StoryCorps bus is parked until March 6. Make reservations for a recording session at 1-800-850-4406, or at storycorps.org. Maybe you know someone in your town who you’ve always wanted to interview–now’s the time! Read more at the Clarion-Ledger.
Speaking of Fondren, site work has begun for two large apartment complexes, one on the north side of Lakeland, and the other taking up three blocks west of Sal and Mookies and north of Memorial Stadium. About thirty single-family homes, most dating to the 1930s and 1940s and described by the developer as “drug dens” were bulldozed for the latter development, according to the Clarion-Ledger.
Finally, this was an interesting juxtaposition of news items this week. On the one hand, Auburn’s Rural Studio, based in western Alabama and founded by Mississippi’s own Sambo Mockbee, is preparing to sell plans for a $20,000 house that they’ve refined over the last 20 years of student work. On the other hand, Greenwood’s Fred Carl, of Viking Range fame, is getting back to his construction roots and has announced that his new company, C3 Design, will manufacture “contemporary prefabricated luxury homes” in Greenwood, marketed to a high-end customer. Maybe someday people will be seeing how many “C3s” or “20Ks” they can find on the Mississippi landscape?