Easter weekend kind of got away from me, so I’m stealing Suzassippi’s Tuesday to bring y’all up to date on the latest news in the preservation world.
First off, Jerry Mitchell’s article in the Clarion-Ledger, “Detective work helps restore Emmett Till courthouse” shows the level of detail that went into the recently restored Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, famous as the site of the trial of Emmett Till’s accused murderers in 1955. The restoration was led by Belinda Stewart Architects of Eupora and was funded over a series of phases by MDAH’s popular Community Heritage Preservation Grant.
In 1955, the courthouse’s windows were double hung with top arched glass.
Those windows were long gone, but architects managed to track down an original pair.
After a 1975 renovation, a man in town purchased a number of the courthouse windows, which were placed in an old barn.
When Hawkins went to investigate, “wasps were everywhere,” she said.
The county wound up purchasing the best pair of windows for $1,000.
According to a follow-up article after the recent dedication, “Both longtime state Sen. David Jordan, who attended the trial, and journalist Bill Minor, who covered the trial, marveled at the restoration of the courtroom. “It’s just like it was back then,” Jordan said.
Unfortunately, the legislature did not pass the bill that would have increased the ceiling on state tax credits for historic renovation projects (from $60 million to $100 million) in its just-completed session, even though Speaker Philip Gunn and Gov. Bryant supported the plan. This leaves several large renovation projects already on the drawing board in limbo, as they had counted on the 25% tax credit on the cost of renovation. This Sun-Herald article, “Centennial Plaza, other historic developments hinged on depleted state tax credits,” highlights the problem for preservationists around the state:
According to the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, an estimated $1 million or less will remain in the tax-credit pool after current projects receive credits already approved. The credits are awarded only when approved projects are completed.
The article notes that the former Gulfport VA Hospital (now known as Centennial Plaza), the Markham Hotel, the Cooley Building in Starkville, and the Eastland Federal Building in Jackson, are all projects in limbo until the legislature makes a decision. A special session may be in contemplation.
As you recall from a couple of News Roundups ago, the former McRae’s Department Store in Jackson’s Meadowbrook Mart, a Modernist predecessor to today’s big-box stores, is being renovated as part of a new telehealth center in concert with UMMC. A follow-up article in the Clarion-Ledger says the renovation will help the building “reclaim its ’60s sparkle.” It also mentions that the building was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“If you could take a snapshot of what it looked like in the ’60s, it’s going to look pretty close to that, with a lot of the original features returned,” said Jason Watkins, co-developer with Roy Decker through NuMac Development; Duvall Decker is the project architect.
The building’s restored folded plate canopy has already started that process. Glazed ceramic tiles, in a popular ’60s aqua color, that were once above each entry will be restored, as will storefront display windows, long bricked up. Rather than merchandise, they’ll have an LED light display. The vertical sign that once said “McRae’s” will come back, too; it’ll say “Venyu.”
Welcome news from Gulfport about the former Gulfport Library, a New Formalist landmark built in 1966 and designed by Gulfport architect Charles L. Proffer. It survived Katrina but has teetered on the edge of FEMA-funded demolition ever since. But now the Sun-Herald says the old girl may have a vibrant new life:
The historic downtown library so many fought to save is being incorporated into the city’s plans for a major aquarium development that will cost $90 million to $120 million.
The library would become a welcome center and transit area for residents and tourists who visit the aquarium and Gulfport’s waterfront, Mayor Billy Hewes said.
Congratulations and good luck to Dixie Butler of Columbus, who is hosting her last pilgrimage as owner of Temple Heights (1837), which she bought and renovated with her husband in 1967. She’s passing it along to new owners who also plan to keep the pilgrimage tradition of sharing the home with visitors from all over the state, country, and world, accrording to the Columbus-Dispatch:
When Butler and her husband bought the house in 1967, it was in bad shape, though structurally sound. The realtor suggested they bulldoze it because it wasn’t worth saving, Butler said. Instead, she opened the house for the candlelight Red Tour of the Spring Pilgrimage of 1970.
“You can’t imagine what it looked like that first year,” Butler said. “Fortunately, everything and everybody looked better by candlelight.”
That was back when homeowners who showed their houses for Pilgrimage had to do a lot of the publicity themselves. Butler remembers sorting brochures by zip code while sitting on the floor in empty buildings.
Finally, pay attention to the MissPres calendar because April is a busy month! The latest addition to the schedule is a special movie night featuring the PBS Ken Burns documentary, Frank Lloyd Wright, at the Museum of Art and sponsored by the Mississippi AIA in downtown Jackson, April 30th beginning at 6 PM.
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Categories: Antebellum, Civil Rights, Columbus, Gulf Coast, Gulfport, Heritage Tourism, Historic Preservation, Hurricane Katrina, Jackson, Libraries, Mississippi Heritage Trust, Mississippi Landmarks, News Roundups, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Recent Past, Renovation Projects, Sumner