Remember the good ol’ days when we could take a week or two off from news roundups in the summer and not miss much? Those days are gone, my friend, and things have been hopping, and not in a good way, in the last couple of weeks.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way. The railroad underpass on Highway 82 at Leland is being demolished and the roadbed raised, according to the Delta Democrat Times article that a MissPres reader passed along to me.
The railroad overpass opened in 1935. At that time, U.S. 82 was a two-lane highway.
Today, the railway is no longer functional and the underpass has presented safety, traffic and commercial problems for the city of Leland. The state Department of Transportation sees no need for the bridge to remain.
The project is expected to be complete by August 2016. Two remaining underpasses that I can think of are the underpass on Highway 49 coming into Greenwood, which is listed on the National Register, and the railroad underpass on Highway 80 in Jackson, probably also built in the 1930s.
It’s been several weeks since Meridian tore down a building in its downtown, so they were overdue. Luckily, the Meridian Star tells us that Citizen’s National Bank came through, demolishing a building at the corner of Sixth Street and Constitution Avenue, across from the county courthouse. Admittedly, this c.1940 building was no great shakes, and anyone who’s been in downtown Meridian lately knows that they need more parking lots and fewer buildings. Plus, there will be an iron fence, so it will be pretty.
Not to be outdone, Holly Springs aldermen have voted to demolish several “old structures,” according to the South Reporter. Preserve Marshall County’s Facebook page points out that one of the “old structures” in question, an 1830s house on the City Hall lot, is in fact a Mississippi Landmark and was the original home of Hugh Craft, surveyor and early settler:
The unassuming “little white house” in question, whose fate seems to be in the balance with the City of Holly Springs has a notable role in Holly Springs’ earliest years. Its original site was where City Hall is now and this house relocated in approximately 1924 to its present site, I suppose to give the new City Hall more prominence when it was built (according to Sanborn Insurance Maps) in 1925. So, in the first quarter of the 20th century, town leaders saw intrinsic value in this domicile – a tangible artifact of Holly Springs’ earliest days and decided to retain it on site, thus continuing this traditional role of envisioning the town’s future, while respecting its past. The loss of one historic structure at a time steadily erases that refined vision of our founders and in time, the subtraction of those attributes which make Holly Springs unique will leave it with little to recommend itself.
We have three rare business history articles this time around, so even though this is also a demolition article, I’m counting myself happy about it rather than sad. This one titled “Iconic Greenville Lumber Company Razed” was in the Clarion-Ledger, reprinted from the Delta Democrat Times. Located on Highway 82, the building is not one I recall, but the article gives a good history of a company that played a significant role in Greenville’s post-WWII architectural history. Dave Sherman and his father-in-law Pete Sarullo, a Sicilian immigrant, started the construction firm in 1952.
Over the next 25 years, Greenville Lumber built many of the subdivisions in Greenville. [John] Black said it built at least two-thirds of the houses in the city.
In an effort to branch out, Greenville Lumber began to bid on commercial construction contracts, Black said in his book. Among the many built were the William Alexander Percy Memorial Library, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Parish Hall, Greenville Garden Apartments, North Theobald Apartments and many other buildings around Mississippi.
According to the MDAH Historic Resources Database, they also built Edna Horton Hall (1968) and Leflore Hall (1970) at Mississippi Valley State University, and renovated the old library at Delta State into Fielding Wright Art Center (1978). This article also introduced me to a local historic book I hadn’t known before, John Black’s Faith of Our Fathers.
The Hattiesburg American took “A look back” at the Hercules plant on Seventh Street, which began on 100 acres in 1923 as Hercules Powder Company. Its Wilmington, Delaware owner made gunpowder, but the Hattiesburg plant concentrated on extracting rosin from the stumps left on cut-over pine lands and producing chemicals such as pesticides and food additives. According to the article, the plant had 1,400 employees in 1974, and was producing over 250 varieties of chemicals, but it closed in 2009, after the company changed management, and much of the manufacturing had been transferred elsewhere. You’ve probably noticed the massive plant on the north side of Hattiesburg, or at least have stopped your car in front of the gorgeous but vacant former Hercules Cafeteria, built in the late 1930s. Here’s hoping that the environmental cleanup that’s currently underway will leave this building clean and ready for a new life.
Speaking of large, historic industrial sites, Natchez mayor Butch Brown is in discussions with Titan Tire Company to vacate the large plant that has been essentially out of operation since 2001. I was surprised to know that the City owns this property, but apparently it has owned it and leased it to a series of manufacturers since it was built in 1938. According to the Natchez Democrat:
It started out as the Armstrong Tire Co. under the Balancing Agriculture with Industry Program, a long-term lease program that allowed the city to take out a bond to purchase the property in order to encourage industrial growth.
In 1986, when Armstrong closed its Natchez plant, some of the management of Armstrong formed the Condere Corp. and bought the plant out, renaming it Fidelity Tire.
After Condere went bankrupt in 1998, Titan Tire purchased the plant.
Mayor Brown indicates he would like to sell the property, but doesn’t say whether the Art Moderne structures, designed by Jackson architect Jack Canizaro and published in Architectural Concrete, would remain. You can read that article in “1930s Industrial History in Natchez” and also be sure to scroll down to Kathleen Jenkins’ remarks about the importance of the Armstrong plant in Natchez’ civil rights history.
Also in Natchez, one of my favorite houses, Auburn, is suffering from long-term water damage to its front columns, according to the Democrat. Auburn is owned by the City of Natchez but managed by a non-profit group, Auburn Antebellum Home. Estimates run to $45,000 to fix the columns, and then the roof needs to be dealt with too. The Board of Aldermen will be voting on whether to apply for the MDAH Community Heritage Preservation Grant.
And a few shorts to finish us out:
- Four summer fellow from the Classical Institute of the South, a New Orleans-based non-profit, are in Columbus cataloging private collections in antebellum houses such as the Amzi Love House, taking photos and entering the objects into an online database that scholars can use for research. See The Dispatch for more.
- The Mill in Starkville, a major renovation project in the old Cooley Building, has been given its Certificate of Occupancy, although the project is not completely finished. The Courtyard by Marriott should be open by October. See The Dispatch for more.
- Starkville’s WCBI ran a story about preservation in Starkville, which you can see here: http://www.wcbi.com/uncategorized/video-preserving-history-in-starkville/.