New Capitol Nominated for NHL Status

This undated postcard was published by City News Co., Jackson, Miss. Its text reads "Erected in 1901-1903 and one of the most beautiful of the various state capitols. The site was formerly that of the state penitentiary.

This undated postcard was published by City News Co., Jackson, Miss. Its text reads, “Erected in 1901-1903 and one of the most beautiful of the various state capitols. The site was formerly that of the state penitentiary.”

According to the MDAH Historic Preservation Division Facebook page:

We are excited to announce that at its November 2015 meeting, the National Park Service’s Landmarks Committee will be considering whether to recommend the Mississippi State Capitol for National Historic Landmark designation. The NHL designation is given to only a select few of the buildings and sites listed on the National Register. NHLs are significant at the national level and have exceptional architectural integrity. The Mississippi State Legislature funded the NHL nomination, which was prepared by architectural historian Richard Cawthon. You may read the final draft of the nomination and see what other buildings the committee will be considering at the Landmarks Committee website.

The Landmarks Committee meets November 16-17, 2015 in Washington, DC, and will be considering 11 potential landmarks, including the Mississippi Capitol. The Executive Summary form at the Landmarks Cmte. site notes how the building meets the two-part NHL standard of 1) national significance and 2) high level of integrity:

New CapitolThe Mississippi State Capitol is a nationally significant example of Academic Classical Revival architecture, providing a remarkably vivid illustration of the nationwide spread of Academic Classicism following the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Designed by St. Louis architect Theodore Link, the building is notable among state capitols for its unity of design and construction, having been built by a single general contracting firm, W. A. and A. E. Wells of Chicago, within a single three-year construction program. Bernard R. Green, the superintendent of construction for the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, served as a consultant in the project’s early stages, and his recommendations played a major role in the functional and well-lit plan. The building contains a large and important collection of art glass by Louis J. Millet of Chicago, and an extensive assemblage of scagliola (art marble). Theodore Link’s design incorporated and embraced the latest technical developments of the time, most vividly evident in its thousands of prominently exposed electric light bulbs, making a clear statement of modernity in the rural South at the dawn of the twentieth century.

New Capitol monumental windowsThe Mississippi State Capitol maintains a high degree of historic integrity, and is especially outstanding when compared to other state capitols of a similar age. Only one major renovation occurred in its first century, between 1979 and 1982. The exterior remains unchanged. Inside, mechanical and electrical systems have been updated, and all public spaces, including Senate and House chambers, governor’s office, rotunda, corridors, and smaller meeting rooms are intact. The only important alteration is the insertion of metal mezzanines in the private office spaces (1979-82) that are freestanding and reversible.  Scagliola was carefully restored in the 1979-82 renovation. All stained glass windows are currently undergoing cleaning and restoration at the Pearl River Glass Studio in Jackson. The four-city-block site is intact with the original drive system only slightly changed at the entrances for safety. Typical additions of monuments have occurred on the grounds over time, most dramatically the Monument to the Women of the Confederacy, by Belle Kinney and cast by Tiffany Studios, erected in 1917 on the south plaza.

If that whets your appetite for more, you can read the full nomination.

Noting that the nomination may take anywhere from 2-5 years to work its way through the process, the NHL website lists these steps:

  • A State Historic Preservation Officer, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Federal Preservation Officer, scholar, private owner, or an interested member of the general public writes a letter of inquiry to the National Historic Landmarks Program.
  • NHL staff review the letter to determine if the site appears to meet the criteria for an NHL.  If the site has the potential to become an NHL, the staff provides the preparer with detailed guidance as the nomination is researched and written.
    Working with the preparer, staff from the National Historic Landmarks program edit and review the nomination.
  • Subject matter experts and scholars from across the nation review the nomination.  Their suggestions and assessments are incorporated into the nomination.
  • The Landmarks Committee reviews the nomination at one of its semiannual meetings before making a recommendation to the National Park System Advisory Board.this is the step we’re at right now.
  • The National Park System Advisory Board reviews the nomination before making a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior.
  • The nomination is submitted to the Secretary of the Interior.
  • The Secretary of the Interior considers the recommendations and decides whether or not to designate the property as a National Historic Landmark.

The National Park Service lists 39 National Historic Landmarks in Mississippi (a much more exclusive list than the National Register, which has over 1,400 listings in Mississippi, including numerous historic districts that contain hundreds of buildings). The most recent Mississippi NHLs are the Eudora Welty House (2004), the Port Gibson Battlefield (2005), and the Lyceum-Circle Historic District at Ole Miss (2008). A full list is available at the NHL site.



Categories: Capitols Old & New, Jackson, National Park Service

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4 replies

  1. This is great news. Hope it happens.

    Date: Mon, 2 Nov 2015 12:02:57 +0000 To: carolinefoose@hotmail.com

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  2. Does this mean a “get out the closet free” parole for Governor Theodore Bilbo?
    Wherever the current scalawags-in-office choose to place Governor Bilbo on the politically correct Totem Pole of Mississippi history, he still deserves a place there– not locked in a closet at the State Capitol Building in order to bury Mississippi history.

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    • Last I checked, his lifesize statue was still in the “Hall of History” room on the first floor on the Senate side of the building. He’s the only governor to get a statue, so maybe if he had done a portrait, he wouldn’t have to worry about getting moved around all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the update and great news. I thought maybe William Winter had stuffed Bilbo down the proverbial “Rabbit hole” of Mississippi history. And what better “artifact” for his museum than Theodore H. Bilbo? Seriously. I was surprised by the number of folks in Mississippi under 50 years of age who had never heard of Bilbo. And even some folks from Poplarville, who know current Bilbo family members, but never heard of Theodore. Turns out that they were Louisiana transplants after Katrina.
    My most memorable Jackson State Fair sideshow event was in 1948. WWII was still in he news with the war crime trials. At one of the sideshow exhibits was a tent filled with Nazi flags and artifacts–regimental insignia, Lugers, Mausers and ceremonial swords and daggers.. But what most sticks in my memory was the leaders of Germany– in wax–lying in repose on a slab. Mussolini was there, too. There was a report a few years back that guards had to be stationed around Madam Tussaud’s Adolph Hitler’ wax figure(standing), because visitors were posing for photos with Der Fuhrer.
    Maybe this will give Bill some ideas. But post guards around Bilbo.

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