2015 has been a rough year for Mississippi’s historic buildings. Fire, storms, economic hardship, and public officials with no vision (a class of people who I hope will never receive an iota of sympathy here on MissPres no matter how old and soft I get) took many away from us. Here’s hoping for better weather and better leaders in 2016.
Matty Hersee Hospital (1923-February 2015). Also known as East Mississippi Charity Hospital, this institution suffered the same fate as the other charity hospitals such as Kuhn Hospital in Vicksburg when it was closed in the 1980s, because, you know, poor people don’t need medical care in this modern age. Owned by Meridian Community College, the building was designated as a Mississippi Landmark in 2007 and received a CHPG grant for rehabilitation in 2009, but then the college didn’t accept the grant, and in 2013, with little fanfare and an utter lack of transparency on the part of both MDAH and MCC, MDAH granted a demolition permit. Demolition of the building, which according to reports from people who’ve been inside, was built like a rock, was completed in February 2015.
Fire took several buildings from us this year. These two in the Port Gibson Market Street Historic District burned in September.
Forest Home Plantation, Wilkinson County (c.1850-March 2015). Individually listed on the National Register in 1982, this Greek Revival I-house with double gallery burned to the ground despite valiant efforts from the volunteer fire department.
You may noticed that I’ve left out Mt. Holly. It’s true that I’m still in complete denial about the devastating fire in June, but it’s also true that the walls are still standing, so technically Mt. Holly is not gone completely, so I’m not writing it off yet.
P.E. Smith House, Hardy Street, Hattiesburg (c.1930-February 2015). A victim of its location on what was the streetcar line between downtown Meridian and USM but is now a busy automobile strip, this sweet classical-style bungalow sat vacant for several years. Local preservationists tried to save it, but the new owners wanted the property for commercial use and it was demolished in February 2015.
Merchant’s and Farmers Bank, Okolona (1903-November 2015). This Romanesque Revival bank building and its next door neighbor to the left collapsed in a storm in November The wider building to the far left was in a partial state of collapse and I haven’t heard an update on what has happened with it. This leaves a big hole in the middle of the Okolona Historic District.
old Moss Point City Hall and Fire Station (1926-July 2015). It appears Hisoner the Mayor of Moss Point has gotten away with thumbing his nose at both state and federal laws after he demolished this building on a Saturday. I comfort myself by recalling the fate of Hisoner Mayor Frank Melton of Jackson, who also seemed to get away with breaking the law. Until . . .
J.R. Flint House, Terry Road, Jackson (1947-2015). Built for a prominent contractor and designed by A. Hays Town, this sweet house has been under-loved in its now-mostly-commercial location for many years, but when I took this picture in 2010, it was still occupied, so I was surprised recently when a South Jackson friend mentioned that it was gone. Sure enough, when I drove down there, the lot is vacant, and the house next door, also reputed to be a Town design, looks like its about to go too.
Webster County Courthouse, Walthall (1915-2015). I saved the worst for last, because it’s been a long, long time since Mississippi lost one of its historic courthouses, and from several accounts, this one, an early design of N.W. Overstreet, could have been saved, even though the upper floor was gutted in a fire of January 2013. As with Matty Hersee, MDAH gave the county a grant toward rebuilding, but the county declined it in favor of building a new building. Apparently (although I failed to make mention of it here on the blog because MDAH failed to announce it), the MDAH Board of Trustees granted a demolition permit at its October 2015 meeting. Although I haven’t seen photos of the demolition, I heard it was underway, so I’ll let Walthall County Courthouse reach its rounded-off centennial before bowing out. You were a tough old girl, and you deserved better.
Categories: Courthouses, Demolition/Abandonment, Disasters, Hattiesburg, Hospitals/Medical, Meridian, Okolona, Port Gibson