Along with the rain we’ve been getting, I’ve been receiving showers of news roundup articles in my inbox. Thanks to all who have shared the stories from their neck of the woods.
In Natchez, the City’s Historic Preservation Commission has determined that the owners of Melmont (included on the MHT 10 Most Endangered Places list last year), are in “demolition by neglect” and have ordered stabilization measures to take place within 90 days. The MDAH Historic Resources Database notes that “Bracketed Greek Revival style” Melmont was built in 1855 by architect/builder James McClure. As you may recall, a section of the two-story house collapsed in February, leaving the structure in a more precarious state than it had been before. According to the Natchez Democrat:
If plans to stabilize the house are not submitted before the deadline, the commission could file misdemeanor demolition by neglect charges against the owner.
City Planner Riccardo Giani said he does not think it will come to that.
“The owners are being very cooperative, and we are working toward a positive solution.”
Another property that the Commission has declared under demolition by neglect is the National Historic Landmark mansion, Arlington.
Up in Columbus, the Waters Building, a Modernist building just off the courthouse square, was under demolition by the county, according to the Commercial Dispatch, before anyone at the City realized that they didn’t have a demolition permit. Built in 1960, the two-story office building is listed in the Columbus Central Commercial Historic District. I know some people will say that it’s not a very historic building, but it was a serious Modernist design with clean lines, it held the street corner on its commercial street, and if it had to be demolished, it should have at least been replaced by something as worthy–not a parking lot, which is apparently the plan. Downtown Columbus is thriving, with shops and apartments in almost all of its historic buildings. It’s a shame that this will put a big hole in that small town urban streetscape.
On a possibly more hopeful note in Columbus, WTVA reports that the school board and the City will partner on marketing the vacant Lee Middle School campus, abandoned since 2011, for re-use. It was hard for me to be sure if the article was referring to the demolition of the school for a new use of the entire site, or using the 1950s building as part of a larger redevelopment. The MDAH Historic Resources Database indicates that the older International-style building on the campus was built in 1953 and designed by Jackson architect R.W. Naef.
The Columbus school board passed a resolution Wednesday morning to allow the city’s redevelopment authority the option to buy this property. “We’ve got to invest in the city as citizens as a community, we’ve got to re-invest,” Columbus Redevelopment Authority President John Acker said. This is all part of a plan to bring this 14.9 acre property to the market for developers. “You could say it’s almost a blank canvas,” Acker said. “There’s a lot of things that could go in there. There are multiple things that could go in there so we’re excited about that.” “This is a win-win situation for both the CMSD and the City of Columbus,” Angela Verdell, president of the CMSD Board said Wednesday morning. “The Redevelopment Authority has done an excellent job in sharing with the Board potential options for how the Lee property can be repurposed to create long-term enhancement and tax revenue for our community.”
In downtown Ocean Springs, Seabees from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion base in Gulfport, are helping with some much-needed renovations to the historic Louisville & Nashville Railroad depot, built 1907-08. WLOX tells us that the Seabees have been building a new handicap ramp and replacing rotted boards around the building.
Lieutenant Matt Catanese says this volunteer work just furthers the relationship between the city and the Seabee base.
“We’re not just stationed here. Our families live here as well. We’re part of the Harrison, Hancock, or Jackson County areas. So, we like to get out and let them know that we’re not just here because we have to be, because the government says so. It’s because we like to be a part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast as well and do our part,” said Catanese.
Another WLOX story updates us on the repairs and renovations to the Old Gautier Colored School, built around 1924, and the subject of an MDAH Community Heritage Preservation Grant. The project will take the one-room schoolhouse, vacant for over a decade, and turn it into a community center.
Contractors with Twin L Construction are salvaging every piece of material they can.
“We used the old bricks real carefully and broke them up into pieces, and took the mortar off and tried to use everyone we could,” said project superintendent Flint Gutweiler.
. . . .
Phase one, which is stabilizing the building, should be complete by the end of the year and is being paid for with a $146,000 grant from the Department of Archives and History. Phase two will cost around $350,000, and will restore the building to its original design.
Finally, on a happy note, the Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute in Jefferson Davis County has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Prentiss Headlight. Among other significant historic buildings, Prentiss Institute’s most prominent building is its wonderful concrete-block Rosenwald Building, built in 1926 and beautifully restored with help from MDAH’s Community Heritage Preservation Grant.