It’s been a long time since our last news roundup, and even longer since I undertook one. I’ve been out of town a lot the last couple of months, so I fear this roundup won’t approach comprehensiveness and will be fairly random, but it’s a start.
Unfortunately, I have to start with bad news. Back in September, according to the Natchez Democrat, “A Saturday morning fire destroys Kingston Community Center.” This frame building was the last building left on the old Kingston School campus. It served as the cafeteria when it was built in 1951, but had been converted into an active community center. By the time firefighters arrived, the building was fully engulfed and burned to the ground.
[Resident Carol] McIlwain said the school was first built in 1919, Over time, several buildings were built on the property, including an auditorium and gymnasium that burned down. One year after the school closed, the original school building was dismantled but the cafeteria was left as the area’s community center.
[County Supervisor David] Carter said he and County Administrator Joe Murray recently began, ironically, paperwork to get the building named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Much better news from the other end of the state, Holly Springs, where a new roof has been put onto Chalmers Institute, the longtime project of Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs. And later reports indicate a 6th successful “Wrecking Ball” fundraiser last weekend, with hopes of powering through to completion on Chalmers by the end of 2017. Congratulations!
In “God’s House Abandoned,” Marsha Thompson of WLBT investigates the abandoned churches scattered throughout Jackson, including First Christian Church, which we’ve been watching for a while here on MissPres. She also cites the former Parkway Baptist Church, now the Amazing Institutional Church of God on W. Capitol Street, where the 1928 sanctuary has been left vacant, and other parts of the once sprawling structure have been recently demolished. And be sure to watch until the very end where MissPres gets a shout-out.
I think it’s important to say here though, that there are many congregations working hard, even with smaller numbers, to keep up their historic and beautiful sanctuaries. Calvary Baptist Church, also on West Capitol, comes to mind, along with all the downtown and Farish neighborhood churches. “Do not be weary in well doing.”
Finally, Vicksburg has a new group active in preserving its historic neighborhoods. According to the Vicksburg Post, the Heritage Guild of Vicksburg formed this spring and now has 80 members. Their mission, developed after looking at Tupelo, Meridian, and Mobile, Alabama, is to work with school districts and neighborhood groups to beautify neighborhoods and repair historic houses that have fallen on hard times.
The Heritage Guild also has identified the home of Vicksburg native, the late Jane Ellen McAllister, who was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in education. Its goal is to stabilize that empty home and turn it into a museum and tutoring center with help from the Mississippi Department of Archives an History, Jackson State University alumni, as well as the city and AmeriCorps.
The Guild meets the second Monday of each month, with membership set at $35/year. If you live in or near Vicksburg and like rolling up your sleeves to preserve history, this may be your group. Good luck!