Lets jump right into this week’s roundup.
The big news in Booneville this week is the National Park Service announcing that Booneville became Mississippi’s sixty-second Certified Local Government community. The designation was one of thirty-eight designations across the United States that were announced this past week by the Park Service. If you’re not familiar with the CLG program, it is a designation for a municipality that meets the following minimum goals:
-Establish a qualified historic preservation commission.
-Enforce appropriate state or local legislation for the designation and protection of historic properties. In most cases this is done in the form of a local ordinance.
-Maintain a system for the survey and inventory of local historic resources.
-Facilitate public participation in the local preservation, including participation in the National Register listing process.
On its website, the National Park Service outlines the benefits of becoming a CLG community. The primary reasons given are technical assistance from MDAH & the NPS, but also the community becomes eligible for grant funding for all types of preservation projects.
If you are interested in finding out more about the CLG program you can contact MDAH. If you think your town might be a CLG community already you can check the NPS website that lists all of the CLG communities in Mississippi. So hats off to Booneville and congratulations on this big achievement. We all look forward to the good things that a CLG designation can bring to Booneville.
The MS Business Journal ran a story about Greenwood‘s Revolving Fund plan. Managed correctly revolving funds are a tremendous way for local people to help foster investment in their historic district and buildings. Hopefully lots of business minded individuals throughout Mississippi saw this article and are inspired about what resources historic structures are and how they can be a driving force behind a local economy. http://msbusiness.com/2017/02/focus-economic-development-snipes-optimistic-future-greenwood/
Also in Greenwood the Greenwood Main Street Facebook page reported that “Facade work continues on Carrollton Avenue! The Rustom’s are breathing new life into their building.”
The little town of Rodney made the news this week with the introduced of a bond bill in the State Legislature that would appropriate funds to assist with the restoration of the Rodney Presbyterian Church. I’m not sure of the current status of this bill. Does anyone have an update they can share?
“New business offers heritage tours to tell other side of Natchez history” is a story that is especially interesting. One of the tours it mentions is of St. Catherine Street from the Forks of the Road to Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church, a historic area that, especially around Zion Chapel, is seeing noticeable neglect and destruction of historic buildings. W. White mentioned to me that since reading the book “Race Against Time: Culture and Separation in Natchez Since 1930” by Jack Davis, he has been drawn to the role race has played in what is preserved in Natchez and what is left to collapse into the street due to neglect, as he has reported multiple times on past news roundups.
Hottytoddy.com ran a story about preservation efforts of a cemetery at the former town site of Concordia in Bolivar County. Much like the town of Rodney, Concordia seems to have dried up when the Mississippi River moved, then missed its chance for rebirth when the rail line bypassed the town. One excellent quote from the article I’d like to share is this: “The Delta and our state is full of history. However, unless we do our part to preserve it, portions of our history will be erased forever.”
The news site City Lab ran a story entitled “Enshrining the Sites of the Struggle for Civil Rights” that mentions the recent NPS grant for the continued restoration of the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner.
In Hattiesburg, another week of concerning comments were made about some of the oldest buildings on the campus of William Carey University. WXXV reported “Plans for reconstruction of the two residential halls and several other buildings that were a total loss are already in the works.” This seems presumptive that the buildings cannot be repaired and a little careless on the part of a university that prides itself on tradition. Also of concern is that the University is not naming the buildings they wish to demolish. Again my encouraging example from last week would be Ogletree House at USM. The Ogletree House was looking mighty rough in the days immediately after the 2013 tornado but after repair and renovation looks to be in great shape today. http://wxxv25.com/2017/02/02/recovery-progressing-quickly-william-carey-university/
If my concerns about WCU stewardship of historic buildings is showing, it is not without previous experience. They allowed the McGehee Memorial Building on the former Gulf Coast Military Academy campus in Gulfport to remain unrepaired and unsecured for six years after Hurricane Katrina, before abruptly demolishing the structure in 2011. As Malvaney stated back in ’11 about the Gulfport campus of WCU: “While recognizing the argument that vacant property may be more enticing to a certain type of developer, I also feel the need to once again point out that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is awash in clean beachfront property, very little of which is selling. So why not stabilize the building and allow it a chance to attract a different type of developer who might be interested in using the historic landmark as the centerpiece of a new development?”
Staying in Meridian for a moment. According to The Meridian Star (Lauderdale County receives architect’s final report on courthouse), architect Belinda Stewart met with the county supervisors concerning the Lauderdale County Courthouse and its possible renovation and/or abandonment (yes, you read that right). According to the article Stewart said she was there to help supervisors make educated choices: “Bottom line is we want to help the county make a decision concerning the courthouse,” Stewart said. “The county asked us to come back and talk further about the study, and I’m glad we did. We tried to answer their questions and provide more descriptions of the study and help them gather enough information to make a decision.” There are several options on the table, some of which include moving some or all county offices to the Village Fair Mall (Consultant sees potential of redeveloping Village Fair Mall brownfield site.) While I would like to see the Chris Risher designed Village Fair Mall restored, I would not like to see it happen at the expense of destroying the current Lauderdale County Courthouse designed by P.J. Krouse. The county supervisors said they have to study Stewart’s report some more but their biggest hurdle is funding any of the proposals.
The Daily Journal reported that a contractor has been selected for the demolition of a hotel on North Gloster Street in Tupelo. Built in 1972 as a Ramada Inn, this building is just 5 years shy of being 50 years old. As I mentioned last week in regards to the Jackson Trade Mart demolition, it is important that we monitor these demolitions of not quite yet historic structures. While you personally may not be excited about the building, remind yourself, what might future generations think about this building? Ada Louise Huxtable put it best… “we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.” Only time might tell on this one.
When looking for this structure on N. Gloster (it’s on the south-east corner of the N. Gloster Street and McCullough Boulevard), I found it was attached to several other functioning hotels, so I was surprised that there was no redevelopment interest. I also noticed from Google Street view that the full service “Savings” filling station was demolished. This unique mid-century station was certainly a landmark, but was demolished by Dodge’s Gas Station without any real plans for the site because it “doesn’t fit today’s business model.” Was no thought given to reuse? Is Dodge’s really scared of a little competition?
Last Saturday in Philadelphia there was a concert held to raise funds to restore the town’s Ellis Theater. Rockin’ to Restore the Ellis, is a new quarterly concert series whose proceeds will go towards continued maintenance of the building. Tickets for future concerts can be obtained at the public library, the Arts Council office and from any member in the Musicians Guild. Tickets for the last concert were only $5 for a two-hour show. As you’ll notice from the image above the Ellis Theater has some great brick panels. http://www.neshobademocrat.com/Content/NEWS/News/Article/Concert-series-starts-Saturday-at-Ellis/2/297/40328
In Gulfport, the Sun Herald reported that the Markham Hotel was broken into and two women were seen hitting golf balls off the roof. While the article makes light of the incident, the roof of a historic building across the street from the Markham was damaged. My deeper concern is that the Markham building is not properly mothballed for its own safety and the safety of others. The lack of securing his investment has me doubting attorney Robert Lubin sincerity of restoring the Markham building. It has been a long time since we discussed mothballing of historic structures. Maybe it’s time for a primer post on mothballing, which is a great way to stabilize historic structures while you’re waiting for the right opportunity to restore comes along. http://www.sunherald.com/news/local/counties/harrison-county/article129926869.html
You may also remember attorney Robert Lubin as he is the owner of the Eola Hotel in Natchez. Back in December the Natchez Democrat ran a story titled, Owner says he plans to begin renovation of Eola in 2017. The article has locals throwing their hands up in the air just hoping anything happens at the Eola, while Lubin gives a dodgy “Work will begin in 2017” response.
Lubin originally planned to fund both the Natchez and the Gulfport projects from the EB-5 Visa program which we’ve reported on in the past. This program was originally scheduled to end back in September 2016, but was renewed for a few months scheduled to end December 9, 2016. With the current Executive Branch’s tricky relationship with immigration, who knows if this program will get renewed or not. With Lubin’s evasiveness, it is not promising that he has the cash in hand for all of his Mississippi projects: the Eola, the Markham, and his casino site in Gulfport.
Not good news from Pascagoula. WLOX reported that the M&M Bank on Old Mobile Highway would be demolished when the Pascagoula Fire Department was finished using the structure for rescue simulation training. While the smoke is fake, the demolition appears definitely real and seemingly unnecessary. The M&M Bank is the last remaining piece of the c.1950’s Belair Shopping Center. The shopping center had these wonderful chevron metal panels across the parapet. It was an important part of Pascagoula’s mid-century history which is rapidly disappearing.
Some news to happen outside of Mississippi, but is still important enough to share is that the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago is selling its oldest building for redevelopment. The article I saw states that the exterior will be restored but the interior will be gutted. “Why is this important to us?” you might ask. IIT, formerly known as Armour Institute of Technology, was just a small technical training school on Chicago’s near south side, when it welcomed German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886- 1969) as the director of the Department of Architecture. Mies was fleeing Europe as his brand of modernism was deemed not “German” in character by the Nazi party controlled government. His resettlement in Chicago has an undeniable impact on America’s mid-century architecture aesthetic.
The interior spaces in this building was where Mies taught and was the place that America’s mid-century infatuation of the Mies brand of international style grew from. A personal anecdote I can share is that my grandfather attended Armor Institute prior to World War Two. He said that the Main Building was a wreck back in 1938, the year both he and Mies arrived so I cannot imagine why all of a sudden 79 years later the interior needs to be completely gutted. I believe the building was most recently renovated in 1982, when four stained glass windows, gifts of the classes of 1897-1900, were discovered during renovations to the building.
To end on some hopeful news, a new $14 million fund to support historic church congregations across the United States was announced last week. The National Fund for Sacred Places aims to help churches raise funds, restore their buildings, and find new community partnerships. Matching grants of up to $250,000 to congregations of various faith traditions will be awarded during the next four years. The fund is accepting letters of interest until May 1, 2017 for its next round of grants. They are looking for buildings that have architectural significance or some other noteworthy feature and that are still owned by a congregation or closely related nonprofit. Eligibility requirements and an online application can be found at http://www.fundforsacredplaces.org
Of all the stories this week, I think Greenwood wins the Good News Award of the week, followed up by Booneville. What do you think?
So what is the news from your neck of the woods? Like always I am sure I probably missed some stories, so if you know of any preservation-related news items not mentioned, or if you have more information about a story above please let us know in the comments below.
Categories: Booneville, Civil Rights, Cool Old Places, Courthouses, Demolition/Abandonment, Disasters, Greenwood, Gulfport, Historic Preservation, Lexington, Meridian, Military, Natchez, News Roundups, Pascagoula, Philadelphia, Rodney, Schools, Sumner, Theaters, Universities/Colleges