Whew! We’ve got quite the round up this week. Let’s start this week’s roundup with the big news of the National Park Service approving the construction plans for the rehabilitation of the Threefoot Building in Meridian. The building’s owner has applied for federal and state preservation tax credits that will cover nearly half of the $18.3 million total cost. To be eligible for these credits the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History and the NPS have to review and approve of the proposed work.
According to the Associated Press, the application had been held up over concerns about retrofitting and reusing entrance doors, architecturally appropriate lighting, and window details. The article doesn’t go into details but hopefully they are requiring the project to retain the historic lighting, doors, and windows. Those are definitely things that contribute to the unique and historic nature of the building, and those elements themselves are part of the reason why the structure is eligible for the credits in the first place.
Reporter Walt Grayson took a trip to Okolona to visit what remains of the campus of Okolona College. Ms. Mattie Stevens is a regional President of the National Council of Negro Women, the organization that now owns the campus. Ms. Stevens shared that the orginization is
“hoping to renovate those two [remaining] buildings so it can serve as a tourist attraction for the state and that small town of Okolona.”
The National Council of Negro Women purchased the campus with the hopes that it will host educational programs again. The campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the nomination,
The campus played a vital role in the education and vocational training of African Americans in the northeast region of Mississippi during the twentieth century prior to integration of the state’s educational facilities.
The former Robert E. Lee Hotel in Jackson had a fire scare which required the evacuation of the now state office building due to an electrical fire. While there is no indication of age being the cause of the fire, the article did not go into the extent of the damage other than to say that necessary electrical repair work was completed in 24 hours.
Jackson had at least two house fires that appear to have been intentionally set last week.
In Utica, a historic duplex was damaged by a fire caused by a water heater. Luckily no one was injured and the damage appears to be confined to the attic, not creating a total loss. This might be a good reminder to check your water heater and make sure it is up to snuff.
In Hinds County, the Civil War Trust announced the preservation of 319 acres at the historic Champion Hill Battlefield.
The Oxford Eagle reports that developers of a proposed boutique hotel on Jefferson Avenue are hoping to have their plans approved again for the fifth time by Oxford’s two historic preservation commissions. The hotel owners have requested to move a historic house to build a parking lot for their hotel. With as many starts and stops to this project as there have been it was probably wise on the part of the Courthouse Square Historic Preservation Commission to not allow the Queen Anne cottage to be moved until construction begins on the new hotel. Who knows, maybe the developers might find out how nice it would be to have a historic house as part of their project? Since part of the project property is within the residential Historic Preservation Commission’s district, they will have to approve the project as well. (Oxford has two different preservation commissions, one for the Square, and another for its residential districts.)
The news concerning tornado damage in Durant this week is that the state is requesting federal money to help with damage to rural areas. With the railroad depot being the only historic structure in Durant that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, I am uncertain how much funding will be specifically available for historic residences and businesses. Here is an instance where the National Register listing can be more than honorific, and can be useful in times of need.
In Vicksburg the Fischel-Feld House is for sale. According to the MDAH HRI this house was designed by Leon Weiss and “is one of the most architecturally significant residences of early twentieth century Mississippi. In Mississippi, the Neo-Classical Revival style was most often expressed in domestic architecture in terms of a lingering Colonial Revival taste. In the Feld House, however, the Palladian arches, piazzas, wide bracketed eaves, and its prominent blue tile roof evoke a Mediterranean connotation and reject Colonial Revival themes.”
The listing has photographs of the stunning interior, including the bathrooms which look amazingly well-preserved. If the fixtures are not original they are a very early addition.
Big news from Natchez this week is that the Westbound Mississippi River bridge that was originally built by the Works Progress Administration in 1940 will close for repairs. The project will require a complete shutdown of the bridge until April of 2019, but will put the structure back in shape to serve for at least another 75+ years.
Staying in Natchez, changes to McLaurin Elementary School have been proposed. They seem to entail exterior lighting, handicap accessibility, and some “security upgrades.” According to the Natchez Democrat article, McLaurin is the oldest building in the district still used for classroom instruction. It was constructed in 1953 and the school has never received any major renovations. I’m surprised the school is not listed in the MDAH Historic Resource inventory. The McLaurin Elementary School is right down the street from the Natchez High School.
Near Woodville, in Pickneyville, Wilkinson County, the Arbuthnot Grocery has been preserved as a museum. Built in 1955 it is significant as it was one of the first African-American owned businesses in the area. The Arbuthnot Grocery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places nearly one year ago, on May 20, 2016. For more information on the museum you can visit their website at agmuseum.weebly.com.
For the third month in a row [1,2], we have to report a historic building being struck by a vehicle. In Biloxi an elderly woman crashed an SUV into the Lameuse Street wall of Ellzey’s Hardware on Thursday, May 11. If you’ve never been to Ellzey’s it is a wonderful old-time hardware store with helpful staff. Let’s be careful out there folks!
Staying in Biloxi, the City is proposing to move the main entrance to Keesler Air Force Base to Division Street. It will be interesting to see how moving Keesler’s main entrance will affect Biloxi’s historic resources, especially those in the recently listed Upper West Central National Register Historic District. Hopefully this federal designation will prevent these historic places from being carelessly bulldozed. The City should have no problem preserving these historic places while accommodating the needs of the Air Force base.
The City of Biloxi is celebrating Preservation Month this May. Events will be held on Thursdays, with the dedication of the Moran Memorial Cemetery being held Tuesday May 30. There is even an opportunity to get inside the St. Michael’s Church, the building seen in the MissPreservation.com header at the top of this website.
Also in Biloxi on a Thursday in May, May 25th to be exact, the Mississippi AIA is sponsoring a presentation on Gulf Coast Architecture.
“Please join the American Institute of Architects Mississippi Chapter (AIA MS) at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum on May 25th for the first in a series of talks intended to engage and intrigue the public about the great things happening in and around our state. Architecture, Art, Science, Storytelling… the diversity of the topics will surprise you!”
It is once again time to nominate your favorite preservation project for a Southeastern Architectural Historians “Best of the South: Preserving Southern Architecture Award,” nominations due July 1, 2017.
Past Mississippi winners have been; Beauvoir (2009), the Hattiesburg African-American USO (2010), the Charnley-Norwood House (2014), and the Tallahatchie County Courthhouse (2015).
I thought this was a cool article (pun intended) about prior to air conditioning how buildings dealt with hot conditions, and how air conditioning shaped modern architecture.
It might be hard to believe after reading this week’s roundup but, I probably missed a story or two. 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: African American History, Biloxi, Civil Rights, Civil War, Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Disasters, Durant, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Jackson, MDAH, MS Dept. of Archives and History, Natchez, National Park Service, National Register, News Roundups, Okolona, Oxford, Preservation People/Events, Renovation Projects, Schools, Universities/Colleges