Let’s jump right into this week’s roundup.
Following up on the partial collapse of McComb’s downtown theater, MSNewsNow has reported that approximately 75% of the collapsed roof of the building was removed by July 31, with the remainder expected to have been removed by the next day. The building is temporarily condemned until a structural engineer states the building has been stabilized. This should be on or before August 17, 2017.
In Port Gibson, the iconic gold hand is ready for re-installation on the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. The general public was invited to watch the work which was to have taken place today, August 9th. But the work has been postponed due to poor weather. Keep an eye on the First Presbyterian Facebook page for further information.
When the reinstallation takes place, the Hand will be swaddled in wrapping to protect the delicate gold leaf on its ascent up to the top of the steeple.
The Temple Theater in Meridian has been named the Best Theater in Mississippi by Cosmopolitan magazine in its list of the best theaters in each state. Bless Cosmo‘s heart, they have a photo of the MSU Riley Center in their article rather than a photo of the Temple Theater.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation(MDOT) has begun a project to extend the lifespan of the bridge on Highway 465 over Steele Bayou in Issaquena County. Steele Bayou parallels the Mississippi River running through the Mississippi Delta and connects to the Yazoo River. The bridge was originally built over the bayou in 1959 to connect the Eagle Lake community to U.S. Highway 61. In 1969, the Army Corps of Engineers built a four-gated Steele Bayou Flood Control Structure about 1500 feet north of the bridge. The current maintenance project on the bridge over Steele Bayou will allow the bridge to reach its maximum lifespan. The repair project is expected to be complete by the end of the summer and will give the bridge another 20-25 years of life.
I like this article because it states that the work on this bridge is not just a preservation project, but also a practical one, that MDOT is attempting to be good stewards of the taxpayers dollar by getting as much life out of what is already owned before a new bridge is built.
In another bridge story this week, MDOT has listed a bridge down in Jackson County for sale. It’s old and cool-looking and the state will even help pay to move it. The Red Creek Bridge on Highway 57 is a steel truss structure that was built in 1959. The reason MDOT is offering it to the public is because the bridge has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places but MDOT doesn’t need it anymore. The transfer deed for the new owner will include preservation covenants which will require the new owner to preserve and maintain its architectural elements in accordance with standards established by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Let’s hope it finds a good home someplace near by.
Biloxi‘s Saenger Theater will soon be under restoration. According to the article the project is expected to take between two and four years, depending upon funding. The first phase will include repair of the exterior of the building, including the walls, the roof and the rooftop mechanical units. MDAH has awarded a $100,000 grant from the Mississippi Community Heritage Preservation Grant Program to assist the roof replacement. Based on an MDAH report, the anticipated cost for the exterior repairs is expected to be approximately $1.5 million.
The mayor of Biloxi hopes the Saenger restoration is just one part of a move away from the urban renewal project the City underwent to move to a pedestrian-only traffic pattern in the 1970s. The city’s five-year action plan to restore the historic downtown district includes a return to two-way traffic to Howard Avenue and retiring the name “Vieux Marche.”
Another interesting story from Biloxi, this one concerning one of the tallest buildings in the state. A tale I’ve always remembered, but was fuzzy on the details, is about how the Imperial Palace Casino’s hotel was built with two more stories than planned. In 1996 the building had been planned as a 30 floor structure, but during construction two additional floors were put “in the middle” according to then owner Ralph Engelstad, who was astounded by the outcry that occurred from building two extra floors on the casino. The major source of outcry came from the perception that the height added by two additional floors obstructed the flight path to Keesler AFB. I don’t know about you but I try to avoid disputes with any organization with heavily armed fighter jets. It turned out that the building was not in any Air Force flight paths and Engelstad was only fined about $27,000 by the city for his deception. The building is currently 32 floors tall, and only 12 feet shorter than the Beau Rivage Casino hotel tower.
A last interesting note about the Imperial Palace hotel building is that immediately after Hurricane Katrina, it was able to house and accommodate numerous disaster relief organizations including FEMA and MEMA.
In Jackson, the 1961 Civil Rights sit in of the Jackson Municipal Library by a group of Tougaloo students that came to be called the Tougaloo Nine has recently been recognized with a Civil Rights Trail Marker.
According to the WLOX piece, “The Library Board of Trustees funded the marker in the hope that it will remind everyone about their historic sit-in, their role in the subsequent desegregation of the Jackson Municipal Library about a month later, and their place in Civil Rights history.”
A grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities will allow the Arkansas State Archives to digitize 100,000 pages of historic Arkansas newspapers in the collections of archives. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History will provide technical support. I’ll be interested to see what tidbits of Mississippi history we can find from this digitization of newspapers. Perhaps some information on builder John Lee Webb?
This is certainly not all the preservation goings on in Mississippi. 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, Bridges, Building Types, Churches, Civil Rights, Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Disasters, Historic Preservation, Jackson, McComb, Meridian, MS Dept. of Archives and History, News Roundups, Port Gibson, Preservation People/Events, Renovation Projects, Schools, Theaters