I hope everyone had a good Labor Day weekend. As we keep a wary eye on Hurricane Irma, let’s jump into this week’s roundup.
Another week, another story about a vehicle damaging a historic structure, this time in Biloxi. Despite surviving hurricanes for 97 years, one of the entry columns to the Oak Park neighborhood was no match for a backing-up semi-truck. Making this damage more egregious is the fact that these entry columns were recently restored, an finale celebrated at a City of Biloxi ‘Preservation in May’ event.
The article brings up another effort that preservationists will have to keep an eye on: the relocation of the entrance to Keesler Air Force Base. The city has announced a plan that will likely have an adverse effect on several historic properties. We will have to see if a project that will likely use federal funds includes preservation of these historic sites, or will they just be chucked in the dustbin all in the name of progress?
In Hattiesburg, the city has accepted the one bid they received for the demolition of a portion of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. No date for demolition has been set at this time.
From Jackson, we have a story that details there have been 300 demolitions in the past three years in an attempt to address blight.
Also in Jackson, the race to overbuild the Fondern neighborhood with hotels continues. The latest proposed project, a six-story story, 125-room Homewood Suites, would demolish three buildings in the Fondren Downtown Historic District, including the David Fondren house that dates to c.1905, according to the National Register nomination. Besides the individual loss of historic buildings, demolition of significant structures in a historic district can diminish the integrity of the district, and eventually could cause the de-listing of a district, leading to the loss of tax credits, grant opportunities, and other incentives for historic buildings in the area.
This is also the third proposed hotel in the three-block area that is the core of downtown Fondren.
This Homewood Suites development would take out some or all of its block of houses too (the articles are vague on this point). The article mentions that demolition is expected to begin shortly, so it’s clear that the developers decided to keep the neighborhood in the dark until the last minute, which is not how Fondren became Funky. It sounds like Fondren is becoming a victim of its own success. How long before the character that attracts people to Fondren is gone, and no one wants to stay in these hotels?
In Vicksburg, the blog Urban Decay has shared the news of the demolition of a large Victorian house on Finney Street.
From Oxford, the Ole Miss English Department has submitted a letter to Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter calling for removal of the Confederate statue from the University of Mississippi’s Circle. Chancellor Vitter has previously stated that the removal would be “Wrong” and that he rather would see the statue contextualized.
Also from Oxford, we have a story about a fire that caused significant damage to the 1946 Yellow Leaf Baptist Church. The masonry of the church appears to have held fast while most of the wood and plastic has burned away. The fire is reported to have been caused by a fallen tree damaging the electric power source on the building.
This week in Itta Bena, “Chitlin’ Circuit” musical venues will be the topic of discussion the third annual B.B. King Symposium held at Mississippi Valley State University. The Chitlin’ Circut was the name given to the network of African-American musical venues that existed during the days of segregation. I am familiar with several Chitlin’ Circuit venues on the coast, such as the 100 Men Hall in Bay St. Louis, but I am unaware of what the survival rate of these places is statewide.
A story of national interest is that the National Endowment for the Humanities has committed $1 Million to cultural organizations impacted by Hurricane Harvey. I am sure much more will be needed, but this is a great start in aiding those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
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: Abandoned Mississippi, African American History, Bay St. Louis, Building Types, Churches, Civil War, Delta, Demolition/Abandonment, Disasters, Hattiesburg, Historic Preservation, Itta Bena, Jackson, News Roundups, Oxford, Preservation People/Events, Renovation Projects, Vicksburg