Plenty of bad news, with a little bit of good news to ease the pain. Let’s jump right into this week’s roundup.
The Fondren House in Jackson was destroyed on September 21st. Lots of secrecy and obfuscation has swirled around this project, leaving neighbors pretty upset. Property owner Alan Lange stated in a large, hastily called Fondren neighborhood meeting last Tuesday night that the Fondren House would be the last building demolished for a new hotel, leaving the possibility that the home of the neighborhood’s namesake could be relocated and saved. But less than 36 hours later, demolition began on three buildings in the National Register-listed Downtown Fondren Historic District, starting with the Fondren House.
According to the Jackson Free Press, many residents, and fans of Fondren’s small-town feel and locally owned businesses, are not thrilled about the demolition and the closing of the local businesses these buildings held. No doubt a different Fondren will result.
In completely opposite news, the Jackson Free Press took a look at the turn around that Jackson has made since 2002. It might be no surprise to you to learn that the rehabilitation of historic buildings, not construction of new buildings, has been the notable driver of the economic revitalization that Jackson is going through. The developers getting their hooks into Fondren just don’t seem to care and are willing to take a perfectly good thing and ruin it.
Here is another Jackson story. In a leaked memo from Sec. of the Interior Ryan Zinke to President Donald Trump, we learned that Secretary Zinke is in favor of shrinking six western National Monuments, but supports Mississippi civil rights sites, including the home of slain NAACP leader Medgar Evers, receiving National Monument designation. With the National Monument designation, the property would be owned, funded, and managed by the National Park Service.
One last story from Jackson is that work will soon be underway on the Millsaps College Christian Center. The Clarion Ledger article says the work to the 1950 structure will maintain the historic exterior of the building while the interior will be gutted. An article in The Purple & White says that Dr. Stan Galicki, in the geology department, submitted a document saying that, though the building was built on Yazoo clay, it would be possible and, in fact, less expensive to restore the building. Thank you Dr. Galicki! And thank you to the administration for listening to his recommendation. All too often ‘powers that be’ ignore the advice of experts. Interestingly, the article also states that the building houses the College’s only theater with a stage and full technical setup, which will be removed and replaced with a chapel.
Good news out of Greenville. We have a story in the Clarion Ledger that credits some recent renovation projects as a tribute to the Delta’s resilience. In 2016, work began to redevelop the Sears building and two adjoining properties on Washington Avenue. The project was financed in part by federal and state new market and historic rehabilitation tax credits.
Now the bad news out of Greenville: a story in the Delta Democrat Times with the ominous headline “Elks Lodge not being torn down — at least for now.” I do not have access to the whole article, but the threat appears to be related to the Greenville federal courthouse project. While the city council has approved the demolition of the building back in 2016, MDAH has to approve and issue a demolition permit as well because it is a Mississippi Landmark. In a post last year, Suzassippi expounded on the virtue of the Lodge and informed us that the building was listed as one of Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Endangered Places in 2003.
Somebody needs to get the Greenville City Council a copy of the Clarion Ledger that highlights the resiliency of their town occurring through restoration and not demolition. This building is literally right across the street from the properties that were just restored and it deserves the same treatment.
In Houston, the Mississippi Main Street Association will conduct a “Vision Plan” that will “will identify tangible and intangible assets, present design recommendations, preservation projects and promotional opportunities to the community and create excitement for citizens and both the private and public sectors.”
In Monticello we have word that the Gov. Longino House will host a movie premiere party Saturday, October 7th, at 7 p.m.
From Holmesville, we have news that the work to the old Pike County Chancery Clerk’s Office there is nearly complete. This is a project that we reported on back in March. I don’t have whole access to the Enterprise-Journal article. If any readers out there do, please share any details of this story with us.
Another roundup, another report of a vehicle damaging a historic structure, this time down on the coast in Jackson County. The historic bridge over Red Creek on Highway 57 was damaged when a tractor rig carrying a backhoe struck the bridge. This is the very same bridge that MDOT had recently offered up as free to a good home. Let’s hope that the damage is not as severe as the reports claim and that the bridge will find a good home safe from careless drivers.
In web roundup news…
If you watched Friday night TV in the 1990s you may be sad to learn that the Winslow family’s house from the opening/closing credits of “Family Matters” will be demolished. Interestingly enough, looking closely at the house now it appears to be a wood frame house with stamped brick asphalt siding, rather than being an actual joisted brick house.
An interesting question posed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation via an article titled “Controversial Construction: Should We Preserve Urban Renewal Projects?”
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: Building Types, Demolition/Abandonment, Disasters, Greenville, Historic Preservation, Houston, Jackson, MDAH, Mississippi Heritage Trust, Mississippi Landmarks, MS Dept. of Archives and History, National Park Service, National Trust, News Roundups, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Preservation People/Events, Renovation Projects, Universities/Colleges
Regarding the Fondren House…this August 7, 2017 MS Business Journal paints a much different picture—and one that just barely makes me believe that some people in Fondren aren’t terribly concerned.
“Jim Wilkrson, executive director of the Fondren Renaissance Foundation, was quoted in Find It in Fondren, a neighborhood publication, as saying that “while encouraging historic preservation, [the foundation] also welcomes new investment and development. FRF’s hope is that the end product will convey the historic identity of the [district].”
The Find It in Fondren piece that MBUsiness Journal basically reprinted almost verbatim was a “bought” fluff PR piece and definitively not journalistic. Find it in Fondren wrote exactly what Alan Lange told them to write. Paul Wolfe and Find It had signed a non-disclosure with the promise of the exclusive “breaking” of the story. Again, not a story but a PR piece factually devoid and I would guess written with the promise of future advertising. FRFs historic statement was only added to their website recently. I promise plenty of Fondrenites are sick about what Lange and the Patel brothers have done to Fondren. It’s gross what lies were told and that they will scoff their way to the bank.
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I thought it sounded a bit too peaceful. It is a shame that MBJ printed it…but, the reasons you provided makes much more sense. Thanks for the feedback.
I spent a LOT of time in the Millsaps Christian Center as an undergrad there – it needs work so I’m glad it’s getting it. I think one of my last visits to campus, I spotted a plaque listing N.W. Overstreet as the architect.
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