This first News Roundup of 2018 will compile the historic preservation news related articles from the first three weeks of this cold, flu-riddled year, with some from December that fell through the cracks.
Now for the news.
The Belzoni Banner reports that the Mississippi State Highway 12 Bridge over the Sunflower River closed on January 15 for repairs after an overloaded truck hauling scrap metal sheared the bridge’s structural steel and compromised its structural integrity in November. This bridge is the second historic metal truss bridge damaged by oversized trucks in 2017; however, unlike the State Highway 57 Bridge over Red Creek in Jackson County, the Sunflower River Bridge will not be replaced by MDOT.
The Carthaginian reported that the Leake County Board of Supervisors are concerned with problems and delays that have arisen with a current window replacement project at the historic Leake County Courthouse. The phrases “window replacement project” and historic courthouse are rarely good when combined in one sentence. Since the courthouse is a Mississippi Landmark, I would be interested in what the MDAH has said about the current window replacement project. For a look at this historic building with its original windows, Suzassippi profiled the Leake County Courthouse as part of her New Deal in Mississippi series in 2015.
The Clinton Courier reports that Olde Towne Clinton’s newest green space, Town Spring Park, is nearing completion. It is being constructed at Capitol and Belmont Streets on the location of a historic spring that served as the focal point of life during Clinton’s early development.
Last month in Columbus, the Dispatch reported that the Columbus Historic Preservation Commission granted attorney David Sanders, representing the Randolph Lipscomb estate, a three month moratorium on making any decision regarding the demolition of a historic Victorian house at the corner of Sixth Street and Third Avenue North (223 Sixth Street, North). The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, led by President Harry Sanders (David Sanders’s brother), wish to demolish the house, like they have demolished other historic properties in recent years, for a parking lot. The Sanders brothers have a rather ingeniously backhanded method for working around the local historic district protections Columbus has. The Board of Supervisors made demolition of the house a condition of the sale, which the Lipscomb estate is using to make an economic hardship argument for demolition by saying the estate is broke and the house is both worthless and an expense to the estate. Economic hardship does not work quite like that (it has nothing to do with an owner’s economic status but with the property’s economic status), but I doubt hardly anyone in Columbus knows that. The Columbus Historic Preservation Commission’s moratorium ends in mid-March; we will have to keep an eye on Columbus at that time to see what happens.
A mid-century building at the corner of Taylor and Childs Streets in Downtown Corinth was demolished in December for a new Commerce Bank office building, according to the Daily Corinthian. The building is not in the MDAH HRI, and I could find no readily available information about its history.
Down in Lincoln County, the Daily Leader reports that the Lincoln County Historical and Genealogical Society is accepting donations to repair and reinstall the Fair Oak Springs School historic marker. The green marker, erected by the MDAH in 2010 using donated funds, had been missing for some time until being recently found, damaged by an MDOT worker. A history of the school and the historic marker from the article:
Fair Oaks Springs was a consolidated school in eastern Lincoln County that operated from 1927 to 1960. The late Larry Butler, a member of the school’s Class of 1960, spearheaded the effort to erect a marker on the spot…
At the 2009 reunion, class members discussed fundraising options for purchasing the approximately $1,700 marker. Someone suggested they collect money at the reunion and by the end of the meeting had given around $1,300. Word traveled to more alumni, and by the end of the week, $1,700 had been collected.
Eighty-three years after the school first opened, Fair Oak Springs was recognized as one of Lincoln County’s historical sites.
The school opened in 1927 as a consolidation of nearby schools at Fair River, Oak Grove and Big Springs, taking on the combination of the three names. The U-shaped building consisted of eight classrooms, four on each side, with an auditorium in the middle. The elementary grades all paired up to make the four classrooms adequate, and the same teacher taught pairs of grades.
Instead of indoor restrooms, the school was equipped with a pair of outhouses. Indoor restrooms weren’t added until 1948, when they were included in the first brick gymnasium ever built in Lincoln County.
More than 500 students attended Fair Oak Springs at its peak, but by the late 1950s, the school was losing students to the Brookhaven School District. The size of the student body dwindled to around 200 before the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors voted to close the school in March 1960.
Not long after its closure, Fair Oak Springs school was torn down. As the years went on, Hwy. 84 was converted into a four-lane, and it passed right over the site of the school, near the intersection of the highway and Harmony Drive.
Behind the Delta-Democrat Times paywall is a story about the Greenville City Council’s sale of the National Register-listed Wetherbee House to historic preservationist Joshua Cain of Belmont Plantation, which has apparently hit a snag as to whether the Council actually sold the house and whether Cain actually wants to buy it. Cain and city officials have had talks throughout January about the house, with closed door talks last occurring on January 12.
In Holly Springs, The South Reporter ran photographs of the ongoing demolition of the Colonial Building on Old Highway 178 East. The building was a shopping center that, befitting its name, was an example of mid-century historicism, such as has been examined on this site in posts such as Chris Risher: Colonial Revivalist? and Architectural Twins: The A&Ps.
Also in The South Reporter, the owner of Alicia, an antebellum house on Chulahoma Avenue in Holly Springs, inadvertently discovered historic brick walkways around the house after some yard maintenance. Being ephemeral and often changed based on fashion, the landscapes and gardens surrounding Mississippi’s antebellum houses are not as well-studied as the houses themselves, so any remaining traces should be preserved.
Down in Leakesville, the Greene County Herald reports that a new Civil Rights Monument on the front lawn of the Greene County Courthouse was dedicated on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by the Greene County Civil Rights Alliance. The Monument is a 3-piece, tripartite arrangement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the names of 20 local residents as the centerpiece, flanked by sections with the names of prominent Mississippians and national figures in the Civil Rights Movement. The twenty local residents honored on the monument are Mary C. Allen, George W. Anderson, Linwood Bolton Sr., Magnolia Cochran, Clarence Debose, Mack A. Hayes Sr., Johnnie Hill, Tom T. Johnson, Cozie Leverette, Wilma Leverette, Matylin Loper, Geraldine McCann, Tony McCann, Carrel Moody Sr., Charlie Moore, H.B. Peters, Ernest Rogers, Walter Shumac, Arthur Sowell and Nathaniel Taylor. In keeping with the current national mood regarding Confederate monuments and memorials, the Greene County memorial to Confederate soldiers provided the impetus for the creation of the Civil Rights Monument, though with a significant difference as the Confederate Memorial was only placed at the Courthouse by the local Sons of Confederate Veterans and Greene County Board of Supervisors in 2016.
The Magee Courier reports that the Simpson County Board of Education met on December 14 and, at the request of District Superintendent Greg Paes, is considering the demolition of the Magee Middle original building. Since the cost to the school district is estimated at over $200,000, an architect would have to be hired to conduct the demolition process. The board instructed Superintendent Paes to begin the demolition process and report his findings to the Board. The original Magee Middle School building, as indicated by the MDAH HRI, is a Claude H. Lindsley design constructed in 1931, one of the last schools he designed before leaving Mississippi in the mid-1930s. The Mission-style building is Magee’s oldest remaining educational structure and has not been listed on the National Register or as a Mississippi Landmark, the latter of which would convey some protection to the building. Currently, there is no protection from demolition for this historic school, which is not being demolished for any stated purpose other than just to get rid of it.
The Historic Natchez Foundation recognized preservation efforts in the city through a series of awards handed out last week during the HNF’s annual meeting, according to the Natchez Democrat. The George and Ethel Kelly Restoration Award was presented to Ricky and Wanda Smith for their preservation efforts at Ravennaside on South Union Street. Ravennaside is a Colonial Revival house important in Natchez as the former home of Roane Fleming Byrnes, an instrumental person in the creation of the Natchez Trace Parkway. North Carolina author Karen Cox was recognized for Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race and the Gothic South, which is currently in negotiations for movie rights. Dan and Jan Shiells, part-time Natchez residents from California, were honored for efforts to create a fund for the HNF’s Courthouse Records Project which will allow Adams County Courthouse records to be catalogued and organized. The non-profit F.O.R. Natchez was honored with the Charlie Compton Preservation Award for efforts to revitalize downtown through the commissioning of a four-phase master plan study. A series of special merit awards was also given out to Mike Blattner for renovating the Harold and Miller Warehouse at Canal and High Streets and Natchez Brewing Company owners Pat and Lisa Miller for basing their business in that building, Eddie Burkes for his efforts in establishing and organizing the Downtown Natchez Farmers Market, Mac Hazlip for renovating of a Briel Avenue cottage, Jeremy Houston for establishing Miss-Lou Heritage Tours, and Rebecca McGehee as HNF volunteer of the year.
The Natchez Democrat also reports that Longwood’s interior is closed to tours until further notice after freezing weather caused a sixth-floor pipe to burst, damaging plaster in the lower finished areas. Guide Mabel Lee was in mid-tour when the pipe burst, and the article gives a description of her enlisting two tourists to save a vintage banquette (circular couch) from being destroyed by falling water and plaster. Other than plaster damage, the house and its contents escaped any significant damage.
Also currently closed to tours in Natchez are Melrose and the William Johnson House due to the current federal government shutdown. The Natchez Democrat also reports that all facilities along the Natchez Trace Parkway have closed. Fort Rosalie, the Natchez Visitor Center, and the Natchez Trace Parkway itself will remain open.
The Enterprise-Journal reported in late December on efforts in Gillsburg to preserve the former Gillsburg Baptist Church and use it for special events. The diminutive frame vernacular church was constructed in 1933 and has not been used for regular church services since the new Gillsburg Baptist Church was constructed in 1968. The building has been used sporadically since then with the last public gathering in the sanctuary a 2011 funeral. In recent years, a committee of local citizens has done several repairs to the building, including spending $12,000 to replace a leaky slate roof with shingles, $7,000 to repair the floor sills, and $15,000 to hire stained glass contractors to restore the original windows. The committee is currently planning a painting project, recently meeting with painters to get bids on painting the church’s interior and exterior. Committee member Joey Wall, a local Amite County historian, stated in the article that preserving the former Gillsburg Baptist Church helps recall when “Gillsburg was once home to a collegiate institute, a high school, stores, service stations, even a tractor dealership” as “the hub of a thriving dairy industry in the green fields of southern Amite County.”
“Muddy Springs Methodist Church has not held regular services for a half-century, and it has no heat, air conditioning or even plumbing. But the little church is still in close to its original state, according to Ralph Price, one of the small group working to care for the 1873 structure.
“It looks like a movie set,” Price said.
Over the last few decades, the Friends of Muddy Springs Methodist Church have done what they could to maintain it, but it “needs painting pretty bad,” Price explained. “And there are some settling issues on one side.”
…“We’re trying to preserve what we consider a historic treasure,” Price said. “It was one of the earliest Methodist churches in the area.”
Muddy Springs Methodist Church is a rare example of a Nineteenth Century rural vernacular church, the type of small, white-painted, frame church that we all tend to imagine when someone asks us to think of a historic church in the countryside. Efforts to preserve the church should be encouraged, with guidance to prevent any over-restoration of the church, such as happened to Franklin Presbyterian Church in rural Holmes County several years ago.
Also from the Enterprise-Journal, a state bicentennial celebration was held on Saturday, January 13 at the (Old) Pike County Chancery Clerk’s Office (also known as the Old Pike County Courthouse) in Holmesville. The event was originally planned for December 9 but an unexpected heavy snow canceled that event. After a bugler, a 21-gun salute, three cannon blasts, and a flag-raising ceremony, a large crowd crammed inside the newly-renovated antebellum building to see historical displays, hear speeches about county history, and enjoy birthday cake and punch.
The Picayune Item reports that the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area awarded a $14,000 grant to the Land Trust of Mississippi Coastal Plain for the restoration of the smoke house at the Shaw Homestead near Poplarville. This is second grant the Land Trust has been awarded by the National Heritage Area to restore one of the Homestead outbuildings, as a previous $28,000 grant was used to repair one of the sheds. According to Land Trust executive director Judy Steckler in another Picayune Item article, previous owner Mary Shaw left the house when Hurricane Camille came ashore in Mississippi in 1969 but never returned to live in it. The house was then abandoned and remained untouched for nearly 40 years, until it was donated to the Land Trust in 2007 after Hurricane Katrina. The Shaw Homestead is furnished exactly as it was when Mary Shaw left in 1969, a rare time capsule of mid-century rural life in Mississippi’s coastal Piney Woods.
In Meridian, The Meridian Star reports that interior demolition at the Threefoot Building was scheduled to begin last week as part of converting the building into the Courtyard by Marriott-Threefoot hotel. Project developer Ascent Hospitality, LLC installed a construction debris chute on the side of the Threefoot building in December with the interior demolition work delayed until last week waiting for an asbestos abatement permit from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
Also in Meridian, the National Historic Landmark Dentzel Carousel, which has experienced issues with the carousel motor for months, will be closed until February for repairs according to The Meridian Star. The Shelter Building (Carousel House) in Highland Park will remain open to the public during that time. The Highland Park Dentzel Carousel and Shelter Building is the world’s only surviving two-row stationary Dentzel menagerie and is one of only 40 National Historic Landmarks in Mississippi.
In Oxford, The Oxford Eagle reports that the Courthouse Square Historic Preservation Commission approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for exterior renovations at the historic Lyric Theater with goal for the theater to look much like it did in the 1940s. Plans call for the installation of a navy blue with white letters vertical blade sign and accompanying marquee sign with the same color scheme and modeled after the one that the building historically had. The Lyric Theater building was constructed in the late 1800s as a livery stable, with William Faulkner’s family owning it in the early part of the 20th century. In the 1920s, it was remodeled into the Lyric Theater, Oxford’s first motion picture theater. The Lyric closed in the 1970s, sitting vacant until the early 1980s when it was converted into office spaces and a health center. In 2008, it was converted back into a theater, this time with an emphasis on live performance instead of movies.
Gulf Live/The Mississippi Press ran the obituary of lawyer Raymond L. Brown. A native of the Delta, after his professional football career and law clerkship at the United States Supreme Court for Justice Tom Clark, he moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, living in Pascagoula and later in Gautier, where he served on the Gautier Historic Preservation Commission.
The Madison County Journal reports that the Madison County Board of Supervisors approved a plan for the historic Chapel of the Cross in Mannsdale that calls for the construction of a new 400-person sanctuary and support building on 30 acres of adjacent land located south of the historic church. The Mannsdale-Livingston Historic Preservation District unanimously approved these plans during their October 9 meeting, while limiting the exterior color options and requesting that the brick closely match the existing buildings. Of note is that the Mannsdale-Livingston Historic Preservation District is only an advisory panel to the zoning and planning board and Board of Supervisors; they had no ability to deny the Chapel of the Cross their expansion, merely to guide it according to a limited set of guidelines. Despite its relative powerless-ness, that has not stopped anti-historic preservationists allied with powerful and greedy developers from attempting to repeal the district designation, as Malvaney chronicled in the early days of Preservation in Mississippi, “Preservation Victory in . . . Madison the County?”
The Vicksburg Post reports that the vacant Magnolia Avenue High School received a new historic marker in a ceremony held just before Christmas. Magnolia Avenue High School was an important landmark for Vicksburg’s African American community. It was Vicksburg’s second African American high school and operated from 1923 until 1958, including a period from 1940 to 1946 when it was the only African American high school in Mississippi included in a Rockefeller Foundation curriculum study on progressive educational approaches among 16 Southeastern African American high schools. Magnolia Avenue High School is one of the only major extant designs associated with local Vicksburg architect Michael J. Donovan and is one of Mississippi’s oldest and largest remaining African American educational buildings. Another Vicksburg Post article contains the history of the school and what it meant to Vicksburg’s African American community.
The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a resolution on January 10 seeking local bills from the Mississippi Legislature to allow the Board to allocate up to $10,000 per year to the Vicksburg Heritage Guild for their efforts to restore the house at 1019 Adams Street donated to the group in November. According to The Vicksburg Post article, state law requires the city to seek special legislation to be able to provide money to the Vicksburg Heritage Guild and other non-profit agencies.
Not preservation news, but newsworthy all the same, is that the major art exhibition “Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise” is on view at the Mississippi Museum of Art until July 8, 2018. From The Meridian Star article:
Illuminating the perception and depiction of Mississippi over more than 200 years, the exhibition showcases 175 works by 100 artists who either resided in the state, visited, or lived elsewhere and were compelled to respond to a multiplicity of subjects. From Choctaw objects and sweeping landscapes to portraiture and contemporary work, the exhibition reveals that Mississippi has continuously resonated with artists in powerful ways as lived experience, memory, and imagination…
The exhibition features individual masterpieces by artists seldom exhibited in the state, including James Audubon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Thomas Hart Benton, George Caleb Bingham, John Steuart Curry, Robert Indiana, and Andy Warhol, alongside works by indigenous peoples, as well as by native Mississippians such as William Dunlap, Sam Gilliam, George Ohr, and Eudora Welty. Other prominent artists with works on view include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Melvin Edwards, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, and Kara Walker.
The exhibition is divided thematically and chronologically into eight chapters: “A Contested Place: Native Americans and Europeans,” “Natchez: Culture and Slavery,” “From Statehood to Confederacy: Mississippi in Times of Peace and War,” “Art in the Age of Reconstruction,” “Land and Sea: Artists Explore Mississippi and the World,” “Mississippi, the Great Depression, and Regional Identity,” “Shaping the Future: Art of Mississippi Since 1950,” and “Art in the Age of Civil Rights.” The exhibition promises to be an important one and is free to the public, making it a good way to spend a gray winter afternoon.
And that was the news.
Categories: African American History, Antebellum, Bridges, Carthage, Churches, Civil Rights, Columbus, Corinth, Courthouses, Demolition/Abandonment, Greenville, Historic Preservation, Holly Springs, Hotels, Leakesville, Magee, Meridian, Natchez, National Park Service, News Roundups, Oxford, Poplarville, Renovation Projects, Schools, Theaters, Vicksburg