Just because we were on vacation last week didn’t stop the preservation news from coming. We’ve got a lot to catch up on. Remember you can catch the preservation news as it breaks in our Twitter sidebar to the right. =====>>
Probably the biggest news story over the past couple of weeks is the demolitions proposed to take place in Columbus’ Burns Bottom. MissPres reported on the initiation of these demolitions almost a year ago when the City of Columbus was seeking $500,000 in grant funds to demolish houses. I don’t know much about this story other than what is being reported. Are there any readers that could fill us in? It sounds like the next step is for MDAH to meet with city officials. Hopefully, there can be a resolution met where the historic buildings are saved rather than demolished. An article by Rufus Ward about the proposed demolitions might be most quotable of the lot, stating, “In other parts of Columbus old houses that are not mansions have been restored and have revitalized the city block on which they are located. Why could that not be done here?”
From Holly Springs there is word that the 7th Annual “Behind the Big House” Program is scheduled for April 19–22. If you’re unfamiliar with this tour, it is an educational outreach effort towards interpreting the legacy of slavery.
From Oxford, a story about Ole Miss’ efforts to acknowledge and contextualize its past connections to slavery and racism.
Several news stories from Jackson. The first is that there is now a database for records relating to the thousands of bodies found buried under UMMC’s campus. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has transcribed over 4,000 handwritten death records which have been uploaded to their website, which they clarify could have some accuracy issues since the documents were all handwritten. You can search that archive here.
An article in the Jackson Free Press listed two preservation related stories from the March 7th Jackson City Council meeting. The first was that city will be submitting an application in the upcoming round of CLG grants from MDAH to have a National Register nomination of the Midtown neighborhood completed.
At the same meeting, the council voted to apply for and accept a local-government grant from MDAH for Jackson‘s Mt. Olive cemetery. The funds are to create printed and marketing materials for a campaign to encourage donations so more work and maintenance can be completed at the historic cemetery. You might remember that the cemetery was listed on the National Register in 2017.
The Mississippi Business Journal reports that there are plans to convert a Jackson icon, the Lamar Life office building, into a mixed-use building that contains apartments, retail, and offices. The conversion of the 11-story building commenced last week and is expected to be complete this November.
An article looking at the temporary-ness of architecture at American fairgrounds included consideration of the Jackson Fairgrounds. These are not the traditional “brick and mortar” buildings like the Livestock Pavilion or the Armory, but rather tents and concessions that are packed up at the end of the fair.
The Kemper County Courthouse in DeKalb is currently receiving an Existing Facilities Report.
A good news story from Meridian. The city council there is considering a proposal from a private developer who would purchase the former Police Station building from the city and convert it into a craft brewery. The Meridian City Council had a public work session Monday, March 19, where people could hear about this idea and voice their opinions. The council would have voted today on whether or not to sell the building, but rather the issue was tabled for one month to wait for the council to review the results of a student-led Mississippi State University feasibility study before moving forward. The study is scheduled to be published next month and will provide potential uses for the building as determined by MSU architecture students.
Constructed in 1977, the Meridian Police Station building was recognized as a Mississippi Landmark in June 2015 by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. It’s been empty since the city moved the police department to its current location on 22nd Avenue in 2013. The city has been threatening to demolish the building since then, going as far to turn down grant money awarded to the city for repairing the building.
Also from Meridian, a $23,000 renovation at the Meridian Museum of Art is in the works. It is an effort to improve the outside entrance of the former Carnegie Library and the first-floor interior. Renovations will likely take place during May. While not much detail is given about the work, it might include a more permanent access ramp. Guidance for improving access to historic buildings can be found in the National Park Service’s Preservation Brief 32: Making Historic Properties Accessible. Since the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, these guidelines are worth following in an effort to keep the building as a contributing structure on the Register.
The last story from Meridian is about the Meridian Fire Department responding to a suspicious fire on Sunday that damaged a house in the 2000 block of 44th Avenue.
Garden & Gun Magazine ran a story about the Simmons-Wright Company general store in Kewanee, that is one of the oldest continually operating general stores in Mississippi.
From Natchez, we learn that Temple B’nai Israel will host a Passover Seder Dinner March 24 to raise restoration funds for the temple. The temple was listed by Mississippi Heritage Trust as one of Mississippi’s Ten Most Endangered Places in 2017. The dinner seats about 70 people and reservations can be made by calling 504-812-4148 or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally from Natchez is an interesting story that asks if traditional pilgrimages are addressing the changing face of tourism. The traditional pilgrimages have their roots in the 1930’s and not much has changed about the tours since then. The Behind The Big House pilgrimage in Holly Springs (mentioned above) is an event featuring more inclusive storytelling. To stay an important part of drawing tourists and their dollars, some tours may need to adjust. This is not a problem specific to pilgrimages, but house museums in general.
The City of Biloxi is forging ahead with work at the Saenger Theater, despite losing CDBG funding for the project.
The headline “Gulfport‘s Centennial Plaza has a new developer with a proven track record” was met with cautious optimism. Virginia attorney Robert Lubin reached an agreement with Barrington Development, and this week secured an $18 million building permit to start work to turn the former Veterans Affairs property into a mixed-use development. Barrington Development has a track record of actually finishing projects; the White House Hotel in Biloxi might be the most notable, and the former Santa Maria del Mar apartments are currently being remodeled into a hotel by the company.
Several news stories picked up the news covered by yesterdays post, regarding the four sites that received an NPS Civil Rights grant award.
In the statewide news, there are lots of volunteering opportunities this April 7th.
The Civil War Trust is seeking volunteer help this spring to help with maintenance and restoration of numerous sites in Mississippi.
Thousands of volunteers across the country are anticipated to participate April 7 as Park Day brings help to 160 historic sites in 32 states and the District of Columbia, according to a Civil War Trust news release.
Help is needed chiefly with outdoor jobs that range from raking leaves and collecting trash to painting signs and gardening, according to the news release. Volunteers will receive T-shirts, and some sites will provide lunch or refreshments. A local historian may also be on hand to detail the park’s significance, according to the news release.
• Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home & Presidential Library, Biloxi, 9 a.m. Email: Kitsaa Stevens at email@example.com. Volunteers will help build or repair fences, clear brush, landscape, paint, remove trash, and maintain trails. Water and snacks will be provided, and a tour of the main house and the library will be available for attendees.
• Gulf Islands National Seashore, Mississippi District, Ocean Springs, 8:30 a.m. Email: Christopher Bramblett at Christopher_Bramblett@nps.gov. Help is needed installing markers and interpretive signs, landscaping, panting, and picking up trash. Volunteers can also participate in a tour of Historic Fort Massachusetts on West Ship Island. Water will be provided.
• Mississippi’s Final Stands Interpretive Center and Battlefields, Baldwyn, 9 a.m. Email: Edwina Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org Staff will need help with landscaping, repairing fences, removing debris, and maintaining trails. Water will be provided.
• Natchez National Historical Park: Fort Rosalie, Natchez, 9:00 a.m. Email: David Slay at email@example.com. Volunteers will help with painting, removing trash, clearing brush, and planting flowers. Water and snacks will be provided, and there will be a ranger talk on Fort Rosalie at noon.
• Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, 9 a.m. Contact: Scott Babinowich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff will need help painting, clearing brush, installing interpretive signs, maintaining trails, and tidying indoor areas. Water and snacks will be provided.
The Civil War Trust is a national nonprofit land preservation organization devoted to the protection of America’s hallowed battlegrounds. It saves the battlefields of the Civil War, the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, and educates the public. Learn more at Civilwar.org.
Whew, 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, Antebellum, Architectural Research, Biloxi, Cemeteries, Civil Rights, Civil War, Columbus, Cool Old Places, Courthouses, Demolition/Abandonment, Disasters, Gulfport, Heritage Tourism, Holly Springs, Hospitals/Medical, Jackson, Jails, MDAH, Mississippi Heritage Trust, Mississippi Landmarks, Modernism, MS Dept. of Archives and History, Natchez, National Park Service, News Roundups, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Schools