Webb • Nominated by Ron Hill
The Webb Depot was built in 1909 by the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad as a combination passenger and freight depot. A central part of life in this small Delta town for decades, the station was the junction of two different railroads coming from three directions.
Privately owned, the Webb Depot is in stable condition but will require an extensive restoration to bring it back to life. Community activists in Webb would like to restore the building for use as a civic space, such as the Oxford Depot or the Martin and Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum, located in the historic depot in Cleveland.
2017 Update- No Progress
The Webb Depot appears to be in the same condition as it was two years ago.
Woodville • Nominated by the Woodville Civic Club and Woodville/Wilkinson County Main Street Association
Constructed in 1929, the Old Wilkinson County Jail was designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style.
Covered in vines, the Wilkinson County Jail is in poor condition, with the tile roof collapsed in places. Without immediate action, this richly detailed building will be lost. The Wilkinson County Board of Supervisors has indicated that they would be willing to sell the building to a developer.
Kiln • Nominated by Community Wakeup and Men and Women of God Ministry
When loggers cutting trees near the Jourdan River in 2013, they uncovered a forgotten piece of history, the Jourdan River School. Also known as the Kiln Colored School, the one-room wooden schoolhouse was constructed in 1929 and served as a center of learning for African-American students until school desegregation in the 1950s. Today, the Jourdan River School is one of few remaining African American schools in South Mississippi.
Abandoned to the elements for over fifty years, the Jourdan River School is sadly deteriorated. While missing its windows and front portico, the building is still structurally sound and could be saved.
Senatobia • Nominated by the Friends of the French Hotel
The French Hotel was constructed in 1858 by Dr. A.M. Arnold French, making it perhaps the oldest building in Senatobia. Dr. French and his wife owned and operated the hotel until his son, Jesse French, took over in 1912. Dr. French practiced medicine in Senatobia until 1903 and was awarded a gold medal in 1878 for his services rendered during the town’s yellow fever epidemic. The French Hotel is thought to have been the headquarters for General Nathan Bedford Forrest during the Civil War. Dr. French kept a hand-written description of inventory lost during the First, Second, Third, and Fourth raids of Senatobia.
Open to the elements, the French Hotel is in poor condition. The building is privately owned and the owners are willing to sell the property. Residents of Senatobia would like to see this historic place restored to once again become a gracious hotel.
No significant progress has been made on the French Hotel to date, but the residents of Senatobia continue to look for different means to restore the old Hotel.
Starkville, Mississippi (Oktibbeha County)
Opened in 1929 with great fanfare and high expectations, the Cooperative Creamery in Starkville, in Oktibbeha County represented the growth and importance of the dairy industry in Mississippi following the decline in the cotton culture. At its height in 1958, Oktibbeha County’s dairy industry relied on 123 family-run dairy farms. In 2001, the county has six dairy farms, and the once modern and gleaming Creamery is a roofless shell of a building. The Creamery’s steel frame and windows, gleaming interior tile, and yellow exterior are waiting for a new use and for recognition of their part in local and state agricultural history.
Unfortunately, the Cooperative Creamery was demolished in 2005. Development continues to occur on the lands formerly occupied by the Oktibbeha County Dairy Farms, erasing the agricultural history of the area. In 2017, there are no remaining dairies in Oktibbeha County.
Circa 1820, 1842
Wilkesburg, Mississippi (Jefferson Davis County)
The Wilkes House is an architectural treasure, as it is a remarkably intact, rare surviving example of a vernacular house dating from the earliest decades of the 1800s. Located approximately five miles south of Bassfield, the house was constructed in two distinct phases and probably achieved its present form about 1842. The original portion is a one-and-one-half story, hall-and-parlor plan, log house, with the upper half-story accessed from a stair opening onto the rear gallery. A very early 19th century construction date is indicated by the 12-inch wide, beaded, hand-planed boards that finish the walls and ceiling, the exposed beaded ceiling joists, batten shutters, and six-panel doors.
Stephen H. Wilkes is believed to have enlarged the house into its present form around 1842, when he purchased the property and established a cotton plantation, mill, and mercantile store, which became the center of a rapidly growing community named Wilkesburg. The house is distinguished by its outstanding degree of architectural integrity, and having almost no changes since it was enlarged in 1842, apparently even retaining some of its original paint. Since 1842 the house has remained in the Wilkes family and in 1960 the descendants moved into a new house built next to the original Wilkes House which was then relegated to storage and has received little care since.
Recently the Wilkes Home was purchased by the city of Bassfield from the Wilkes family. Plans are to move the house to Bassfield and restore it for use as a visitor center as part of the Longleaf Trace. However, the City does not have the money to move and restore the house so it will sit in its current location continuing to deteriorate at its present rate if the money can not be found to save this important and very intact early Mississippi house.
The Wilkes Home was designated a Mississippi Landmark in 2006. The 2015 update suggested that Bassfield City officials wished to move the house from its isolated rural location to Bassfield for use as a visitor center on the Longleaf Trace. This did not happen. Unfortunately for the Wilkes House, the City of Bassfield gave it back to the family. Sadly the owner and champion of the Wilkes House, Charlotte Speights Holmes died 2106 leaving the house without a patron. Dr. Amy Young who did archeological work around the house with the University of Southern Mississippi has retired and could not be reached.
Holly Springs, Mississippi (Marshall County)
Founded in 1905 on the outskirts of Holly Springs, the Mississippi Industrial College trained young African Americans for 77 years under the sponsorship of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Elias Cottrell established the school “for the literary and industrial training of the Negro youth, to train young men and women in Christian ideals, to furnish a practical education, and to make of them better citizens.” Between 1906 and 1982, when the college closed, the school expanded from its two original buildings – Catherine Hall (1906) and Hammond Hall (1906) – to include ten structures, including dormitories, classroom buildings, teachers’ houses, and a gymnasium. Today, four historic buildings, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Mississippi Industrial College Historic District, stand unused and deteriorating on the west side of Highway 78, across from Rust College. Some stabilization work on the campus also threatens the buildings’ architectural integrity.
At the request of the owners of the property, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the complex was designated a Mississippi landmark by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on November 14, 2002.
Holly Springs-based Rust College purchased the property on which the Industrial College stands. A representative from Rust Collge expressed optimism about the future for the old Industrial College campus and its potential restoration and adaptive reuse. The Rust representative also stated that Rust had received a large Federal grant to be put toward the Industrial College campus. A later conversation with Dr. Ishmell Edwards who oversees the Mississippi Industrial College Campus revealed that the college has already used most of the Federal Grant money for stabilization. Rust is currently in the process of getting bids on some much needed new roofs a and windows for the old campus’ buildings.
Rodney, Mississippi (Jefferson County)
Few today can imagine as they drive through the tiny hamlet of Rodney that this was once a thriving river town, considered so full of possibilities that it almost became the capital of Mississippi.
Rodney Presbyterian Church was constructed in 1832, in the Federal style, extremely rare in religious architecture in the state. The building witnessed the rapid growth of the town in the 1840s and 1850s, as well as the slow decline, after the Mississippi River changed its course in the 1860s. The church even saw a bit of action during the Civil War as the Union gunboat USS Rattler bombarded the town with shells, which left scars on the church building that can still be seen today. By the turn of the century, Rodney’s population had declined considerably, and in 1923, the church, with a congregation of only sixteen members, lost its last pastor.
The Mississippi United Daughters of the Confederacy obtained the building in 1966, receiving a grant to restore it. Since then, however, funds to maintain Rodney Presbyterian have been low, and the building, among the oldest surviving churches in Mississippi, has slipped into another period of decline and is threatened by deterioration from the elements.
Still owned by the Mississippi United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Rodney Presbyterian Church sits idle and unused. With the exception of the occasional work day, the Rodney Presbyterian Church sits neglected and vulnerable to vandalism and the ravages of time.
Greenville, Mississippi (Washington County)
In its heyday, the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elk, No. 148 Lodge, also known as the “Cotton Pickers” Elk Lodge, was the social center for Greenville. Originally chartered in 1890, the “Cotton Pickers” built their once proud Neo-classic home in Greenville in 1906 and opened the doors in 1907. The Greenville Times of February 16, 1907, described the building as including a billiard hall, a barber shop, and a full library decorated with rare and expensive oil paintings and as being lighted by both gas and electricity. The “Cotton Pickers” Lodge has been converted many times since the Elks left. Now the home of the Mississippi Action for Community Education (M.A.C.E.), an organization committed to the preservation and education of African-American culture, the building is in urgent need of help. In the 1990’s, M.A.C.E. and other concerned citizens saved the building several times from the bulldozer and had the building designated a Mississippi Landmark in 2002. If care is not taken soon to restore the building, the city could force demolition.
The Cotton Pickers Lodge is now in more danger than ever. The City of Greenville is losing its downtown green space to make way for a new Federal Courthouse; consequently, a new green space is desired. Unfoutently the City seems to have its eye on the old Lodge a solution. There is a party interested in saving and restoring Cotton Pickers with aspirations to convert the building into a boutique hotel the clock is ticking however and If nothing is done soon to save Cotton Pickers very well may be lost.
Money, Mississippi (Leflore County)
This simple, two-story brick store seems unassuming, standing beside the highway in a small Delta crossroads town. But the events that swirled around the building in August 1955 invigorated the modern civil rights movement.
On a hot summer day, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago visiting his family in the Delta, came into the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market to buy candy, and while there, he allegedly offended Carolyn Bryant, the wife of the white owner. The content of Till’s remarks or whether he whistled flirtatiously at Carolyn is not clear to this day, but Bryant left the store, and Till and his friends fled, fearing a violent confrontation. Two nights later, Till was kidnapped from the house where he was staying, and he disappeared; his mutilated body was found in the nearby Tallahatchie River several days later. This may have been just another murder of a black boy in the Mississippi Delta, except that Till’s mother in Chicago publicized the atrocity and insisted on opening Emmett’s coffin for the world to witness the cruelty of his murderers. Carolyn Bryant’s husband Roy and his brother J.W. were arrested almost immediately after the discovery of Emmett’s body, but the sudden attention from outside the state prompted a rally around the two men, and they were acquitted on the murder charge. The Bryant brothers, both of whom are now dead, later boasted to the press that they had killed Till. The Till incident helped to spark the civil rights movement and gave Rosa Parks the courage to begin the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama by refusing to give up her seat to a white man.
The Bryant Store today is in very bad repair—the roof and second floor have collapsed into the building and the remnants of the porch are hanging precariously on the front of the building. For now, the exterior walls are still standing, and with restoration the site could memorialize this small event that spawned a national movement.
The Bryant Store continues to deteriorate. The majority of the second-floor walls have collapsed jeopardizing the structural integrity. Several attempts have been made to purchase the property; however, the current owners are not willing to sell the building at a reasonable price. In 2011 a Mississippi Freedom Trail marker was installed next to Bryant’s Grocery. This marker along with other Emmett Till murder related markers has been vandalized. In the summer of 2017, the plaque at Bryant’s Grocery was taken down and replaced.
Recently, a group of concerned citizens met and discussed different avenues for preserving the site. Congress has recently approved a request by the National Park Service to fund a feasibility study for Civil Rights-related sites in Mississippi, including Bryant Grocery.
Okolona, Mississippi (Chickasaw County)
The Chandler House is one of Mississippi’s increasingly rare examples of a residence combining Greek Revival and Italianate stylistic features. The façade of the two-story wood-frame house is dominated by a monumental colonnade of six octagonal columns, one of only about a half-dozen houses in the state with that feature. Segmental-arched windows and a bracketed cornice impart a distinctive Italianate character.
The earliest part of the house is thought to have been a small log cabin built in the 1850s. In 1868 or 1869 the house was purchased by Col. James R. “Bob” McIntosh, a former Confederate officer who practiced law after the Civil War and served in the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1872-73, later becoming president of a local bank. McIntosh had the house extensively enlarged and remodeled to its present design about 1870. In 1896, the house became the home of Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Chandler. It remained in the possession of the Chandler family and their heirs until it was donated to the Okolona Development Foundation Charities in 2005.
In recent years, the Chandler House suffered badly from neglect and deterioration. It has stood vacant for roughly 25 years and had previously been used as a rental property in serious need of substantial stabilization and restoration. As one of the most significant historic houses of Okolona, its preservation is crucial to community revitalization efforts.
The Okolona Development Foundation has received an architect’s report and estimates that it will take $750,000 to restore the structure. Although a $50,000 Carpenter grant has been obtained, fundraising is at a standstill and this property is still endangered. It continues to suffer from neglect and deterioration. Over the last four years, engineers, contractors, architects, and consultants have provided estimates on amount needed to restore and stabilize. $20,000 was initially raised from private individuals to stabilize the property. This money is being used to maintain the property. Perry Grubbs, director of the Okolona Chamber of Commerce does not feel hopeful that the property will be saved.
Carroll County, Mississippi
In 1850, William Alexander McCain purchased Waverly Plantation in Carroll County. The original 2,000-acre cotton plantation is now 1,500 acres but still remains in the McCain family. As typical of plantations before the Civil War, the McCains owned slaves who worked the fields; however, it is what happened after the Civil War that is more unusual. When the war ended, many of the freed slaves remained closely entwined with the McCain family and stayed in the area of the plantation, which later became known as the Teoc community. These freed slaves whose surname reflected the name of their former owners became tenants and sharecroppers of the white McCains. Unlike other sharecropping relationships of the time, they worked in a more hospitable environment.
The white and black McCain families took different paths, but both produced leaders. The white McCains produced military leaders with two Navy Admirals, and John McCain, who was a Navy pilot in the Vietnam War, became a U.S. Senator and later the 2008 Republican nominee for president. The African American McCains and other Teoc descendants have a rich history of military service since World War I, worked rigorously to advance the Civil Rights movement, were active participants in the NAACP, and produced Leflore County’s first African American school superintendent and Greenwood’s first African American fire chief. Other important family members include Elizabeth Spencer, from the white McCains, who is a prize-winning novelist, and “Mississippi John” Hurt, of the African American McCains, who was a famous blues guitarist. In the 1990’s Teoc’s African American church began organizing a Teoc reunion which has grown to include both white and African American and started a modern dialogue between Teoc decedents.
There are a couple of surviving plantation era buildings including the former manager’s home, which became the white McCain family home when the original home burned in 1892, and a potato house. The former manager’s home is in ruins and open to the elements. There are several extant buildings from the early 1900’s in rural Teoc, including the commissary which is vacant and deteriorating. An iron bridge crossing the Little Teoc Creek survives, although its future is unclear as it has been replaced by a concrete bridge. Also extant is the John T. Long House, dating from the 1890’s, in excellent condition with a log smokehouse. Other surviving structures include a cotton crib in deteriorating shape and a single chimney remaining from a 1930’s log community house. Many members of the African American McCain family are buried at the Teoc cemetery, which was begun in the late 1800’s on land donated by the white McCain family.
It is important to save this unique piece of Mississippi not only for the physical places that remain but also for the unique history of the people of Teoc that produced both white and African American leaders.
According to Pam Lee, Mayor of the nearby City of Carrollton, no progress has been made to preserve the remaining structure of Teoc.
1914 – 1955
Mathiston, Mississippi (Webster County)
Wood College in Mathiston opened in 1886 as Woodland Seminary under the auspices of the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1897 it was renamed Bennett Academy, and in 1915 moved to its present location. It began teaching junior college courses in 1927 and was renamed Wood College in 1936. It operated as Wood College until closing in 2003. During its later years in operation, the residential college had about 250 students and numerous buildings on campus. The campus consists of a collection of early- to mid-20th century educational buildings, located in a pristine and undisturbed site. The oldest building on campus, Wood Hall, built in 1914 and renovated in 1986-87, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The open-air Cathedral of the Pines on the campus was completed in 1955 in a modern style varying from the largely traditional style of architecture found on the other campus buildings including Miller Hall (1935-36), the Dean’s Home (1924), the Gymnasium (1938), Wood Memorial Building (1950 and 1953), George Levy Hall (1948), Bennett Hall (1966), Miller Hall and others. The buildings were constructed largely with funds from the former North Mississippi Conference of United Methodist Women. The full campus has been surveyed and determined to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
After the College closed, all but one of the buildings on the campus was left vacant. If not properly cared for, the vacant buildings could quickly deteriorate from a lack of maintenance. The owners, whose wish is to sell the property, are considering diverse offers. If the land is sold for development, or if the land is divided and sold as individual properties, the idyllic setting and cohesion will be lost. Not only is the campus significant for its physical structures and layout, it also played a key role in the lives of countless individuals who attended the college.
The Golden Triangle Planning and Development District has purchased the property. According to prominent state preservationist and Architects, there has been no progress.
Natchez, Mississippi (Adams County)
Arlington was constructed circa 1818 by John Hampton White. The design of the house, while not documented, has been attributed to Levi Weeks, the architect of Auburn in Natchez. The Classical Revival style introduced to the Natchez region at Auburn was interpreted in a slightly different way at Arlington to create the second of the grand columned mansions for which Natchez is so well known. The finely-executed red brick exterior was ornamented with elaborate fanlights over the first and second floor entrances on the front and rear elevations, and marble window trim, porch floor and steps. The interior was also finely-detailed and is apparently the first appearance of a floor plan so often employed in Natchez mansions. The plan is composed of a grand central hall opening front to back, flanked by two rooms on each side, with the staircase located in a separate secondary hall between two of the flanking rooms. This plan is also seen at Rosalie (ca. 1820), Melrose (ca. 1845), and Stanton Hall (ca. 1857) among others.
Adding to Arlington’s architectural significance is the survival of its landscaped, park-like setting and much of its mid-nineteenth century interior decorative arts. In 1973, Arlington was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and due to its national significance, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974. It is one of 13 such designated properties in Natchez and one of only 39 in the entire state.
On September 17, 2002, a fire caused major damage to the house, destroying the roof and most of the second floor, including many of the fine antique furnishings and art. After the fire, as much of the interior furnishings and art work were salvaged as possible by volunteers. Due to the efforts of the Historic Natchez Foundation, shortly thereafter a new roof was installed on the house. Since then, the owner has done nothing else to save the house. It is still open to the elements, has suffered extensive vandalism, and continues to deteriorate with no plans to restore this architectural gem of Natchez.
The building continues to deteriorate and the Historic Natchez Foundation continues to work with the city in an effort to get the house stabilized.
Circa 1885, 1939
Raymond, Hinds County
Built in 1885, the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church replaced a frame Methodist church on the site originally used by all denominations for worship on Main Street in downtown Raymond, re-using much of the lumber from the older church for its construction. In 1939, the growing Methodist congregation again built a larger sanctuary, and transferred stewardship of the 1885 church building to the African American Ebenezer A.M.E. congregation. At that time it was moved to its present location on Dry Grove Road and continues to serve the Ebenezer A.M.E. parishioners today.
This modest frame church originally featured towers that pierced the roof on the main façade and flanked a gothic-inspired pointed arched window. When it was re-located in 1939, the towers were capped at the roofline, the pointed arched window replaced by entrance doors and the side entrances sided over. It retains, however, its original massing, proportions, and dignified round window with simple quatrefoil tracery on the façade.
In addition to its significance to the Ebenezer A.M.E. congregation, the church is also closely associated with the history of the Raymond Methodist Church. The shared heritage that began in 1939 with the transfer of the building provides an exceptional opportunity for a diverse preservation collaboration that could also include the Friends of Raymond, Inc. and the Raymond Historic Preservation Commission.
The future of the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church has been uncertain, threatened by a declining congregation and the resultant drop in revenue needed to conduct much-needed maintenance on the building. While the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church is still standing, which is, of course, a preservation victory, the exterior was recently clad in plywood, covering the original clapboard siding.
Yazoo City, Mississippi (Yazoo County)
Built during the era of Mississippi’s rigid racial segregation, the Afro-American Sons and Daughter’s Hospital (AASDH) in Yazoo City served as the state’s first hospital for African Americans. When health care was not accessible to most black residents in Mississippi, the AASDH provided free health care to anyone. The hospital also trained future nurses, enabling them to receive their state licenses and serve other parts of the state. Founded in 1928, the hospital boasted full-service operating and surgical rooms, plus a delivery room and nursery until it closed in 1972. The hospital campus included a residence for its nurses that still stands, but has gone through alterations. Many African American doctors and nurses have been associated with the AASDH, but the most prominent was Dr. Lloyd T. Miller who served as its chief surgeon for many years.
The one story building itself has gone through only one major change in 1935 – the addition of a new wing that changed the original U-shaped floor plan to an E-shaped plan. This addition also created room for 15 more beds, making a total of 50 beds at the hospital. Currently, the building is suffering from roof leaks and vandalism.
Mike Espy, a representative of the Afro-American Sons and Daughters Foundation, stated that the organization is seeking funds restore the building. Possible uses include a Yazoo City Head Start program, a Black History Museum, a Black Doctors and Black Women in Healthcare Hall of Fame and community event space. The foundation has worked hard to obtain donations and grants to help with restoring the building but it is far from reaching its estimated $1.6 million goal.
Hazlehurst, Mississippi (Copiah County)
Robert Johnson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi on May 8, 1911, but spent much of his early life in levee camps and on plantations in the northern Delta. Johnson began playing harmonica and associating with older blues musicians and later abandoned the harmonica for the guitar.
Many have dubbed Robert Johnson the father of modern rock and roll, and he is considered one of the most prolific artists of the early blues. Although he did not live long enough to become as popular as many other blues artists, his music continues to influence musicians. Popular covers of his songs have been recorded by modern artists such as Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and many more. Not only was Johnson a legendary bluesman, he was the subject of legend. Robert Johnson is rumored to have traveled to the crossroads near midnight to sell his soul to the devil, in exchange for being able to play anything and everything on the guitar.
His birthplace was constructed circa 1905 and was moved nearly a mile from its original location when the interstate highway was constructed. The property is currently vacant and is rapidly deteriorating.
The town of Hazlehurst owns Robert Johnson’s birthplace and has hopes of restoring it. Officials are considering moving the house into the City of Hazlehurst; however, funding for the project has been an issue. The building has been secured against the elements. There is now a Mississippi Blue marker at this site but some historians are not sure if Robert Johnson was actually born in Hazlehurst.
Jackson, Mississippi (Hinds County)
The firm of N.W. Overstreet, one of Mississippi’s most prolific architectural offices, designed First Christian Church, constructed in the early 1950s. The church was designed in the Gothic Revival style and is the only building remaining at the corner of State and High Streets as the other buildings have been removed for surface parking.
First Baptist Church purchased the building when the First Christian Church congregation moved to another location in Jackson. When word of First Baptist’s original intentions to demolish the building got out, a groundswell of local support surfaced to save the building.
All of the decorative stained and leaded glass windows, original pews, woodwork, and the organ, have been removed from the building. If another use is not found for the building, another of Jackson’s architectural treasures will be lost and a gateway into downtown will be diminished.
The First Baptist Church changed its mind on the demolition of the building and had it designated as a Mississippi Landmark in April of 2003, but it still is sitting vacant and is currently for sale. The building continues to languish and suffer from neglect. Sadly, no visionary has come forward to return the church to its former glory.
One of the state’s largest economically independent, African-American communities in the state was located in what is now known as the Farish Street Historic District. The area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a Jackson historic district. In 1996, the neighborhood was listed on the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, primarily because of the threat to what is the largest concentration of shotgun row house (circa 1930-1950) central to a surviving African-American neighborhood. The Farish Street Historic District Neighborhood Foundation in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation has begun implementing a revitalization plan in the neighborhood. Starting with a core group of shotguns, other residential properties will be addressed to further stabilize the area.
A second structure of historic importance is the Alex Williams House or Greystone Hotel. This structure has stood abandoned for years and, like the shotgun houses, continues to deteriorate. Built in 1912, the landmark served first as the residence of Alex Williams, a prominent local African-American business and property owner. In 1950, it was converted into the Greystone Hotel. Today, this resource needs immediate stabilization.
Equally important and integral to the revitalization of the Farish Street Neighborhood is the commercial district. This three-block stretch of turn-of-the-century and early twentieth-century storefronts was the heart of the African-American economic community until integration. Mostly abandoned and deteriorated, these storefronts are in need of immediate attention as well as a coordinated plan for their use.
Six mayors and 20 years after the City of Jackson became involved in efforts to develop the Farish Street Historic District, in hopes of bringing it back to the bustling state of its heyday, the project sits at a standstill. Recent Mayor Tony Yarber has referred to the district as “an albatross.” In September of 2014, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sanctioned the City of Jackson, the Jackson Redevelopment Authority, and developers for misspending federal funds directed toward the development of the Farish Street Historic District. Work is at a halt and not scheduled to resume until December 2018, when the City of Jackson repays HUD $1.5 million.
However, the slow pace of development has not deterred all businesses from being a part of history. On July 23, 2015, Johnny T’s Bistro and Blues opened its doors at 538 North Farish Street.
Farish Street also lost one of its few remaining historic business. The classic soul food restaurant Peaches is now closed.
A new poorly planned housing development has further destroyed the historic fabric of what is left of the residential section of the Farish Street Historic District. There are now only a handful of contributing houses left in the historic district.
Jackson, Mississippi (Hinds County)
Entrepreneur R.E. Dumas Milner launched the hotel in October 1960, naming it after a landmark Mississippi Gulf Coast hotel he owned as well. The hotel was important as a second home for state legislators, especially after the King Edward Hotel closed in 1965. It was moderately priced and within walking distance to the Capitol Building. The legislators could meet informally for meals, entertainment, and legislative negotiations. In 2001, House Ways and Means Chairman Billy McCoy said, “We have passed many important measures because of our conversations after hours in the Sun-n-Sand.”
In addition, its free form, space-age sign recalls the mid-twentieth century Las Vegas style atmosphere and hints at its reputation as the place to party in Jackson. When the legislature legalized liquor in 1965, the Sun-n-Sand was one of the first bars to open in Jackson. One legislative insider remembered that “a year before the state repealed its anti-liquor laws, the place was hopping.… I would go to the Legislature and see some of the lawmakers speaking against liquor … then I’d come back to the Sun-n-Sand and watch them take a drink. They were voting dry and drinking wet.”
The hotel closed in October 2001 and was boarded up shortly thereafter. Currently there are no plans for the property and it continues to sit vacant and deteriorating. The colorful history of this place will be lost if something is not done to save the building.
The buildings continue to deteriorate with no plan in sight for saving the hotel complex. The space currently is being leased out to the state for parking. There have been discussions about redeveloping the site, but as yet, no progress has been made.
Oldfields was constructed circa 1845 as the residence of Alfred E. Lewis, an important GulfCoast planter, merchant, politician, and Civil War officer. The Greek Revival house is illustrative of the Coastal idiom of the style, having columned undercut galleries across both front and rear elevations. Its front gallery affords stunning views to the water, taking full advantage of the picturesque setting facing the Mississippi Sound.
Perhaps even more significant than its architecture are the people who inhabited the house. In addition to his extensive economic enterprises, Lewis at various times served as county tax collector, postmaster, and state representative. In 1861 he was a signer of Mississippi’s Ordinance of Secession, raised his own regiment known as the Live Oak Rifles, and rose to the rank of colonel in the Confederate service.
In 1906 the house was acquired by the parents of Agnes (Sissie) Grinstead, who later married renowned artist Walter Anderson. For several years in the 1940s the Andersons lived at Oldfields with Sissie’s family, during which time Walter Anderson did some of his most important artistic work.
Because of the house’s location near the water, Hurricane Katrina’s winds and tidal surge inflicted severe damage. Porch flooring and clapboards were ripped off, the huge hand-hewn sills were exposed, many windows were broken, interior floors buckled, and plaster ceilings and walls were soaked. Despite a restoration grant offered by the Department of Archives and History, due to litigation over the property’s ownership, no restoration or stabilization work was undertaken. Loss of Oldfields would be another tragic, and needless, casualty of Hurricane Katrina.
Oldfields remains open to the elements, continuing to deteriorate. This property is currently on the market for $499,000.
Ocean Springs, Jackson County
Believed to have been built by prominent New Orleans physician Dr. William Glover Austin in the 1850s, the house on Martin Avenue is among the oldest in Ocean Springs. Born in Maryland, Dr. Austin received his medical degree from Baltimore’s Washington University and practiced medicine in Yazoo County, Mississippi, before relocating to New Orleans about 1840. As a member of the New Orleans Board of Health and an officer of the Charity Hospital, he was particularly interested in the treatment of communicable and epidemic diseases. In 1853 Austin established a hotel in present-day Ocean Springs to capitalize on the healing qualities of the area’s many mineral springs, and it was from the name of his large hostelry, the Ocean Springs Hotel, that the community eventually derived its name.
The house built by Austin is a story-and-a-half Greek Revival structure with a square-columned, undercut gallery spanning the width of the front façade. A pair of dormers pierce the steeply pitched gable roof, while pairs of floor-length windows flank the central entrance, which is framed by a transom and sidelights. The original floor plan follows the arrangement typical of its era and style, with a wide central corridor, flanked by two rooms on either side facilitating the maximum flow of cooling breezes through the building.
During Hurricane Katrina, several feet of flood water inundated the house, damaging siding, doors, windows, plaster walls, and portions of the foundation. Sections of roofing were blown off, allowing torrential rain to damage ceilings.
No progress has been made. The owner is still contemplating demoloshing but is open to the idea of selling it.
One of prominent Mississippi architect N.W. Overstreet’s first projects, construction of the Webster County Courthouse started in 1913 and was completed in 1915. This grand Beaux Arts structure has been the centerpiece for community life in Webster County for nearly one hundred years.
Located on a rural stretch of Highway 80 outside of Edwards, the Southern Christian Institute was established in 1882 by the Home Missionary Society of the Disciples of Christ to offer religious education to African-Americans. From its modest beginnings in the former plantation home of Colonel McKinney L. Cook, the school grew in the period from 1900 to 1930, with several new buildings being constructed from lumber milled on site by students.
Lost, No Progress