Utica, Hinds County
The Holtzclaw Mansion is the last remnant of the Utica Normal and Industrial Institute for Colored Women and Men founded in 1903 by William Holtzclaw. Holtzclaw was born in 1870 in Roanoke, Alabama to illiterate sharecroppers. At the age of 20 William left to attend the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute and study under Booker T. Washington.
After three failed attempts to open a school in Mississippi, Holtzclaw opened the Utica Normal and Industrial Institute for Colored Women and Men in a one-room cabin. The school grew and in 1907 Holtzclaw raised the funds necessary to purchase land about five miles south of Utica for a new campus. Around 1915 Holtzclaw developed his plans for the Holtzclaw Mansion and it is believed that student and community labor helped construct the house. The Holtzclaw Mansion is vernacular in style with Greek Revival, Colonial Revival, Victorian and Classical influences. The large two-story building was constructed of brick with a gable front and a one-story porch that wraps around both sides of the house. The house has sixteen rooms and was used as the residence for Holtzclaw’s family, as classrooms, and for special events.
In 1943, Holtzclaw passed away and his son occupied the house until 1946 when the Mansion was used as the Ginn Line Elementary School. The elementary school closed in 1966 and in 1982 Holtzclaw’s college became a campus for Hinds County Community College.
The Mansion, designated a Mississippi Landmark, is the last building left from Holtzclaw’s College and unfortunately Hinds County Community College has no use for the Mansion which has been left to deteriorate. The rear of the building has collapsed and without stabilization or a plan to rehabilitate the building this very important building constructed by an important African American educator could be lost forever.
The Holtzclaw Mansion on the Utica campus of Hinds County Community College was demolished in 2014.
Meridian, Lauderdale County
The Fielder and Brooks Drug Store is an unassuming building located in the Urban Center National Register Historic District in Meridian. The two-story commercial building clad in stucco was constructed in 1879. A plaque on the second story façade lists the architect and builder as L. Scully, the same man who built the Cohn Sheehan buildings across the street.
The building is located in Meridian’s traditionally African American business district. For decades the building housed the Fielder and Brooks Drug Store run by African American businessmen. It is also extremely significant as it was part of the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi. In 1964 the Meridian chapter of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) moved their office to the second floor above the drug store. Civil Rights activities in east-central Mississippi were organized from here and it also had a community center with donated books housed on shelves built by Mickey and Rita Schwerner. In June of 1964 Civil Rights activists Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman left Meridian from the COFO office for Neshoba County where they were arrested and killed.
The building has undergone some changes over the years but still retains its important significance tied to the African American business community of Meridian and the Civil Rights movement. As the building is not being used, deterioration will take its toll if unchecked, and there is currently a hole in the roof allowing water to penetrate the building.
The Fielder and Brooks building, along with others in the historic African American commercial district, has been identified in a study exploring redeveloping the area and building a Freedom Park related to the Civil Rights struggle in Meridian. If resources can be found to make that happen, the Fielder and Brooks Drug Store could become a central part of the redevelopment, with the restoration of the COFO office for exhibits and interpretation so people can learn more about the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi in a significant location where it took place.
After the roof caved in, the Fielder and Brooks Drug Store was deemed structurally unsound and demolished in 2014.
In the 1786 Treaty of Hopewell, the Chickasaw Nation’s vast 37,000 square mile territory was first legally recognized by the fledgling United States. The Chickasaws’ land extended over what is now north Mississippi, northwest Alabama, western Tennessee, and into Kentucky. All of this was defended from the great town or capital of the Chickasaw people located at presentday Tupelo, Mississippi. Numerous Chickasaw tribal towns occupied lands in the vicinity of Tupelo and Pontotoc, but chief among these was Chokkilissa’, or “the silent house.” Chokkilissa’-Old Town is the largest remaining contiguous site that outstandingly exemplifies and commemorates eighteenth-century Chickasaw culture. The Chokkilissa’-Old Town site includes the archaeological remains of the villages that comprised the political and cultural capital of the Chickasaw people during most of the 1700s. This cluster of aggregated village sites originally included wooden stockade forts, hundreds of Chickasaw houses and related structures, horticultural plots, and Chickasaw graves. At its peak during the 1730-1770 period, Chokkilissa’-Old Town contained the entirety of the Chickasaw population remaining in Mississippi and many of the Chickasaw leaders were either born or resided there for a time. Important historical events associated with Chokkilissa’-Old Town include the 1736 Battle of Ogoula Tchetoka with the French, and later the negotiation and signing of several major land cession treaties with the United States. Through these treaties and the 1832 Treaty of Pontotoc Creek, the Chickasaws peacefully gave up their sacred homeland for the new Americans to resettle. Today the Chokkilissa’-Old Town site faces continuing threats from many types of encroachments associated with economic development. Old Town has been damaged and portions destroyed by commercial, residential, and government agency-related developments. The site remains a sacred place to Chickasaws today, containing the bones of many of their ancestors and the location of momentous events of warfare, diplomacy, and cultural coalescence that still loom large in tribal history and identity. If tribal, national, state, and local interests can successfully collaborate to preserve Chokkilissa’-Old Town, this preservation effort could lead to a flagship historical heritage park for Northeast Mississippi and the Chickasaw people.
The City of Tupelo has adopted a sensitive approach to development – “look first, then develop.” Recently protection has been put into place; Tupelo has implemented a policy requiring unmarked graves to be “considered” before approving building permits. The majority of the 30 acres of Chickasaw Old Town is privately owned and is in agricultural. Dr. Brad Lieb, an archaeologist for the Chickasaw Nation recently submitted an archaeological study to the National Park Service with the hope of Chokkilissa’-Old Town becoming a National Historic Land Mark. Unfortunately, not all of the landowners associated with the Chickasaw site were willing to sign off on its National Land Mark designation; putting that effort on hold. Dr. Lieb still has hope the land can be saved from development and used as a public green space.
Located in Washington County, Mount Holly was built in 1858 for Margaret Johnson Erwin Dudley, daughter of Henry Johnson, one of the largest early landholders in the Delta. In the 1880s, ownership transferred to William Hezekiah Foote and Huger Lew Foote, prominent planters and politicians. During the Mississippi River flood of 1927 Mount Holly was used as headquarters for relief committees.
Mount Holly is a large, asymmetrical two-story, common-bond brick structure consisting of approximately 30 rooms. One of the few remaining antebellum houses of mansion scale in the Delta, this rural Italianate villa was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The design of the house was based on a published design by Calvert Vaux. Along with Ammadelle in Oxford – also designed by Vaux – Mount Holly is one of the state’s best examples of the Italian villa style of architecture. The main entrance to Mount Holly is through a Palladian type archway in the center pavilion projecting from the facade. The exterior is also characterized by semi-hexagonal windows with carved lintels; wooden balustrades and a balcony railing of iron grillwork; regularly spaced pairs of brackets visually supporting overhanging eaves; and prominent chimneys further emphasized by paneled stucco and brick dentils.
Currently, Mount Holly is unoccupied and suffers from the damages of neglect by an absentee owner. Attempts by groups and individuals to reach out to the owner to either assist with the buildings preservation or to seek information about purchasing the property have, so far, gone mostly unanswered while this important antebellum house sits deteriorating.
Left open to the elements and easy prey for vandals, Mount Holly was engulfed by fire on July 17, 2015.
Flowers, Warren County
Ceres Plantation, located north of Interstate 20 at Flowers, Mississippi, was established by the Flowers family after they moved to Warren County from North Carolina in the 1820’s. The name comes from Ceres, the mythological Roman goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships.
Although the Flowers family apparently lived on the property since the 1820s, the current one-and-a-half story, center-hall, double-pile, galleried, Greek Revival planters cottage, appears to be either a substantial reworking of an earlier house or, more likely, was newly constructed circa 1860. The house survived the war and apparently served as safe haven for refugees fleeing Vicksburg during its siege by Union forces in 1863. After the war, the family’s economic interests moved beyond agriculture into various other businesses. In 1935, Uriah Grey Flowers, retired from his business ventures and focused his attention on operating the plantation.
The plantation remained in the Flowers family until 1986 when the Warren County Port Commission acquired the property and developed the Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex. Despite its temporary use as first a restaurant and then a plant nursery, the Port Commission has no long term plans for the preservation of the house and outbuildings, and consequently plans to demolish the complex.
Ceres Plantation is a rare surviving example of a mid 19th to early 20th century plantation complex in Warren County Mississippi. Despite a rehabilitation in the late 1970s that added the two flanking wings and made other modifications to the house, it still retains much of its original character and is significant in its own right, both for its architecture and its history. In addition, the barns and other outbuildings on the former plantation are also significant in that they show the continuation of the agricultural use of the property for over 150 years.
Ceres Plantation was demolished by the Warren County Port Commission in July 2012.
Gulfport, Harrison County
The eight story Markham Hotel in Gulfport, Mississippi was built in 1926. It was designed by Chicago architect Benjamin H. Marshall. The firm of Marshall & Fox were designers of many lavish hotels and apartment buildings across the United States including Chicago’s Drake Hotel, and Philadelphia’s Schaff Building. The firm partnered with Mississippi architect N.W. Overstreet to assist in the project. The Markham Hotel is one of two hotels designed by Marshall built on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the other one, the Edgewater Gulf Hotel in Biloxi, was demolished. The Markham Hotel was named in honor of Charles H. Markham, the former President of the Illinois Central Railroad.
When the hotel opened to the public on January 31, 1927, it was a central figure in a bustling and thriving downtown. It featured many of the amenities of the day; a large lobby with a grand staircase lined with marble and wood paneling, a swimming pool, a roof top terrace, and several dining establishments.
The hotel changed ownership in the 1960’s when it was acquired by Security Savings and Loan. It was then transformed into an office building in the 1970’s. The building saw a renovation in 1987 and was rechristened the Markham Building. It continued to operate as office space until Hurricane Katrina caused significant damage in 2005. The Markham still remains much as it did after Katrina. As has been the case with numerous buildings along the coast, the need to “clean up” the damage from the storm has threatened the survival of this local landmark and last of the great coastal resort hotels of the 1920s.
Plans to restore the Markham Hotel have stalled with the failure to increase funding for the state historic tax credit.
Historic schools are an important part of the historic fabric of the state and the neighborhoods they were built in. Too many of our schools have been lost to demolition, vandalism, the elements, or replacement with newer modern schools. While natural causes such as Hurricane Katrina have destroyed a handful of historic schools in the past few years, man-made demolition or abandonment is often the more likely cause of death for these buildings. One of Mississippi’s oldest public schools, the Speed Street School in Vicksburg, built in 1894 and one of only five 19th-century public schools, was torn down in March 2009 for its salvaged brick. The 1948 James Q. Allen gymnasium at the old Clinton High School became the center of a local controversy when the school board decided to demolish the building in order to sell the land on which it sat. Although a group of local citizens fought to save the building, the fate of the building was sealed when the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) declined to intervene. The gymnasium was torn down in November 2008. The Community Heritage Preservation Grant program, managed by the MDAH has provided much-needed support for these important community landmarks around the state, including the old Corinth High School; West Clay Agricultural High School (one of the few remaining agricultural high school complexes left statewide); the old Hattiesburg High School; Eureka School, Hattiesburg’s historically black high school; Prentiss Institute’s Rosenwald building; Midway School (Tishomingo County); the old Canton High School; and Pine Valley School (Yalobusha County). These school buildings—large and small, in towns and rural hamlets—hopefully, will remain as useful centers for their surrounding communities for many years to come.
Historic school buildings around the state are being preserved and given new life. However, there are still many old school buildings that are in desperate need of help. Two schools that have recently come to our attention are the Old Salem School in Noxubee County and the Old Fayette High School in Jefferson County.
Old Salem School (1914) is currently owned by the Salem Historical Society, a non-profit community group created in hopes of protecting the structure. The group has aged and somewhat fizzled, but there is still some interest in the community. Currently, the floors on the west side of the 2nd floor are sagging considerably. In addition, structural posts on the east side 1st floor are compromised, and some effort has been made to provide bracing. Glazing on a number of windows is gone now, and there are some issues with the roof. The property is at a point now where the structure is intact enough that it can still be saved, and still retain some of the original materials and construction. However, it’s at a point where if no work is done, the main structure of the floor plan might be lost. Noxubee County seems to have a significant number of preserved antebellum homes for a county of its size. The Old Salem School offers a valuable glimpse at a rural structure from the post-reconstruction era, as well as the early days of organized public education in Mississippi in the early 20th century. Today, Noxubee County has an increasingly aging population, and many of the citizens who have memories of community life in the Old Salem School have died. T would be great to see that heritage preserved. The Old Salem School is the last primarily intact public school building that remains in Noxubee County from the early 20th-century era when Mississippi began transitioning from one-room schoolhouses to more organized consolidated school districts. Old Salem School was one of seven community-based schools in Noxubee county during this time period. According to the application for the National Register of Historic Places, the county spent $7000 on the school, and it was used for elementary and high school grades until 1932 when the high school grades moved to Macon High School.
Old Fayette School, constructed in 1928, it is a great example of public-school construction of that era. Today the building is abandoned and completely exposed to the elements. The exterior walls, however, are still intact. With a lot of effort, the build.ing could still be restored.
Another School building we have our eye on is the Old Benton High School(1920) in Yazoo County.
Belhaven and Belhaven Heights are fine examples of “streetcar subdivisions” built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that popped up all over the country. Widely popular when they were built, these subdivisions still offer quality housing close to their city centers. At first blush, Belhaven seems to be the model of a properly preserved, historically significant subdivision. However, deeper inspection reveals some important challenges: absentee ownership, commercial corridor erosion, and a threat from the widening of Interstate 55. This neighborhoods are the last well-preserved historic area close to downtown Jackson and cohesive planning is necessary to preserve these Jackson jewels.
The Historic Belhaven neighborhood has joined neighboring Belhaven Heights on the National Register of Historic Places, making it the largest historic district in the state of Mississippi. In 2014, Greater Belhaven was designated as one of the 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2014 by the American Planning Association (APA).
Most structures in Greater Belhaven are included in historic districts designated by the City of Jackson and overseen by the City’s Historic Preservation Commission. Despite this, and notwithstanding diligent support from various neighborhood groups (including the Belhaven Improvement Association, Belhaven Heights Community Association, and Greater Belhaven Security Association), the neighborhood’s continued success is constantly challenged by urban blight. To combat this challenge, the neighborhoods formed the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation (GBNF) in late 1999 to work on long-range preservation and revitalization through community redevelopment, security, and neighborhood communication. To further this work, the neighborhood was designated an Urban Main Street community in 2003. Through the Main Street program, GBNF is working with the City of Jackson to redesign Fortification Street to be pedestrian-oriented and neighborhood-friendly, and to re-develop the Fortification, Jefferson and North State street areas using mixed-use zoning conducive to restaurants, shops, stores, offices, apartments, condominiums, and residential cottages. The $15.5 million Fortification Street Project will be completed later this year with the addition of street lamps.
Baptist Health Systems recently completed The Belhaven, a nearly $100 million, mixed-use development at 1200 North State Street.
To stand behind its mission, GBNF renovated a circa-1925 cottage at 954 Fortification Street as its headquarters, winning a Preservation Award from the City of Jackson in 2004; the Adaptive Re-Use Partnership Award from Mississippi Main Street in 2004; and the MHT Trustees Award for Organizational Excellence in 2004 for its efforts to preserve Belhaven and Belhaven Heights.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s thousands of schools were built in very rural areas of the South for African American communities through a program that Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears at the time, and Booker T. Washington developed. The Rosenwald Fund was developed as a community assistance program to help bring education to the poorest parts of the country. Only fifteen of the original five hundred and fifty-seven schools in Mississippi aided by the Rosenwald Fund are known to still stand. Of these, about half are either greatly altered or in a deteriorated state. The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Rosenwald Initiative, created to document the history of the Rosenwald Fund and aid in preservation efforts across the South, has resulted in renewed interest in these important community landmarks. In Pass Christian, the Randolph School (1928), the only remaining Rosenwald on the Coast, sustained serious damage from Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge. Understanding the significance of the building, the City of Pass Christian decided to repair the old school. Through the Hurricane Relief Grant Program for Historic Preservation, the school is being restored and is set to open in 2011 as a community center. Prentiss Institute’s Rosenwald building (1926) – the center of this “Tuskegee Model” institution in Jefferson Davis County—was awarded $190,000 through the Community Heritage Preservation Grant program in 2006 for a full rehabilitation. The building was vacant and in an advanced stage of deterioration, but now will be an active community center again. Other smaller schools, like the Ginntown School (1920) in Walthall County, have been “re-discovered” by their alumni and will be brought back to life again as vital cores of their rural neighborhoods. The Bay Springs School north of Hattiesburg, which sustained roof and foundation damage in Hurricane Katrina is about to undergo a major repair and renovation. There has been progress at many Rosenwald schools; however, the balance still remains endangered so those that survive are even more precious as landmarks of dedication and education in their communities.
On June 10, 2014, the Mississippi Heritage Trust presented Heritage Awards to four Rosenwald schools- the Randolph school in Pass Christian, Bay Springs School in Kelly Settlement, Prentiss Normal Institute and the Walthall County Training School.
With 18 surviving Rosenwald Schools in the state these buildings serve as a tool to teach about community and partnership in the face of adversity.
Most of the Indian Mounds in Mississippi are on privately-owned land. As a result, many mounds in the state have been irreparably damaged or destroyed by modern development and looting. Indian mounds, therefore, are critically endangered cultural sites. Untold numbers of the old monuments have been lost, and secrets of our nation’s past have vanished with them. The mounds that remain stand as a testament to the vitality, diversity, and creativity of their makers, who developed the complex societies of long ago. There has been progress made with the development of a tour of Indian Mounds in Mississippi, and the opening of a Visitor Center at the Pocahontas Mound. There are on-going excavations by the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University and University of Southern Mississippi across the state. Unfortunately, several mounds on private property have been bulldozed to avoid state landmark protection.
Since 2016, mound enthusiasts have been able t to travel The Mississippi Mound Trail (MMT), a self-guided driving tour located along Highway 61 and other highways. Designed by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the trail stretches more than 350 miles along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The Mississippi Mound Trail showcases the state’s rich archaeological resources at more than thirty sites. Visitors will see some of the largest and oldest Native American mounds and mound groups in the nation. Informative interpretive signs installed along the Mound Trail by MDAH contribute to the travelers’ learning experience. This project raises awareness and enhances protection of the vast array of prehistoric Indian mounds and earthworks in Mississippi.
MDAH archeologist David Abbott says he hopes the Mound Trail will help educate people about the importance of preserving these sites, many mounds are still being damaged by insensitive agricultural practices, while others are being looted and vandalized.
The Army Corps of Engineers pressed charges against three people for violating an archaeological resource on Federal land in 2014. Those individuals were prosecuted and sent to prison in 2017. Although Abbott is pleased that the law was inforced he points out that this incident is reflective of a common trend. “Social media has led to the popularization of Native American site looting. We don’t mind people that surface collect-I give out site numbers to them so that they can keep track of their collections and that data helps archaeologists. We don’t encourage digging as it’s hard enough for a trained archaeologist to excavate a site and record the data. People that dig to find artifacts that they do not record any provenience for just loses the data forever-like tearing pages from a book. We need to do more to reach people on social media to educate, and hopefully, they’ll listen. There’s always a group that will not listen, but I have faith in people and their desire to preserve and record Mississippi history. It’s their history, too.”
Historic cemeteries statewide are faced with vandalism, theft, neglect, and erosion from the elements. Lack of funds for cemetery maintenance is an increasing concern, especially with privately-owned and family cemeteries. These cemeteries are too important to lose, as many of them contain exquisite marble and stone monuments and highly detailed ironwork. In November 2004, MHT hosted a Cemetery Preservation Workshop in Biloxi to help people deal with these issues. The event attracted people from all over the state to attend educational sessions led by speakers from around the nation. The workshop served as a great resource for participants to learn about the many aspects of cemetery preservation. Numerous cemeteries across the state are still suffering from vandalism and neglect; however there are some bright spots like the restoration of the Biloxi City Cemetery after extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina.
With annual cemetery tours from Biloxi to Columbus and dedicated volunteer groups such as the Beulah Restoration Committee in Vicksburg and the Greenwood Cemetery Association in Jackson, work continues to preserve our state’s many historic cemeteries.
Jackson, Harrison, and Hancock County
When Hurricane Katrina’s high winds and massive storm surge slammed into Mississippi’s Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, many of the Coast’s most enduring landmarks disappeared. Gracious beachfront mansions, simple Creole cottages, bungalows, and shotgun houses—significant historic sites and private homes—the storm spared none of them. Even the downtown commercial centers of Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport, and Pascagoula were devastated by the wind and raging flood waters. Several blocks on the high ground in Bay St. Louis and in Pass Christian were all that was left of the grand miles-long stretch of historic houses that once defined the Mississippi Coast.
Demolition of the a majority of the remaining historic buildings occurred shortly after the storm with FEMA offering the unprecedented option of demolishing private residences at government expense. Many historic structures could have been saved, but for a variety of reasons were torn down. Repair and insurance costs both skyrocketed after the storm, making it harder to restore damaged properties. The chaotic economic state of the Coast since Katrina has also brought stress, with the pressure of commercial and high-rise condominium development.
Private citizens as well as government agencies like the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and non-profit groups like the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Mississippi Heritage Trust, and Mississippi Main Street Association have worked continually since the storm to save the unique heritage of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Hurricane Relief Grant Program for Historic Preservation, created by Congressional appropriation and administered by MDAH to aid historic structures damaged by 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, have been a welcomed relief to many homeowners. The MDAH Board of Trustees awarded 261 grants for restoration of a variety of historic structures–public buildings, non-profit museums, commercial structures, and private residences– throughout south Mississippi. Of that number, 221 have been completed and 40 are still under construction. Landmarks like the Walter Anderson Cottage at Shearwater in Ocean Springs, the Waveland School Civic Center, Gulfport’s Historic Carnegie Library, the Hancock County Courthouse, and the Wathall County Training School have been restored. Other landmark buildings such as the White House Hotel in Biloxi, the old Gulfport Public Library, and the Second Street School in Bay St. Louis are still threatened. Although much preservation progress has been made, there is still much left to be done. However, efforts continue to promote saving the Gulf Coast’s heritage and rebuilding in a way that respects that heritage.
There were some tremendous preservation victories following Hurricane Katrina, including the Charnley-Norwood House in Ocean Springs and the Randolph School in Pass Christian. More than ten years after the storm, important buildings like the Gulfport Library and the 33rd Avenue School still await transformation.
Cleveland, Bolivar County
The Amzie Moore Home in Cleveland, was the home of Amzie Moore, a man described as a “civil rights giant.” Moore was born in 1911 and after graduating from Stone Street High School in Greenwood, he was hired as a custodian at the United States Post Office. Through hard work he was able to become a successful businessman, owning a gas station and a beauty salon.
The Moore Home, built in 1941, was the first brick home built by an African American in Cleveland and he was the first African American to receive a government sponsored home loan. After serving in the Army Air Force, Moore returned to Cleveland and became a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He worked for voting rights, social justice, economic development, education and better employment opportunities for African Americans.
In 1950, he cofounded the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) which hosted public meetings where prominent speakers, including Thurgood Marshall, addressed Delta audiences. The RCNL also held voter registration classes, including some in Moore’s home. He served as the first president of the Cleveland NAACP as well as Vice-President of the State Conference of the NAACP.
The many people who visited Amzie Moore in his Cleveland home include Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses, Medgar Evers, Stokely Carmichael, Thurgood Marshall and Dr. Martin Luther King. This house, which is important to the Civil Rights movement, is threatened by deferred maintenance, water damage, and the ill-effects of vandalism.
The Amzie Moore House restoration is 90% complete. The house has been restored into a museum and is expected to be open to the public fall 2015. Restoration was funded through a civil rights grant through Arcives and History. The home will be a monument to the contirbutions that Amzie Moore made. The house will be part of the Civil Rights Trail and will highlight the life and contributrions that Amzie Moore made.
The Mannsdale-Livingston Heritage Preservation District is a rural historic area located along Highway 463 in Madison County. It extends from China Grove A.M.E. Church near Madison to the intersection with Highway 22 at Livingston. The district contains a concentration of historic buildings and sites that illustrate the rural heritage of Madison County from the 1840’s through the 1920’s.
The area was designated as a preservation district by Madison County and during its creation, organizers specifically laid out that Highway 463 was to remain only two lanes. In recent years, a proposal to widen it to four lanes was of great concern to the members, not only due to the possibility of structural damage to historic buildings from heavy truck traffic, but also because of its effect on the visual character of the district. In 2009, the Madison County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the subject of the overlay district, and specifically, they focused their discussion on a proposal to widen Highway 463 to four lanes. The preservation society organized a petition against making changes to the overlay district, and was able to show the board more than 900 signatures of residents backing their position. At the meeting, the supervisors decided to reconfirm the district. No new threats to the district have surfaced since but the threat of future plans to widen Highway 463 to four lanes will always be there.
When inappropriate development threatened to erode the special historic character of rural Madison County, residents took action, lobbying the board of supervisors to designate the area as the Mannsdale-Livingston Historic Preservation District. Community leaders then took the next step in securing the future of their historic resources by working with local and state officials to designate the area as an official Mississippi Scenic Byway, which was signed into law in April 2013 by Governor Phil Bryant. Gateway to History connects the historic towns of Canton and Flora and includes the Petrified Forest, Chapel of the Cross and the Natchez Trace. The new development at Livingston Township, the site of a lively summer farmer’s market and concert series, will strive to recapture the historic character of the first seat of Madison County. Once listed as one of Mississippi’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places, the future of the Mannsdale-Livingston Heritage Preservation District seems as bright as the historic daffodils lining the byway today, thanks to the dedication and hard work of the committed members of the Gateway to History Committee.
Vicksburg • Nominated by Ella Goldsmith
“The Church of Christ is the Only One. All is Welcome. Jews and Gentiles. Here at Margaret’s Gro. & Mkt. And Bible Class.”
When Margaret Rogers married the Reverend H.D. Dennis in 1979, he committed himself to transforming her simple country store on Highway 61 into a wonderland of color and form to share his ministry. Using inexpensive materials such as cinder blocks, Christmas lights, Mardi Gras beads, and artificial flowers, the Reverend Dennis shared his theological views with visitors from around the world through his creative vernacular of artwork.
Since the Reverend and Margaret Dennis passed away several years ago, Margaret’s Grocery has been left to deteriorate. The roof is in poor condition and the many colorful signs, sculptures and ornaments are slowly being lost to time.
The Mississippi Folk Art Foundation, dedicated to preserving and protecting Mississippi folk art, has started a Go Fund Me campaign to save Margaret’s Grocery. As of September 28, 2017, the organization had raised $2,985 toward its goal of $20,000. To donate, click here.
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 owner, 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 Celeveland.
Turkey Creek Neighborhood • Gulfport • Nominated by Turkey Creek Community Initiatives
Responsible for employing many African Americans from the nearby neighborhood of Turkey Creek, Phoenix Naval Stores was part of the once-bustling timber industry in south Mississippi. The nearby creosote plant was the scene of a massive explosion in the 1940s which killed eleven men. After the business closed, the office was converted into a residence. The Phoenix Naval Stores Office is one of the few buildings remaining from this once thriving industry.
Vacant for twenty years, the building was badly damaged in Hurricane Katrina. Community activist Derrick Evans purchased the building to prevent its demolition. A partnership between the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area and Turkey Creek Community initiatives is seeking funding to restore the building for its use as a community center.
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.
Natchez • Nominated by the Historic Natchez Foundation
Built in 1855 as the residence of the Henry Shaw family, Melmont was designed by James McClure with characteristics of both the Greek Revival and Italianate styles of architecture. An attorney from Louisiana, Colonel Henry Basil Shaw built the house for his wife Mary Elizabeth Lattimore Shaw, and the house’s name derives from her initials M.E.L., and mont the French word for mountain, a nod to the house’s prominent location on top of a large hill. Descendants of the Shaw Family remained in the house into the early twentieth century, when it is likely the new owners undertook the remodel of the interior in the Colonial Revival style.
One of the many great suburban villas built during this period, Melmont is now surrounded by homes largely built in the early twentieth century, though it still maintains much of its original acreage and context. In addition to the main house, the original two-story frame slave quarters and kitchen still stands, one of only a handful of surviving examples in the region.
Years of neglect have taken their toll on Melmont. Modern modifications, including the use of Portland cement to repair the stucco, have caused additional damage. The load-bearing masonry walls are bowing near the base of the wall, and significant structural cracks run the entire height of the gable end walls. The lower windows are covered with plywood, while those on the second floor have been vandalized.
2107 Up -Date Progress
Recently the owners of Melmont, the Stephens family, have with the help of preservation architect, Robert Parker Adams restored the foundation and structurally stabilized the house. Adams also conducted a master plan for the restoration of the building.
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.
Holly Springs • Nominated by Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs
Hugh Craft came to Holly Springs in 1839 as a contract surveyor for the Federal government and the American Land Company to survey the newly opened Chickasaw Cession. After the American Land Company folded, Craft stayed in Holly Springs and started his own private surveying firm, working on much of the earliest land transfers in Holly Springs and North Mississippi. Constructed prior to 1846, the Hugh Craft & Son Surveying Office is a rare example of an early professional office. Originally located at the intersection of North Memphis Street and Gholson Avenue, the building was relocated to its present site when City Hall was built in 1925. Owned by the City of Holly Springs, the building currently sits vacant and in need of repair.
In July 2015, the Holly Springs Board of Alderman voted to demolish the Hugh Craft & Son Surveying Office to create parking or green space. Since that time, the City of Holly Springs has stated that it is working to find funding to restore the building, but the vote to demolish the structure has not been officially reversed.
2017-Update In Progress
Grenada • Nominated by the Save the Airport Hangar Committee, Grenada Historic Preservation Commission.
Owned by the City of Grenada, the Grenada Airfield Hangar was built in 1943 and opened in February of 1944. Originally in operation during World War II, the airfield hangar served as home to the 443rd Air Support Command, 63rd Troop Carrier Group, 877th Airborne Engineering Batallion, 10th Troop Carrier Group, and the 809th Air Force Unit. Still in use today, the Grenada Airfield Hangar is one of the few surviving wooden hangars.
The Grenada Airfield Hangar is suffering from long-deferred maintenance, with severe roof damage and inoperable doors. There has been discussion about demolishing the building, but the Save the Airport Hangar Committee is working with the City of Grenada to raise funds for the restoration of the building.
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.
Statewide • Nominated by the Mississippi Heritage Trust, on behalf of the many communities that are depending on the state historic tax credit to save their treasured historic places.
Download a copy of the Economic and Fiscal Effects of the Mississippi Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program, An Overview for Decision-Makers. Prepared by the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at the request of Philip Gunn, J.D., Speaker of the House, this report was released in September 2015.
Enacted in 2006 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi’s historic tax credit has made a world of difference in getting from “what if?” to the ribbon cutting. In the ten years since its adoption, the 25% state historic tax credit has been used to save 252 historic places, stimulating a total of $239,576,690 in historic rehabilitation expenditures. Mississippi’s investment of $59,900,000 in state historic tax credits has incentivized an additional $45,793,040 in federal historic tax credits and $173,400,000 in direct private investment to rehabilitate historic buildings in the state. Every dollar of investment that Mississippi has made in historic tax credits has leveraged $4.66 of rehabilitation construction investment in the state.
The state tax credit has played a critical role in helping to save buildings that had been listed as endangered, including the King Edward Hotel in Jackson and the Old Pascagoula High School. In addition to commercial rehabilitations, Mississippi’s historic tax credit can also be used for residential restorations, with 122 homeowners taking advantage of this incentive to restore their historic homes. This investment will help to ensure that Mississippi’s rich heritage of beautiful historic neighborhoods will be there for future generations to cherish.
With the failure of the state legislature to increase the $60 million dollar cap on the state historic tax credit during the 2015 legislative session, this popular and effective program has run out of funding. The loss of the state historic tax credit puts historic preservation projects large and small in jeopardy.
Currently, there are twenty projects that have applied to the program that will require a minimum of $9,340,000 in tax credits. The decision to move forward with many other great preservation projects, like Calvary Baptist Church in West Jackson, depends on funding from state historic tax credits.
Pictured: Row one – Cooley Mill Building, Starkville; Old Federal Courthouse, Jackson; Calvary Baptist Church, Jackson. Row two – Hotel Lamar, Yazoo City; Edison Walthall Hotel, Jackson; Deposit Guaranty Building, Jackson. Row three – McRae’s Meadowbrook, Jackson; Paramount Theater, Clarksdale; Blu Buck Mercantile; Water Valley.
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.
The City of Oxford, with its charming downtown square, tree-lined streets, 23 historical Mississippi landmarks, and a dedicated population of advocates of preservation, is steeped in tradition and Mississippi heritage. But, despite good intentions, Oxford is on the cusp of losing its special character with the pressure for new development to service the Southern-savvy tourist, increase student enrollment, and draw retirees. This new wave of pressure undermines the unique charm visitors and residents alike hope to experience when in Oxford.
In 2007, in an effort to ensure historic preservation remains a top priority, the City of Oxford created the Courthouse Square Historic Preservation Commission and the Oxford Historic Preservation Commission in order to hold on to the city’s charm and qualities that continue to attract residents, businesses, and tourists alike. When the City of Oxford recognized the threat to its historic structures, it sprang into action to protect this beloved, charming town. The two commissions effectively monitor projects in and around the historic areas of Oxford using measures such as a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA), a requirement before any exterior feature of a property located in Oxford’s historic districts is constructed, altered, relocated, or demolished. The commissions’ issue and hear out the cases for COAs in compliance with the Historic Preservation Ordinance and the Oxford Design Guidelines which are based on the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
Since being listed on MHT’s endangered list in 2000, much progress has been made in the City of Oxford. The restoration and use of the Oxford Depot won an MHT Award of Merit in 2004. The 1870-era Lafayette County Courthouse has been completely restored and renovated recently using federal, state and county funds. The original main courtroom, which had been significantly altered in the 1970’s, was restored to its original condition. The 1889-era Burns Belfry building has finished its first phase of construction and stabilization. A Mississippi Landmark, it is the site of the Burns United Methodist Church, the area’s first church built by freed slaves. On the University of Mississippi campus, eight buildings have been designated National Historic Landmarks, including The Lyceum and The Circle. This designation was announced in October 2008.Oxfords new preservation planner Paige Barnham said that the city continues its preservation progress. The City Planning Office will be updating Oxford’s Land Development Code soon. The city also plans on conducting a new historic resources survey and has plans to reward good preservation practice with a preservation award program.
Oxfords’ new preservation planner Paige Alyse Barnham, says that as of 2017 the city continues its preservation progress. The City Planning Office will be updating Oxford’s Land Development Code soon. The city also plans on conducting a new historic resources survey and has plans to reward good preservation practice with a preservation award program.
Built around 1808, Meadvilla was the home of Cowles Mead, Secretary of the Mississippi Territory. During the later territorial period, the house served as a tavern and stagecoach stop operated by Moses Richardson. In 1828, Meadvilla became the home of Benjamin L. C. Wailes, scientist, historian, first state geologist, and first President of the Mississippi Historical Society. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a significant example of Federal-style architecture. When listed as one of the state’s most endangered properties, the house was severely threatened by deterioration.
Meadvilla luckily fell into the hands of current owners Stephen Cook and Windell Weeden, who have carefully restored the property.
Taylorsville, Mississippi (Smith County)
Owned by the town of Taylorsville, the Watkins Museum building is a Mississippi Landmark. The museum serves as a monument to early life in Taylorsville and the history of Mississippi journalism, as the site is the former office of the Taylorsville Signal. Constructed in 1901, it served as a newspaper office well into the 1960s and, today, still houses the 19th century presses and newspaper artifacts used to produce the Signal. Since 1972, the building has been utilized as a museum with the Taylorsville Historical Society at the helm of its preservation efforts. When listed on Mississippi 10 Most Endangered Places in 2001, the building, which is one of the few wooden structures to survive the fires that ravaged Taylorsville in the early 20th century, was threatened by deterioration to the foundation and sills, as well as a lack of funds to address the problems.
In December 2002, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History awarded a $120,000 Mississippi Landmark Grant to the Watkins Museum, for exterior and interior repairs to the building. After repairs were made, Hurricane Katrina damaged the building, causing it to lean to one side. The city of Taylorsville has once again restored the building.
The Watkins Museum displays old printing equipment using brass type, wooden type, cooper plates advertising victrolas, early model refrigerators, patent medicines, and buckets of ink. Merchandise from the General Store is also showcased, including an assortment of high-buttoned shoes, lace-up boots, ladies hats, baby ointment, copies of vintage magazines, sheet music, caned and cowhide-bottomed chairs and a spinning wheel.
Wesson, Mississippi (Copiah County)
Joining Mississippi’s efforts to rebuild its post-Civil War economy, Colonel James Madison Wesson moved to Copiah County and established the Mississippi Manufacturing Company, later known as the Mississippi Mills. He became the engineer of a textile industry and the founder of the town of Wesson. Thousands of people were employed with the company during its peak years and as the town grew, new facilities were constructed to support its growing population. The Old Wesson School, a two-story brick veneer Romanesque Revival Style building originally built in 1889 and rebuilt in 1893 after it was destroyed by fire, is significant as one of three remaining public buildings associated with Wesson’s historic development fostered by the textile industry. A Mississippi Landmark and National Register of Historic Places property, the Old Wesson School has an unusual industrial appearance, and may have been designed by the same architect and in the same style as the original Mississippi Mills buildings.
Exterior renovations of the building was completed in 2003 and made possible by funding from two grants: a Community Heritage Preservation grant through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and an Economic Development grant from the Mississippi Development Authority. The Legislature approved an additional $1 million in funding to continue renovation of the interior of the school. Now, the Old Wesson Public School is home to a breathtaking event venue for weddings, meetings, reunions, and conferences.
During its heyday, Greenwood’s Irving Hotel enjoyed a reputation as one of the finest hotels in Mississippi. Built in 1917 as a commercial adaptation of the Colonial Revival style, the brick structure soon became a mecca for businessmen and travelers. Of note, Joe Stein operated this hotel for many years. Despite its prominent location across from the town’s main post office, the hotel sat vacant for several decades. Efforts to revive this property can be traced back over 25 years, while the fine structure teetered on the brink of total disrepair.
Viking Range Corporation acquired this Colonial Revival brick structure, as it has several other buildings in downtown Greenwood, and completed the renovation of the building, turning it into a world-class boutique hotel. As many thought it would, this renovation spurred additional work in downtown Greenwood. The hotel was renamed “The Alluvian” and reopened in 2003. The sleek, modern hotel is a reincarnation resulting in international accolades each year. Among these awards, the Alluvian has been named among the “Top 100 Best Hotels in the U.S.,” Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice, “Top 56 Hotels” by National Geographic Traveler, and “Best Luxury Design” by Lodging & Hospitality Design.
Forest, Mississippi – vicinity (Scott County)
Located in Scott County on the Bienville Ranger District of the Mississippi National Forests, the Moore Fire Tower was constructed in 1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps to identify forest fires and pinpoint their exact location with state-of-the-art equipment called a survey alidade. The 100 foot high tower, was constructed specifically for its site with steel A-frames, is the only one of its type in Mississippi. Its unusual features are the staircase located outside the tower, spacious cabin, hip roof with wood shingles, and wood observation deck surrounding the entire cabin. Faithfully manned since 1940, the tower was finally retired from service in 1996 due to the increasing use of aircraft for fire detection. The tower’s four-year vacancy has left it in a critical state of disrepair with rotting steps, a leaking roof, and failing metal frame joints. While it has the distinction of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places and National Register of Historic Lookouts, the fate of the Moore Fire Tower remains at a critical juncture.
The Mississippi Forestry Service has allocated funds to repair and replace many of the damaged steps, fix the twisted and rusted beams, and replace the roof. Some cosmetic repairs are still to be made to the interior of the structure, but at present it is structurally sound. The Forestry Service does not plan to open the tower up to tours but may incorporate visits to the tower with other tours so that interested visitors are able to at least see the structure.
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. On July 22, 2015, the South Reporter of Holly Springs published a story titled “City Demolishes Old Structures,” in which the historic College was mentioned as a possible future victim. The article states, “several old buildings owned by the City of Holly Springs are being demolished to make room for the better use of the property. Clay Moore, Public Works Director, remarked ‘It is all part of cleaning up the city to make it look better – city pride.’ Mayor Kelvin Buck said, ‘If you ride the town, you will find we have a lot of buildings that just sit and sit.’ He named Mississippi Industrial College buildings, the compress building in the Depot District, and the Old Colonial Building as examples. He continued, ‘I do think we have to consider, do we have $50,000 to sink into these publicly-owned buildings or can we use the space for something else? Could we use the space for parking or other things?'” The time for action is now. Mississippi Industrial College’s days are clearly numbered. No one from Rust College could be reached to discuss the state of the abandoned Campus.
Following a long and loving restoration, the Burrus House can be rented for special occasions and events. Eustace H. Winn IV, proprietor of Hollywood Plantation, LLC and descendant of the Burrus family, lives on the property. He and other family members brought the house to its present state of restored grandeur.
Yazoo City, Mississippi
The Restoration and Beautification Foundation of Yazoo City owns the Pugh-Blundell House and has proven to be good, protective guardians. Exterior repairs and the first floor interior are complete. Work is underway to refurbish the second floor. in the Spring of 2015, the Foundation hosted a fundraiser that will hopefully cover what remains unfinished. When complete, they hope to use this space as a classroom.
Washington County, Mississippi
The Griffin Spragins House has been fully restored, is lovingly cared for and is the private residence of Walley Morse.
The story of the siege is the focus of a beautiful national military park, but outside the park boundaries, the fields, bayous and country roads where the rest of the Vicksburg campaign was waged are threatened by the forces of time, change, and neglect. The very existence of this significant resource is little known, its historic value under appreciated, and its potential for heritage tourism untapped. As a result, landmark buildings are crumbling and inappropriate development threatens unprotected sits such as the Coker House at the Champion Hill battlefield site, Pemberton’s Headquarters in Vicksburg, the Old Raymond-Utica Road, and the Shaifer House outside Port Gibson. A comprehensive strategy for education, planning and management is essential to save this hallowed ground where bravery and sacrifice shaped the course of history.
As part of a comprehensive, statewide Mississippi Civil War Trails project, funded through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21stCentury (TEA-21) grant program, several projects are underway along the trail. One of the most historic structures in the Vicksburg Campaign region, the Shaifer House, located on the Port Gibson Battlefield, was restored in 2007 and interpretative signage was added to the site.
The Raymond Battlefield Trail was completed in the fall of 2006. The trail has been paved and signage installed. Open during daylight hours for public use the trail follows the Mississippi Operations in the Campaign & Siee of Vicksburg guide, published in 1999. The tour showcases significant sites association with Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign for and siege. The Friends of Raymond have recently purchased 165 acres of the Raymond Battlefield for permanent conservation.
The Shaifer House, which is a contributing site on the campaign trail, was pillaged in early 2017. Some of the house’s hand-hewn sills were stolen from its crawl space. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History have made repairs to the structure and the house has been stabilized. If you have any information regarding the theft and vandalism of the Shaifer House, please contact the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar was probably the leading Mississippi statesman of the nineteenth century. Prior to the civil war, he was a congressional representative. At the outbreak of hostilities, he drew up the Mississippi Secession Ordinance. Serving during the war in the Confederate military with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, he was recalled to Richmond, Virginia by Jefferson Davis in 1862. At Davis’ behest, Lamar resigned his military commission in order to accept an appointment as a traveling ambassador for the Confederate State Department. After Reconstruction, he served in the U.S. Senate, and was Secretary of the Interior under Grover Cleveland. Later, he became a Justice of the Supreme Court. Built in 1857, his Oxford home is of the Greek Revival style. A classic case of “Demolition by Neglect”, the last remaining house in the state with ties to Lamar will be lost without intervention. If this house were in Virginia it would be a state shrine.
In 2003, the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Foundation purchased the house and raised more than $1.5 million in funding for its restoration. Now property of the City of Oxford, the renovated house opened in 2008 and is open four days a week for tours and special events. This handsome Greek Revival home is now a museum and special events venue. This mission of the L.Q.C. Lamar House Museum is to interpret the life and career of the distinguished 19th century statesman and to encourage the ideal of statesmanship in the 21st century. Professionally designed exhibits and original furnishings fill the interior of the house and tell the story of this important Oxonian.
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.
The building located in Corinth known as the Old Corinth Machinery is the oldest surviving industrial building in Mississippi. It was built in 1869 by architect Martin Seigrest, who built many of Corinth’s buildings including Rubel’s Department Store. In the past, the building housed a woolen factory and machinery which produced sawmill carriages. Today, its Canadian owners have abandoned the structure, allowing it to fall prey to the elements.
A preservation easement has been conveyed for the historic Corinth Machinery Building, ensuring that any future changes to the building would be sympathetic with its original character. Plans were announced to renovate the building for market-rate apartments; however, work never progressed and the building continued to deteriorate. In 2012, heavy storms caused large portions of the building’s brick walls to collapse.
Circa 1911 & 1921
Hattiesburg, Mississippi (Forrest County)
The old Hattiesburg High School actually consists of two buildings, the rear section built in 1911, and the more imposing and highly decorated section on the front constructed in 1921. Robert E. Lee, a popular and prolific Hattiesburg architect, designed the front addition in the Jacobethan style, a style thought to be more “cheerful” than the Neoclassical and Collegiate Gothic styles. One of the more whimsical features of the building is the presence of separately labeled “Girls” and “Boys” entrances on the front. The school, like many downtown schools around the state, was closed in the 1960s, and the building subsequently served as offices for the school district, and later as an antiques mall. The large structure has stood vacant and deteriorating for several years and is threatened by neglect and vandalism. The Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association owns the building and would like to redevelop the building but funds have been limited.
The Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association acquired the building in 2003 and has teamed with the Southern Mississippi Arts and Restoration Team to further restore the building.
The building’s restoration has experienced two major roadblocks since that time. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina did tremendous damage to the building, necessitating roof replacement using grant money from the Community Heritage Grant program and the Hurricane Relief Grant Program. Then, as construction continued in 2007, arsonists using liquid accelerant completely burned the interior of the front building. Firefighters were only able to save the façade. (The arsonists have been convicted and are now in prison.) The building is planned to be used by the University of Southern Mississippi College of Arts and Letters for classroom and performance space.
In 2014, the Old Hattiesburg High School received $50,000 from the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association to rebrace the North wall. The building remains unoccupied but plans are in place for a full restoration. Jackson developer Steve Nail has an option to purchase the property and hopes to redevelop it into apartments.
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.
Circa 1857 – 1859
Columbus, Mississippi (Lowndes County)
Directly across the street from the Lowndes County Courthouse stands a structure that is one of only two three-story antebellum commercial buildings still remaining in Mississippi. Erected between October 1857 and February 1859 as a real estate venture of Columbus businessmen Isham Harrison, Jr., and Henry B. Whitfield, the building originally housed a large Masonic hall on its top floor and condominium-style offices in the two floors below. The offices were actually sold off by the room, with the first sale going to Thomas and Jacob Sharp, who acquired two choice rooms on the first story for $1,700. Two rooms on the second story could be bought for a mere $1,000. Eventually the Harrison-Whitfield Building became the Columbus headquarters of the Woodmen of America.
The building is constructed of brick and in a greatly simplified version of the Greek Revival Style. Reflecting the severe symmetry of Greek Revival, each floor level of the façade is pierced by seven openings— large windows on the two upper floors and alternating windows and doors on the first. Each opening is capped by a stone lintel, while a molded brick cornice crowns the roof-line. Massive stepped parapets disguise the gabled ends of the building’s roof.
Vacant for many years, the building suffers structural deterioration, particularly on its rear facade. The Old Harrison-Whitfield Building is a rare surviving historic resource from the state’s antebellum period and its loss would pose a severe blow to preservation efforts in downtown Columbus.
The space is currently being used for offices among the many other buildings along Lawyer’s Row.
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.
Natchez, Mississippi (Adams County)
The State Baptist Convention of Mississippi established Natchez College in 1885. The college opened shortly after the American Baptist Home Missionary Society of New York relocated the Natchez Seminary for educating African-American ministers from Natchez to Jackson, where it eventually evolved into Jackson State University. Natchez College was one of several private institutions of higher learning established by religious organizations in Mississippi during the post-Civil War period. Integration and the proximity of Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University) were instrumental in the ultimate failure of the college, which contributed significantly for over a century to the education and cultural life of African Americans in Southwest Mississippi.
The college occupied the antebellum estate known as Elmo with the mansion house initially serving as the main college building. The mansion burned between 1901 and 1904 and was replaced by a new building. Other new buildings were also constructed as part of the college complex. For over a century, Natchez College played an important role in the education of African Americans in Mississippi. For much of its life, it functioned primarily as a junior college and preparatory school.
Anne Moody, who wrote Coming of Age in Mississippi, was a student at Natchez College. She wrote about the college, the Woodlawn neighborhood, and the town of Natchez in her landmark book, which has been on the required reading list of many American colleges and universities. Within a short walking distance of Natchez College are the childhood home of author Richard Wright and the residence of noted jazz musician, Bud Scott.
The college is currently sitting vacant. At one point, the Baptist Convention tried to get approval to demolish all of the buildings but an outcry from the neighborhood helped the Preservation Commission turn down the demolition request.
The State Baptist Convention is actively seeking funding to restore the buildings for use as a retreat, but as yet, no restoration work has been completed.
Ripley, Mississippi (Tippah County)
Built in 1938, the Tippah County Jail appears more massive than it actually is, an illusion caused by its solid poured-concrete construction. The two-story structure exhibits the Art Moderne style, which makes it unique in Ripley, and rare in the state. The most striking details are on the façade where the words “County Jail” are spelled out vertically, and geometric banding adorns the area between the upper and lower windows. The interior, although spare, is almost completely intact, still retaining its jail cells and doors.
The building was in use as the county jail until about 2000, when it was vacated for a new jail across the street. Since then, the building has only been used for storage, and water damage from the leaking roof is already evident in some rooms. The Tippah County Historical Society and the county and city would like to renovate the building for use as an archives for local records, but funding has so far been unavailable.
In 2005, a $115,000 Community Heritage Preservation Grant was awarded for the rehabilitation of the building for use as a local records archives. Work was completed in 2008, and Tippah County made plans to begin moving its historical archives into the facility during the fourth quarter of 2009. The building is still being used to store local records and documents.
Aberdeen, Mississippi (Monroe County)
Completed around 1869, the Mobile and Ohio Railroad Depot, a vernacular Italianate structure of frame construction, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 8, 1983, and designated a Mississippi Landmark on May 20, 1986. The depot is significant as the oldest known extant railroad depot in Mississippi, as well as for its symbolic role in connecting Aberdeen to the rest of the South, thus insuring the city’s agricultural, commercial and industrial growth.
While the owner of the depot, the City of Aberdeen, has no plans to demolish the structure, the depot has been threatened by deterioration and lack of funds for restoration for many years. A local non-profit group is currently working to secure a lease agreement with the city.
While these developments are a move in the right direction, there is still much work to be done in order to ensure that this extremely important part of Mississippi’s railroad history is preserved for future generations.
The City of Aberdeen and the South Monroe County Community Fund are actively working to save the building. The group was awarded an $8,000 Certified Local Government grant, which was matched by the city. The group has also received a Community Heritage Preservation Grant to help fund the $250,000 restoration.
Hattiesburg, Mississippi (Forrest County)
The Beverly, first opened on May 29th, 1948, was the second drive-in theater to open in the state of Mississippi. One of the more unique features about the theater is that the owners’ residence – a three bedroom, two bathroom house with a sun porch – was built beneath the main screen. In addition to two full-size screens, the complex houses a concession stand/projection room and a drive-through box office.
The Beverly ran strong under the original owners’ management for over thirty years, then in 1982, outside operators were brought in to manage the facility. After two years, the original owner terminated the agreement with the operating staff and closed the drive-in down. It reopened in 1986 for a brief period, closed again in 1987, and remained out of operation for the next fifteen years. The theater was then used for occasional special event fundraisers that “always sold out.” The Beverly reopened in 2001 under new management and with technological upgrades. Business was good until August 2005, when extensive damage occurred due to Hurricane Katrina.
Following the hurricane, little had been done to repair the site. Water infiltration damaged the interiors of the complex and the owner neither had the finances nor the willingness to venture forward. With a startling 96% of Mississippi’s drive-in theaters having been closed, the importance of preserving and restoring this site could not be more evident. As a state and local landmark, this site was fondly regarded by Hattiesburg residents and passersbys on Highway 49, as a slice of irreplaceable Americana.
The Beverly Drive Inn was destroyed by fire in 2010.
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.
Picayune, Mississippi (Pearl River County)
Built in 1930 by local businessmen George Pickett and William “Bo” Sewell, the Picayune Colored Gymnasium served the African American community as a recreational and entertainment center for sixty years. The two-story cinder-block building contained the only full-sized basketball court and the only indoor recreational facility available to African Americans on the Gulf Coast in the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to basketball, the building also hosted boxing tournaments, dances and gospel concerts. Beginning in 1946, it was the home court for both the boys’ and the girls’ basketball teams at the Picayune Colored High School.
In addition to the basketball court, the building featured a stage and a mezzanine with pool tables which served as a social center for young people. Basketball was not the only sport at the Picayune Colored Gymnasium. Boxers also trained here, including Picayune native Freddie Little, who would go on to become the WBA and WBC Junior Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World and a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
The Picayune Colored Gymnasium was the last surviving structure that marked a thriving African American business district in Picayune. It was converted into a night club in 1960 and sat been vacant after the 1990s. The building suffers from deferred maintenance and was yet another victim of Hurricane Katrina, which damaged the roof and exterior walls.
The Picayune Colored Gymnasium was demolished, although the exact date of demolition is unknown.
Tupelo, Mississippi (Lee County)
Completed in 1921, the historic Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church housed the first African American congregation in Tupelo for over 80 years. It is one of the oldest surviving church buildings in Tupelo, which lost many landmarks in the devastating tornado of 1936. Architecturally the red brick building is impressive, rising two full stories above a raised basement. The massing of the building clearly shows the influence of the Gothic Revival style with its flanking entrance towers. However, the building’s details, such as its stained glass windows, show the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement which had become very popular by the 1910s and 20s.
The historic Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church is threatened by deterioration and possible demolition. Recently the congregation erected a new sanctuary next door, leaving the future of the historic building in limbo. There are calls by some in the congregation for demolition of the structure either to avoid upkeep or to use the site for parking.
The City of Tupelo’s historic preservation commission recently identified the structure as one of 10 sites in their community worthy of preservation. However, the city has not yet designated the church building as an historic landmark or the neighborhood as an historic district, so demolition of the historic edifice is possible at any time.
The Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau is leading the creation of a Heritage Trails Enrichment Program, highlighting significant pieces of the city’s storied past. The Heritage Trails Enrichment Program was created to identify significant people, places, and events in Tupelo and Lee County. As part of this program, a new marker was placed in front of the Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church to identify, market, and promote its history. The Mississippi Heritage Trust visited Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church during its 2014 Listen Up! Conference.
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. Progress is unknown.
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 1820 – 1930
Port Gibson, Mississippi (Claiborne County)
Located near the confluence of Bayou Pierre and Little Bayou Pierre, Port Gibson was established on March 12, 1803, making it the third-oldest incorporated town in the state. Serving as the county seat of Claiborne County since its incorporation, Port Gibson was spared when Gen. U.S. Grant made the town the first objective in his campaign to capture Vicksburg in 1863, supposedly saying the town was “too beautiful to burn.”
Many of the antebellum homes, churches, and commercial buildings that lined the streets during the Civil War still stand, and Church Street in particular hosts a wealth of beautiful architecture combined with graceful old live oak trees. Many blocks of Church Street are contained within the Market Street-Suburb St. Mary Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Seven churches and one synagogue stand on the aptly-named street, ranging in style from exotic Moorish to the stately classical.
Church Street long ago became part of U.S. Highway 61, and the heavy commercial traffic that has gradually increased over the decades has already done harm to many of the historic buildings and has diminished the residential appeal of the street. An effort by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to expand U.S. 61 to an expressway is nearly complete, with the Port Gibson section of highway one of the last to be upgraded. The Port Gibson Heritage Trust and many other interested citizens have banded together to encourage MDOT to re-route the highway outside of town, leaving Church Street to recover its residential character. MDOT has resisted the idea, pushing forward with its plans to use the existing right-of-way to expand the roadway to meet modern codes despite local opposition. The controversial project has never undergone the normal mandated federal and state preservation reviews because MDOT insists that it will be using only state money to complete this federal highway project.
The feud over widening Port Gibson’s Church Street continues. MDOT has backed away from its stated intention to take the new Highway 61 down Church Street and is looking once again at options to the west, but meetings to discuss the widening of Church Street continue.
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.
Circa 1866, 1930
Yazoo City, Mississippi (Yazoo County)
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, the Oakes House was home to the Mary and John Oakes family, one of the most prominent African American families in Yazoo County. The family, originally from South Carolina, moved to Yazoo City in 1853, after John Oakes bought the freedom of Mary and her two children. The Oakes African American Cultural Center, commonly known as the “Oakes House,” began as a one-room structure that was on the lot when John Oakes purchased the property in 1866. John found work as a contractor while Mary operated a restaurant they owned on Main Street. In 1884, their son, A.J., founded Oakes Academy, a private school for blacks, and served as principal for the next 16 years. He resigned in 1900 to work full-time for the Oakes Lumber Company and his construction company, which helped rebuild Yazoo City after a 1904 fire destroyed much of the town. The fire did not reach his company, nor did it climb the hill to the Oakes House, thus allowing it to remain in its original state. By 1930, the one-room structure had grown to a two-story home with Colonial Revival detailing, including a wrap-around two-story gallery supported by Tuscan columns.
The Oakes House has been a museum that not only tells the history of the Oakes family, but it also tells of the struggles and triumphs of African Americans in Yazoo County and the State of Mississippi. In the 1990’s, an intense project helped restore the leaded-glass entrance doors, original mantels, chimneys, walls, and stairs.
Over the years, the house deteriorated due to lack of funds for maintenance and museum operations. Funding from the Community Heritage Preservation Grant Program helped to complete foundation work in 2015, but additional funding is needed to complete the restoration.
Clarksdale, Mississippi (Coahoma County)
The Alcazar Hotel was once one of the premier hotels in the South. The four-story brick building was built by Charles O. Pfiel in 1915. Exterior details of the hotel include tri-partite wood windows, decorative brickwork, cast stone detailing, and a terra cotta cornice. Originally, the hotel had a spectacular glass dome skylight on the second floor which provided natural light down to the first floor lobby. The first floor featured a restaurant and commercial spaces where many of Clarksdale’s prominent businesses operated over the years.
The Alcazar once hosted such guests as playwright Tennessee Williams. The hotel is best known, perhaps, for being the location where WROX radio station broadcasted for nearly 40 years. Legends like Ike Turner, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and many others performed live and were interviewed at the station by Early Wright, one of the South’s first black disc jockeys.
The hotel eventually ceased operation and gave way to offices and other commercial uses. In the early 1990s, WROX moved out and the Alcazar lost its most famous tenant. In 1994, when the Alcazar Hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, only a handful of commercial tenants remained. New owners acquired the property in 2007 and began cleaning out and securing the building with hopes of redeveloping it as residential units. Due to the lack of market demand and adequate funding, those plans have not come to fruition.
With many positive developments in downtown Clarksdale, there continues to be hope for the redevelopment of the Alcazar Hotel, but to date, no concrete plans have been announced. The exterior has been primed, painted, and weatherproofed. The next steps, according to Mayor Bill Luckett, will focus on interior renovations in hopes to be used as a hotel once again.
Meridian, Mississippi (Lauderdale County)
“A magnificent monument to the growth and progress of the City of Meridian,” as stated by the Threefoot Realty Company brochure shortly before its opening in 1930, the Threefoot Building was the premier office building in east central Mississippi. It was named after its first owners, the Threefoot brothers, who were part of a successful Jewish-German family in Meridian. Standing 16 stories, it is the tallest building in Meridian. Designed by C. H. Lindsley, who was known for monumental building designs, the Threefoot Building is great example of Art Deco architecture, with classic setbacks and polychrome terra cotta accenting the first-floor granite water table and the upper-floor spandrels and parapets. The building also boasts an ornamental Art Deco lobby decorated with marble flooring and wainscoting, plastered cast walls and ceilings, and etched bronze panel elevator doors with decorative dial indicators above each elevator. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and designated as a Mississippi Landmark by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in 2008.
In September 2015, the City of Meridian sold the Threefoot Building to a developer with plans to restore the building as a Marriott hotel, giving the hope of a bright new future for the historic building. An active citizens group, Threefoot Preservation Society, are contributing to the work of restoring the historic building. Volunteers meet monthly for clean up days and have made their way to restoring the second floor of the building.
Edwards vicinity, Mississippi (Hinds County)
In 1985, noted Civil War historian Edwin Bearss wrote “the Coker house retains its integrity of site, fabric, and style.” When Bearss wrote this description, few would have imagined that two decades later the house would be partially in ruins.
Built in 1852 by H. B. Coker on land once known as Cotton Hill, the Coker House is the only original structure standing on land where the pivotal Battle of Champion Hill was fought on May 16, 1863. Located on the southern margin of the battlefield, this one-story Greek Revival-style house sustained fire from both Federal and Confederate artillery as the battle lines shifted throughout the day. Fierce fighting around the house led to its use as a field hospital by both armies. The cannon ball and bullets still lodged in the façade of the house serve as lasting reminders of the battle.
Cal-Maine Foods, which purchased the property in 1963, donated the house to the Jackson Civil War Roundtable in 1985. Unable to complete the restoration project, the Roundtable conveyed the title to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in 2000. The inability to use available funds to stem the tide of deterioration caused by over 20 years of benign neglect has left this National Historic Landmark with the threat of complete destruction.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History employed Jackson architect Robert Parker Adams to prepare plans for restoring the house. Using as much of the original materials of the house as could be saved, the restoration was completed in the summer of 2009. Visitors can tour the house for no charge. There are interpretive signs that have been installed detailing the history of the Coker House and telling the story of the Battle of Champion Hill. Several kiosks have been installed on the front lawn and the side of house showing the placement of guns and divisions during the battle.
Keesler Bridge serves as the main corridor into downtown Greenwood, and is a swing-type bridge called a Howe Truss. Built in 1924, it has carried traffic across the Yazoo River for generations of travelers. Designated as a Mississippi Landmark, Keesler Bridge suffered from a lack of maintenance and disrepair, making its future uncertain.
The preservation of Keesler Bridge sets a powerful example of what can be accomplished when good causes bring concerned citizens together. After being listed in 1999 on the MHT’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places list, the Keesler Bridge was given a new lease on life in 2000, when major grants from MDOT and MDAH made that possible. The Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History awarded a $256,000 Mississippi Landmark Grant to the City of Greenwood and Leflore County for the Keesler Bridge. These funds were used in conjunction with a $1.2 million TEA-21 grant awarded by the Mississippi Department of Transportation to restore this significant piece of historic engineering.
The bridge was reopened in September of 2003 to universal acclaim. Keesler Bridge now serves as a tourist attraction for the area and carries approximately 8,500 cars and trucks across the Yazoo River on a daily basis. The bridge sits solid, strong, and sound and is beloved by its community. The bridge is used prominently in the City of Greenwood’s promotional materials. “I am happy to report the Keesler Bridge is just as beautiful today as it was when first constructed in 1925,” says local resident and community activist Allan Hammons.
A quintessential 19th-century town, Carrollton survives relatively intact, with a courthouse square surrounded by beautiful homes and historic downtown buildings. Carrollton is one of the largest historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places in the United States and several sites are Mississippi Landmarks. With little legal protection and a general lack of understanding about the importance of historic preservation, many have long feared for Carrollton’s rich architectural legacy.
The adoption of a Preservation Ordinance, the designation as a Certified Local Government by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the restoration of several downtown buildings has catapulted the progress of protecting the character of the town. Many restoration projects are underway in Carrollton, including three buildings along Main Street. Dr. Rich Hill, a Carrollton dentist, refurbished a downtown building that now serves as his office. Shirley Nolan is in the process of restoring two adjacent buildings for commercial use. Restoration is complete on the Carrollton Community House, a 1936-era log building. Although some grant funding requests have fallen short, the city obtained a CLG grant in 2005 for its 1899-era Masonic Lodge building. Carrollton has done a partial restoration of its Town Hall and the oldest building in town, the Merrill Building, has had brick walls repaired among other projects. The Vance House has been restored and is currently serving as a private residence. City officials are also working on a restoration and ADA conversion of the Carroll County Courthouse.
Almost all of Carrollton’s historic houses are occupied. Two commercial buildings on the town square are going to be restored soon. Carrolton’s Pilgrimage held annually the first weekend of October continues to be a success.
Located on 7th Avenue in Columbus, the Queen City Hotel was formerly the social and cultural hub of the Columbus African American community. Originally converted into a hotel in 1914 by legendary blues guitarist Robert Walker, it was sold in 1931 to Ed Bush who operated the business for many years. During this era, this section of Columbus became the business center of the African American community, with a number of shops located on 7th Avenue, 19th Street, and 20th Street. The strong will of Ed Bush was the glue that held this small community together. After Ed’s health began to fail, the businesses began to fail as well.
Portions of the building were destroyed by storms in the Columbus area in 2002, and very little remained of the original structure—only the front wall. Although the Legislature approved funds for reconstructing the building, and a local architect was hired to prepare drawings, the owners bulldozed the property in 2008, erasing the history of this important landmark.
Despite the unfortunate loss of this property, the Visit Columbus website encourages tourists to tour the Queen City Hotel site and states, “Queen City Hotel was the center of the African American business district in the mid-twentieth century. It was also the focus of lodging and entertainment for the African-American community. It was constructed, owned, and operated in 1909 by Robert Walker, who was once a slave. The hotel played host to such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Pearl Bailey, B.B. King, Duke Ellington, Little Richard, and James Brown, as well as many professional baseball players.”
Mound Bayou, Mississippi
Like its host city, the Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou is both unique and remarkable. Built by the McKissick Construction Company of Nashville, Tennessee in the modern style, the hospital was dedicated in 1942. At a time when medical facilities for African Americans were almost nonexistent, it offered a 42-bed facility through the auspices of the Taborians and Meharry Medical School. The Taborians were a forward-thinking African American fraternal organization that originally offered burial insurance to their members. When it became clear that this group’s needs were not being addressed by any existing caregivers, the Taborians expanded their services to include medical care. Staffed by medical personnel from Meharry Medical School in Nashville, the hospital operated until the mid-1960s. At this time, Medicare finally forced the integration of formerly segregated hospitals and the small scale of Taborian could no longer economically compete with the larger Delta hospitals.
Restoration began in 2011 to restore this site as a hospital and regional care center. The Taborian Urgent Care Center, Inc. opened on August 21, 2014 and provides care to this region, which has long been in great need of medical professionals. In March 2015, the state-of-the-art facility announced a partnership with The MIND (Memory Impairment Neurodegenerative Dementia) Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson to provide telemedicine to its patients. The rebirth of the Taborian Hospital was a tremendous preservation victory for Mound Bayou and Mississippi.
Jackson, Mississippi (Hinds County)
Located in Jackson’s beautiful Mynelle Gardens, the Westbrook House was built in 1921 by William Wall Westbrook. The brick structure was constructed in the Mediterranean Revival style, popular during that time. Featuring an enclosed center patio, superb woodwork, and interesting windows, the house was designed by noted Jackson architect Noah Webster Overstreet. Overstreet is described by architectural historian Richard Cawthon as “…the most influential and prolific architect in the history of the state.” Originally the private residence of the Westbrook family, the house was later used for a thriving flower business. In 1973, the house and gardens were sold to the City of Jackson. The structure was used for wedding receptions and parties for some years until falling into a state of disrepair. The Westbrook House was listed as one of Mississippi’s Ten Most Endangered Places in 2000.
The City of Jackson has restored the Westbrook House for use by the community. In the spring of 2013, the roof of the Westbrook House was damaged by a hailstorm, but the City of Jackson is currently working to repair it. Both the exterior and interior of the home have been restored, providing a popular reception site for weddings and events.
Westbrook House and Mynelle Gardens are open to the public Monday through Friday, the home from 9:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and the gardens from 9:00 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. Stop by, stroll through the gardens and enjoy this architectural treasure.
Built in 1849 to replace an earlier lighthouse, the Round Island Lighthouse off the Pascagoula coast remained in operation until 1944. During the late 19th century, it served as a quarantine station for yellow fever epidemics. Curiously, the U.S. Navy briefly blockaded Round Island when it was used as an encampment by a private army that had decided to invade Cuba for fun and profit. This little known army was shown the error of its ways by the Federal gunboats, thus the real invasion of Cuba would have to wait a few years. The Round Island Lighthouse was severely damaged by Hurricane George in 1998. During the storm, the structure toppled from the undercutting flow of waves. Although the city obtained federal emergency funds to stabilize the foundation and prevent further wave incursions, the structure remained in a perilous condition.
Before Hurricane Katrina, the City of Pascagoula rebuilt the 11-acre beach around the lighthouse and secured it with a concrete breakwater. The City received a CIAP grant and planted native vegetation on the new beach to minimize erosion. They applied for funding from a TEA-21 grant for restoration and received $250,000 from the Community Heritage Grant Program administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the battered lighthouse was still there; however, erosion and damage caused by the hurricane had taken its toll. Plans were made to barge the lighthouse safely ashore about three miles inland near the Highway 90 bridge.
The restoration of the Round Island Lighthouse in its new location is now underway and continues at a steady pace. The lantern gallery was completed in 2012, the exterior in 2014, and the interior in July 2015. The Grand Opening took place in the fall of 2015. Please visit www.roundislandlighthouse.org to learn more about the restoration and make a donation to this worthwhile project.
Built in 1923 by New Orleans architect William T. Nolan on the same site as two previous prominent hotels, the King Edward Hotel was a significant hub of both social and political activity in Jackson. The hotel closed in 1967 and remained vacant for the over 40 years, suffering extensive damage. The decaying structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as both a Mississippi Landmark and a Jackson Landmark.
After years of struggles with city opposition and problems finding an investor, renovations to the hotel began in 2007 and the new Hilton Garden Inn – Downtown Jackson, located in the King Edward Hotel, opened in the fall of 2009 featuring 186 hotel rooms, a restaurant, lounge, convenience store, coffee shop and fitness center. In addition, the building has 64 luxury apartments and retail space. Just steps away from the refurbished Union Station Train Terminal, the King Edward Hotel once again serves as a hub for Jackson’s downtown activity. The property delivers a distinctive mix of vintage charm, modern luxury, and Southern hospitality to downtown Jackson. Persistence and vision allowed the King Edward to once again bustle with activity and graciously welcome the road-weary traveler.
Biloxi, Mississippi (Harrison County)
In 1890, Mr. and Mrs. Walter White opened their residence overlooking the Gulf of Mexico to guests. By 1910, the White House Hotel and its expanded grounds were a popular Biloxi beach resort offering golfing, motoring, relaxing, fishing, tennis, and boating. Additions to the original house in 1923 were in the Spanish Colonial Revival style and constitute most of the present hotel.
The White House Hotel survived Hurricane Katrina and the hotel has been meticulously restored to its original grandeur. The White House Hotel reopened in August 2014 and is a gem along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. The quaint, 76-room boutique hotel features luxurious rooms and suites, a restaurant, rooftop terrace, and pool overlooking the beach. It serves as a popular gathering spot for happy hour, wedding receptions, and beach getaways. Book your room, enjoy sweeping views of the Gulf, and relax, knowing that the White House Hotel is safe from the wrecking ball.
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.
Hinds County, Mississippi
Started in 1943 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Mississippi River Basin Model is designed to study floods, drought, and other weather events. The early excavation was carried out by German prisoners of war who were captured in North Africa when Rommel’s Africa Korps was destroyed by Anglo-American forces. Later, concrete work was completed by local Jackson contractors and the model was ready for use in the early 1950s. A day on the river could be simulated in just 5.4 minutes using the model. Although it was useful for predicting flood limits for four decades, the model was decommissioned in 1993 when it was replaced by computer software for flood control modeling and simulation.
In 1993, the model was deeded to the City of Jackson. A city park was built around the model, which is now unused and mostly hidden from view by the dense undergrowth that the German POWs worked so hard to remove almost 60 years ago. Despite its unfortunate deteriorated condition, the Basin Model stands as a monument to man’s desire to understand and control the mighty Mississippi River.
Since its closing, new-growth forest has emerged from manicured fields, roots dislodge the concrete riverbed, and bushes squeeze through fissures appearing at junction points of sections in the model. The Clarion Ledger wrote an extensive article in June 2015 about the site, including its important history and interviews with former employees. While the Model is a Mississippi Landmark, the City of Jackson has not attempted restoration.
Standing in the midst of deep forest in Jefferson County, the house and cemetery at Prospect Hill today seem serene, only hinting at a past both violent and paradoxically hopeful.
The existing Prospect Hill Plantation house was built ca. 1854 by Isaac Ross Wade, grandson of the original owner of the plantation, Revolutionary War veteran Isaac Ross. Ross was a member of the Mississippi Colonization Society, which in the early 19th century sought to “repatriate” freed slaves to a colony on the West African coast, today’s nation of Liberia. Ross’s will directed that after his daughter’s death, Prospect Hill should be sold, and that those among his more than 200 slaves who chose to emigrate to Liberia should be freed, with their colonization funded by the proceeds of the plantation’s sale.
Ross’s grandson contested the will in court, seeking to prevent the sale of the plantation and the freeing of the slaves. With the case tied up in litigation for a decade, the house burned down during a slave uprising in April 1845. A young girl died in the fire, and a group of slaves who were said to have orchestrated the uprising were subsequently lynched. In 1848 the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Ross’s and his daughter’s wills and ordered the plantation sold and the slaves freed, many of which made the journey to Liberia.
Even in its current deteriorated condition and with damage from a tree that fell on the front gallery, the core of the Prospect Hill house that Wade erected circa 1854 is structurally sound, and retains much of its original Greek Revival detail. Among the graves at the nearby plantation cemetery (also in disrepair, and endangered by falling trees) are the graves of the young girl, Isaac Ross Wade, and Isaac Ross, the latter of whom is commemorated by a monumental obelisk erected by the Mississippi Colonization Society.
The Archaeological Conservancy acquired the property and is working to save this special historic place. Back in a January of 17, 2014 meeting of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees, Prospect Hill was listed as a Mississippi Landmark and awarded a $50,000 stabilization grant with a 20% match. Since then the property has been cleaned up, and the house has been stabilized. Through Jessica Crawford’s stewardship, Prospect Hill with the help of a Mississippi Landmark Grant from MDAH was able to put on a new roof. The Conservancy hopes to do more work on the gutters soon. The house has been temporarily weatherproofed, and all the salvageable wood has been termite treated and restored. The Archeological Conservancy is looking for a “history friendly” buyer for the house and property (23.4 acres) who will continue the restoration and is willing to open Prospect Hill to the public occasionally. Recently the cemetery has benefited from a much-needed monument repair. Jessica Crawford is looking into putting together a restoration plan of action to give to prospective buyers.
The Cutrer Mansion, an Italian Renaissance villa, was built in 1916 by J. W. Cutrer and his wife, Blanche Clark Cutrer. The fascination with the Cutrer Mansion by various groups like the Clarksdale Heritage Foundation, the Mississippi Heritage Trust, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is not only due to its architectural significance, but also its literary significance. Tennessee Williams, one of American’s greatest playwrights, lived in Clarksdale as a child. His time in Mississippi inspired the writer to model some of his characters after Clarksdale’s prominent citizens, such as the Cutrer family, and their lavish lifestyles. When the current owners of the mansion, St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, announced plans to raze the structure, efforts began to find a solution that would benefit both the preservation of Mississippi’s history and the needs of the St. Elizabeth’s Catholic School.
In 1999 when the Cutrer Mansion was listed as one of the state’s most endangered places, the mansion was set to be demolished. Delta State University and the community of Clarksdale put preservation in action by setting out to save this piece of Mississippi’s history. The Mississippi Heritage Trust was an active partner in this advocacy effort, working with local residents to secure initial funding for stabilization. With additional support from the state of Mississippi, the house has been fully restored. The rescue of the Cutrer Mansion is a shining example of successfully repurposed historic properties, as it now serves as the centerpiece of the Coahoma County Higher Education Center (CCHEC), a partnership between Coahoma Community College and Delta State University. The center is a cultural and educational venue offering a wide variety of programs and events to the community.
The Chalmers Institute in Holly Springs is the oldest University building and the second oldest school building in the state. It was originally built in 1837 with publicly raised funds, becoming part of the University of Holly Springs in 1838. The intent was for the school to become the state university in Mississippi, an effort that ultimately failed when the University of Mississippi was located in Oxford. Subsequently, this building operated as the Chalmers Institute and then the Holly Springs Normal Institute for many years. Its masonry construction is rare for a structure that was built in, what was then, the frontier.
In 2003, a group of concerned citizens purchased the Chalmers Institute to save it from demolition and had it designated a Mississippi Landmark that year. The owners, Preserve Marshall County/Holly Springs Inc., received a $90,000 grant through a Senate Bond Issue in 2003, and the owners donated the property to the city. At the December 6, 2013, meeting of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees, the Chalmers Institute was awarded a $80,000 grant to replace the roof and begin interior restoration work.
On October 3, 2015, the Chalmers Institute hosted the fifth annual “Wrecking Ball” party, a clever event raising funds to continue the rehabilitation work in progress. The rehabilitation of Chalmers Institute is one of PMCHS’ preservation initiatives to protect the historic resources and cultural legacy of Marshall County and Holly Springs.
The phase one, stabilization of the building was completed in 2012. In 2016 phase two, the rehabilitation of the first floor thanks to continued grant assistance support from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History was completed. The Chalmers Institute now feature new floors, plumbing, and HVAC system, and electricity. Phase three, the restoration of the second floor and reroofing is curently underway. The community is eagerly awaiting getting the rest of this beautiful building back into service. It has already been in use by the region as an event and performing arts space. In the summer of 2017, the building hosted the reception for the Behind the Big House Program and also hosted a hill country blues guitar workshop. Chalmers is coming back to life and contributing to Mississippi’s creative economy.
The Tivoli Hotel in Biloxi was one of the few remaining Grande Dame resorts of the 1920s – a roaring time when the Mississippi Gulf Coast was known as the American Riviera. The hotel was featured as an apartment hotel with 64 guest rooms on four floors. The first floor contained a striking barrel-vaulted lobby with a magnificent ballroom to one side and the large dining room to the other.
According to the newspaper accounts the Tivoli opened “in a whirl of dancing, a kaleidoscopic blaze of color and a musical festival of barbaric jazz.”
Through the years, many attempts have been made to restore the building to its former glory, including plans to turn it into a halfway house, a resort, and a health center. Despite these efforts, the building sat empty, waiting to be called a Grande Dame once again.
Through the years, many attempts were made to restore the building to its former glory. However, despite those efforts, the building sat empty and deteriorating. During Hurricane Katrina, the hotel suffered damage from a casino barge that slammed into it. According to engineers, the structure was salvageable, but the owner decided to have the building demolished during the clean-up efforts. It was finally demolished in May 2006.
In October 2009, blogger Tom Barnes wrote a touching tribute to the Tivoli Hotel and explained how its demolition transpired:
“After Katrina, it is questionable if there was really any hope that the building could have been saved. Any real hope for its salvation was likely obliterated when the land was rezoned for waterfront gaming. While not the determining factor in the fate of the Tivoli, the presence of a ruin on such valuable land may been seen as an impediment to the redevelopment of the property. The Tivoli was demolished with almost no public discussion about the possibility of saving what remained. The availability of tax credits for historic preservation went unnoticed as well. The fact that it vanished without a trace must serve as a lesson of what can easily slip through the cracks of a great disaster. Unless there is active willingness to save a landmark, it can easily slip away with the tides.”
Long Beach, Mississippi
In 1884, W.J. Quarles moved his family to Long Beach from Tennessee. Mr. Quarles was responsible for many firsts for Long Beach, including organizing the first school in the front of his house and building the first dry goods store. Mr. Quarles set up the first post office in his store and served as postmaster. He was also instrumental in beginning the truck farming industry in Long Beach.
The second home of the Quarles family, known as “Greenvale,” was built in 1894. For years, the house stood as one of the city’s jewels and was known as the birthplace of Long Beach. In 1969, Hurricane Camille destroyed the first and second story gallery. Later in 1998, Hurricane George further damaged the house, while Hurricane Katrina ripped the roof from the building.
The house sat vacant for many years. The family, which valued the history of the house, did not have funds to restore the building. Located at a busy commercial intersection, there was pressure to sell the property for development.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 5th grade Discovery students from Quarles Elementary began trying to save the Quarles House through an activity called Project Citizen. Through their efforts, the Quarles House was cleaned out, and it also received a new roof as part of MHT’s Hurricane Katrina Pilot Stabilization Program. In March 2009, student volunteers landscaped the grounds. In 2009, the owner passed away and the house was left to his heirs. In 2012, the house was moved 400 feet to the northeast, near the Quarles Family Cemetery.
The house is currently unoccupied, but stable. It boasts a new roof and a fresh coat of paint. now owned by descendants of the Quarles family, the home is still need of funding for interior repairs.
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.
Carrollton, Mississippi (Carroll County)
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the J. Z. George Law Office in Carrollton is relevant for its association with James Z. George, the state’s most dynamic leader in the Reconstruction era. George set up practice in this law office, which was reputedly constructed c. 1838, and occupied the office throughout the majority of his long and illustrious career, which included serving as chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee in 1875 when he directed the political campaign that ended Reconstruction in Mississippi. He became chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1879, and from 1881 until 1897 served in the U.S. Senate, where he introduced the bill to create the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Recognized as one of the most brilliant constitutional lawyers of his day, George is accorded chief responsibility for the 1890 Mississippi Constitution.
When listed as one of Mississippi’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2003,George’s vernacular Greek Revival law office sat vacant, suffering deterioration.
This treasured historic structure, which saw so much of Mississippi history, has been lovingly restored by members of the George family. His descendants still own the property. It is fully restored, unoccupied, and ready for tenants.
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)
The Cedars is one of Jackson’s oldest residences. It was constructed around 1840 as a two-room galleried cottage. At some point, a one-room schoolhouse was attached to the north side of the house and additions were built on the rear, closing in the rear porch. Through several owners, one of whom was Governor Hugh White, and a few changes, one of the city’s few antebellum buildings has retained considerable integrity and conveys a great deal about the historical growth of the city and the formerly rural nature of areas surrounding downtown Jackson. Located on Old Canton Road south of Meadowbrook Road, the house’s proximity to Interstate-55 has already changed the surrounding neighborhood dramatically, and recent developments of zero-lot line residences on the adjacent properties leaves the Cedars more vulnerable than ever. Recently, the Cedars sold for a large asking price, which increases the probability that the location of the property will supercede the historical importance of the house and site.
Having purchased The Cedars and surrounding property, the Coggins family donated the house to the Fondren Renaissance Association (FRA) with the stipulation that the building be moved so the lot could be developed with condos. However, plans for the development fell through and the owners offered the lot to the Fondren Renaissance Foundation. The organization took on the monumental task of raising the money to purchase the property and to restore the house. The money raised was enough to buy the property and to receive a matching grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission Building Fund for the Arts to reuse the house as a community visual and performing arts center. Renovation work was completed on the house in the summer of 2004 and it was dedicated on August 29, 2004.
Now, The Cedars is home to an art gallery and is used for community functions and fundraisers. The open floor plan and versatility easily accommodates functions with up to 500 attendees. The Fondren Renaissance Foundation sponsors “Four Seasons of The Cedars” and Symphony at Sunset with the full Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. The Cedars represents a tremendous effort on the part of the Fondren Renaissance Foundation and the many people in the Fondren neighborhood and others who gave time and money to save the house in its original location and to help bring it back to life for the community.
Jackson, Mississippi (Hinds County)
The Terminal Building at Hawkins Field in Jackson was constructed in 1936 with WPA labor and is of national importance as one of only a few relatively intact civil aviation facilities surviving from the 1930s. While not as elaborate or as large as some other airports across the country, the Terminal Building is a well-preserved example of the facilities built in smaller cities during the decade before World War II at the dawn of commercial aviation in the United States. In 1941, Hawkins Field was designated as the Jackson Air Base, and the Netherlands Military Flying School used the base to train Dutch pilots during WWII.
Thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. The Jackson Airport Authority has plans to fully restore the old Hawkins Field Terminal. The designs for Hawkins restoration is being done by the Kimley Horn Aviation Planning Group. Airport management says they plan on having a museum and place for airport workers and patrons to relax and get a cup of coffee. They expect the bidding process for a contractor to begin soon.
Jackson, Mississippi (Hinds County)
A watershed event in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi occurred at the old Jackson Public Library. It was here that nine students from the historically black Tougaloo College made headlines when they quietly sat in at the library, located on State Street in the heart of Downtown Jackson. The main branch served only white citizens, while blacks were sent to the substandard Carver Library. This simple act of civil disobedience began the organized protests against the Jim Crow system in Jackson.
On the morning of March 27, 1961, the “Tougaloo Nine” stopped at the Carver Library to request books they knew would be unavailable there. They then proceeded to the main branch on State Street, where the students looked through the card catalog, took books off the shelves and sat at tables and read. When the police arrived they ordered the students to the “black library”. When the students refused to leave, they were arrested and held for over thirty-two hours.
In support of their jailed counterparts, the students at Jackson State University staged a protest and boycotted class. Demonstrations of any kind were forbidden at the state-supported black school. Some students tried to march downtown but were turned back by the police. Supporters turned out for the “Tougaloo Nine” when they went to trial several days after their arrest. As the students approached the courthouse the crowd cheered, which set-off the police. They charged into the crowd and set the dogs loose. Medgar Evers was one of those in the crowd that was beaten. Myrlie Evers has said that “the change of tide in Mississippi” began with the “Tougaloo Nine” and the library sit-in.
The building, owned by the City of Jackson, has sat vacant for a number of years since the main library moved across the street into a larger building. Although not vandalized, it suffers from lack of maintenance and general neglect. The City has been trying to find a developer interested in reusing the building however their attempts have been unsuccessful.
The Mississippi Baptist Convention, which has statewide offices nearby, has purchased the building. Although they haven’t announced long-term plans, they have cleaned up the site and are maintaining the building. A Civil Rights Trail marker was unveiled at the site on August 17, 2017.
Bolton, Mississippi (Hinds County)
This narrow unpaved lane, nestled within deep embankments under a canopy of mature trees, is a remnant of one of the state’s earliest major roads, authorized by the Legislature in 1822 to connect the new capital of Jackson with the Mississippi River at Vicksburg. Bridgeport Road was a post road and a stagecoach route before the Civil War, and was used by troops of both the Confederate and Union armies during the Civil War.
The remaining original segment of Bridgeport Road, now extending only about three tenths of a mile, is a rare surviving early 19th century road that has never been subjected to paving, widening, or straightening. This segment was designated as a Mississippi Landmark by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in 1989.
In order to facilitate vehicular access through the area, the County has proposed to widen the road, which would require cutting back the embankments and cutting much of the tree canopy. Local property owners seeking to preserve the road have urged the County to construct a new road bypassing this short stretch of Old Bridgeport Road, allowing it to remain intact, but the County has resisted that proposal, and the historic character of this venerable road remains threatened.
Hinds County abandoned a previous proposal to widen the road. Bridgeport Road is in private hands and continues to be protected from being altered. Alan Huffman, an author, and journalist is the only resident of Bridgeport Road.
Pascagoula, Mississippi (Jackson County)
When it opened in January, 1939, Pascagoula High School was hailed as the “most modern and complete high school unit in the state.” The school’s many new amenities included an auditorium with a seating capacity of 755, a well-equipped science laboratory, large library, music department, cafeteria, and business and homemaking classrooms. Designed by the Gulfport architectural firm Smith & Olschner, the building’s massive foot-thick brick walls lend it an air of solidity and permanence, yet at the same time its angular Art Moderne style points toward a bright future of endless possibilities. The school, with a final cost of $150,000, was constructed with funding from the Public Works Administration, a Depression-era federal program that was responsible for thousands of public buildings during the 1930s.
After continuous use for almost 60 years, the old high school was closed in 1997, and its students moved to a new larger complex. Since that time the main high school building has sat vacant. The current owner of the school, the City of Pascagoula, has sought to demolish the building, but a local citizens group has fought tenaciously to preserve it and its legacy for future generations.
Bayside Village now represents an adaptive reuse of the Old Pascagoula High School, built in the late 1930s. It was converted into an active senior living apartment building, meeting the needs of the residents while maintaining the integrity of this historic site. Bayside Village offers five floor plans in the 57-unit complex. In addition to the amenities listed, residents enjoy a fitness center, community rooms, media center, and resident gardens. Bayside Village is operated by Stratus Property Management. The Math and Science Building is being restored to become the Mississippi Maritime Museum.
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.
Jackson, Mississippi (Hinds County)
The distinctive Naval Reserve Center, with its ship-like façade, opened in 1949 as a training facility for the Navy and Marine Corps. Complete with porthole windows and rounded ends, the two-story head house fronts a collection of Butler buildings, common to the World War II era. Jackson architect John L. Turner designed the building, which housed more than 300 sailors and Marines at any given time. Post-World War II reserve centers are becoming increasingly rare and, among those still in existence, Jackson’s Center is unique for its nautical motif.
The Reserve Center building featured offices, a drill hall, classrooms, medical facilities, bathroom and shower areas, a kitchen galley, and even a dental office. The nautical detailing of the head house continues on the interior, as evidenced by curved walls and glass, molding in the shape of ropes, and a compass pattern inlaid into the lobby floor. Even portions of the wood moldings emulate the waves of the ocean. At times, signal flags were placed on the roof, as if reservists were at sea.
The Naval Reserve Center was very active until the summer of 2000 when operations were moved to the Meridian Naval Air Station. Upon closing, ownership of the buildings reverted back to the State of Mississippi. The buildings have seen limited use in recent years and have fallen into a state of deterioration. The state has access to grant money from the Department of Archives and History to do exterior stabilization. However, the Department of Finance Administration will not approve the expenditure of the money if it is not a complete restoration since there is no planned use for the building.
The State of Mississippi rehabilitated the building, but two of the original rear wings of the structure unfortunately had to be removed for the new addition to the building. The State has not yet appropriated funds to complete the interior of the building. When complete, the facility will be used to house Mississippi Department of Archive and History’s Storage Center.
Circa 1840 and Circa 1890-1910
Pascagoula, Mississippi (Jackson County)
The Front Street Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, was Pascagoula’s first historic district. It encompasses the 2800 and 2900 blocks of Front Street and is located directly east of the Northrop Grumman Shipyards, where the Pascagoula River flows into the Mississippi Sound. Originally, five houses stood in the district, each representing different periods of vernacular design distinctive to the area. Neglect and/or fire took three over the years but the John B. Delmas House and the Charles B. Delmas House have survived.
The John B. Delmas House, built circa 1840 by its namesake, is one of the four oldest surviving buildings in the City of Pascagoula. Delmas, a ship chandler and a pilot, was a direct descendant of Hugo Krebs and the son of Valentine Delmas, one of the earliest settlers in the area. Delmas’s wife was Mary Elizabeth Grant, daughter of Captain John Grant, known as “Father of the Port of Pascagoula.” The house is a two-story wood vernacular frame structure. What looks like an addition to the rear of the home is actually what remains of the original circa 1840 structure. The two-story portion was built around 1872. The primary facade features a full width two-story gallery with simple square columns and molded capitals. The interior was subdivided into apartments but the exterior has not been altered.
John B. Delmas built a home for his son, Charles B. Delmas, directly to the south of his own. The Charles B. Delmas house, built circa 1890-1910, is in slightly better condition and is a two-story vernacular wood frame structure. It also features a full width, two-story gallery on the primary façade. Most elements of the gallery were lost during Hurricane Katrina, including the gallery floor at the second story. The original turned and bracketed posts have been replaced with simple square posts which are currently holding the porch roof in place. Instead of a central entrance, two entrances open onto the porches at both levels. The south entrance at the ground floor was added in the 1940’s when the house was converted into a duplex. The back gallery was also enclosed at that time.
In addition to the highly-significant architectural resources, archaeologists have found evidence of prehistoric environments and subsistence practices throughout the district and have named the site “Singing River.” This important repository of information has, and can contribute to a better understanding of Mississippi prehistory.
Both houses are now vacant, and years of neglect, not to mention Hurricane Katrina, have left them in a deteriorated state. Their location in a waterfront revitalization zone is another concern as developers could demolish the houses. Losing the last two houses of the Front Street Historic District, and an important part of Pascagoula’s history, would be a terrible loss for the community.
The Pascagoula Historic Preservation Commission diligently tried to work with property owners to save the city’s oldest homes from demolition, but were unsuccessful. The owners filed demolition applications with the city, and both the John B. Delmas and the Charles B. Delmas homes were demolished in December 2014. The home remains an archeological site and developers now own the land. The two homes were the last remaining structures in Pascagoula’s original Front Street Historical District.
Jackson, Mississippi (Hinds County)
Completed in 1927 for the Mississippi National Guard, the Hinds County Armory is believed to be the oldest surviving 20th century armory in the state. It may be the only building from that era intentionally built as an armory. The National Guard used the building as a training facility for nearly 50 years. The armory was one of the primary mobilization sites for Mississippi troops who served in World War II. Many returning soldiers mustered out in the armory. It is one of the state’s finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture and one of the few secular buildings employing the style.
The Hinds County Armory is a two-story brick building on a limestone water table. A massive tower with a pyramidal roof and four pyramidal pinnacles is centered on the main façade. The main entrance to the building features a large arched opening with concrete surround which has a large multi-light transom over double entrance doors. Corner pilasters on all four corners of the building are capped with pyramidal pinnacles, and centered on each side façade is a smaller, dual-pinnacled tower with an arched door opening. The interior features a large drill hall with fixed bleachers on three sides and a small stage. Classrooms and storage rooms are found on the second floor above the offices.
The building was damaged in Jackson’s 1979 Easter Flood and has not been used since. The roof leaks, and the building continues to suffer from water damage and a lack of maintenance. Located on the state fairgrounds, the Mississippi Fair Commission has no current plans for the structure. Like many public entities which own historic buildings, the Fair Commission is unlikely to invest funds in the building absent a plan for use. As recently as July 2007, the building was called “useless.” It is clear that the current owners do not intend to invest any money in the structure. Public support is needed to encourage the Fair Commission to at least stabilize the structure until a new use can be developed; otherwise this unique historic structure could be lost forever.
Restoration work was set back by a serious fire in July, 2013, but thanks to a major grant from MDAH, exterior restoration and stabilization was completed in 2013. The roof was replaced with a new, metal roof, windows were updated, the brick was restored, the inside was cleaned, and exterior stabilized. This was done in hopes of being leased to a developer and with eyes on Phase II funding.
North Gulfport, Mississippi (Harrison County)
The Rippy Road Community near the Regional Airport in Gulfport is a rarity in Mississippi. It is a post-Civil War African American community that retains much of its original architectural integrity. As Gulfport grew in the late 19th and early 20th century, African Americans were drawn to the area in search of jobs. They were largely segregated from areas near the Gulf, so the community of North Gulfport was established, and a neighborhood grew in nearby Rippy Road. Over the years, the old character of North Gulfport has been lost, but the small Rippy Road community has managed to hold true to its origins. Nearby Turkey Creek served the community as a recreation area since the African American residents were not allowed to use the beaches. Both of these tiny areas are threatened by encroaching development pressure.
Since the 2001 designation, the Rippy Road community has experienced a mix of success, setbacks, and unexpected new challenges like Hurricane Katrina. One of the homes, the Benton House, is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Turkey Creek community was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district in 2009. Nevertheless, escalating threats of urban sprawl, deforestation, and environmental problems continually must be faced. 12 acres of wooded wetlands abutting to the south have been slated for a rental car parking and car wash facility for the airport. Even worse, a proposed connector road between I-10 and the airport would bisect Rippy Road as well as run through both the historic “Colored School” grounds and the cemetery. The proximity to active and inactive chemical plants like the EPA-cited Gulfcoast Creosote Co., pose additional obstacles to community survival. However, hopes have been lifted by support from historic preservationists and environmental justice advocates who learned of the plight of the area largely through MHT’s timely concern and 10 Most publicity.
Jackson, Hinds County
Documented to the 1870’s but possibly built earlier, the Lowry House is an example of the “galleried planter’s cottage,” a regionally important house form of the 19th century. Examples were once widespread in the Jackson area, but very few now remain. Governor Robert Lowry, who served in office from 1882-1890, purchased the home shortly after leaving office and used it as his Jackson residence for about 30 years. Governor Lowry was a proponent of industrial development and strongly supported the expansion of Mississippi’s railroad system, which experienced spectacular growth during his years in office. The house originally faced Fortification Street and in 1914 was moved to make way for the extension of North Congress Street. The house was then moved to a newly opened lot on North Congress Street. In 2005, the house was in the path of the expansion of the Baptist Hospital and once again had to be moved to be saved. That year, Baptist Health Systems bought the Lowry House and donated it to MHT for its relocation and restoration as MHT’s new headquarters. In December 2005, MHT was awarded a Community Heritage Grant from MDAH for the relocation of the Lowry House. In the spring of 2007, work began on the foundation on the new lot and in the summer the house was moved. In 2008 the porches were restored with grant money from the 1772 Foundation. A Historic Structures Report was completed in 2009. Another grant was awarded in 2009 from MDAH for the restoration of the exterior and architectural plans for exterior were completed in 2010.
In 2005, the Mississippi Heritage Trust took up the challenge of relocating and restoring this architectural gem. Today the house is fully restored. The house is now a premier event venue for Jackson, as well as headquarters for the Mississippi Heritage Trust. We have already hosted many a successful party and event and continue to fill the Lowry House schedule with parties, weddings, and meetings. Our next focus will be the Lowry green space. Our goal is to transform the simple front and backyards into an early twentieth century appropriate garden. This goal is now within reach thanks to the Garden Club of Jackson, which recently awarded the Lowry House a $25,000 grant to fund a historic landscaping project. Visitors and MHT members will soon have access to a properly landscaped garden and outdoor space. The Mississippi Heritage Trust will soon be adding new stairs connecting the back porch of the Lowry House to the soon to be restored yard and garden below. Adding an additional set of steps will allow the Lowry House to be fully functional as an outdoor event space.
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.
With $200 in funding from the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and $500 raised by the community, the West Pascagoula Colored School was constructed in 1921 in the West Indies style. Ms. Ernestine Fountain taught approximately 22 students each year in this one room school house, which was heated by pot-belly stove. The school closed in 1946 and the building was used as a community center, senior citizen center and voting precinct. Situated in a city park, the building has been vacant since being acquired by the city of Gautier in the 1980s.
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.
Constructed in 1954 under the “separate yet equal” doctrine of school segregation, 33rd Avenue High School was one once a focus of pride for the Quarters neighborhood. The school traces its history back to 1921, when a two-story wood frame building was constructed to serve as the only school for African- Americans in the city of Gulfport. After a fire, a one-story brick building was constructed in 1930. This building later became the elementary school when the new high school building, gymnasium, cafeteria and vocational shop were opened in 1954.
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.
Constructed in 1926 as the Moss Point Water Works Building, this interesting historic structure has served the community in many capacities in its 87 year history, including city hall, a public bath house, a jail, a police station, a library and, most recently, a fire station. Moss Point residents have fond memories of decorating homecoming floats in the open bays to the rear of the building. Currently in a dilapidated state, Moss Point Central Fire Station sits across the street from the city’s newly constructed $3 million dollar City Hall.
Built in 1910 by the founder and first mayor of Mound Bayou, the Isaiah T. Montgomery House has tremendous significance to the history of Mississippi. A two story brick structure with a full basement, the house has a spacious front porch with impressive square Doric columns.
Built in 1907 in the Craftsman style, the Millsaps Hotel was once a center of community life in bustling downtown when Hazlehurst was a major produce shipping center. Vacant for many years, the two-story brick hotel was close to demolition when the Calling Panther Heritage Foundation stepped in to accept the donation of the Millsaps Hotel.
With its six grand Corinthian columns supporting a portico centered on the façade, the Merrill-Maley House is a fine example of the Colonial Revival style of architecture popular in the early 20th century. Built in 1907 by Philip S. Merrill, manager of the George B. Merrill and Brothers Lumber Company, the house later become the home of Charles E. Maley, also a lumberman.
Designed by prolific Mississippi architect Chris Risher, the Meridian Police Department was constructed in downtown Meridian in 1977. With its banding of dark brick below and light brick above, horizontal strips of windows and layers of horizontal steel canopies supported by steel tubes, the Meridian Police Department is a noteworthy example of the International style of architecture.
Built in 1938 in the Art Deco style, the Mendenhall High School Auditorium was a point of pride for the community. Generations of students attended proms, presented plays and received their graduation diplomas on its stage until it was closed in 2011.
In Progress, No Progress