Belhaven and Belhaven Heights
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, a deeper inspection reveals some important challenges: absentee ownership, commercial corridor erosion, and a threat from the widening of Interstate 55. These neighborhoods are the last well-preserved historic area close to downtown Jackson and cohesive planning is necessary to preserve these Jackson jewels.
2017 Update – In Progress
In 2012 the Historic Belhaven neighborhood 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.
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.
The people of Belhaven and Belhaven Heights continue to strive for a better community. In many ways, thanks to concerned citizens and groups like the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation (GBNF) Belhaven and Belhaven Heights are better off than they were five years ago. Today the neighborhood enjoys greater community-led efforts to improve the area. Belhaven is currently building new neighboorhood entrances which will help slow down traffic on main thoroughfares in and out of the neighborhood as well as welcome guests. The neighboorhood continues to host several successful festivals and events most notably Bright Nights and Belhaven Lights, which was a smashing success in 2017,
Through the Main Street program, GBNF worked 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.
In 2013 Baptist Health Systems completed The Belhaven, a nearly $100 million, mixed-use development at 1200 North State Street. The Belhaven has been a huge benefit to the neighborhood especially is premiere restaurant the Manship, located on the first floor. Nothing, however, has been developed in the area south of the Belhaven Building, around Jefferson, Fortification and State Streets. This area is still a haven for vagrants and criminals and will continue to be until it is been redeveloped. The $15.5 million Fortification Street Project was completed but the finished product was not as pedestrian friendly as originally intended.
Chalmers Institute/University of Holly Springs
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.
2017 Update – In Progress
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.
City of Oxford
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.
2017 Update – In Progress
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.
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.
2017 Update – SAVED
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.
L.Q.C. Lamar House
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.
2017 Update – SAVED
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.
Mississippi River Basin Model
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.
2017 Update – In Progress
Through the hard work of a group of dedicated volunteers called The Friends of the Mississippi River Basin Model, and help from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), The Mississippi Humanities Council as well as many other private sponsors, the Mississippi River Basin Model, is being restored! Eventually, it will be the centerpiece of a walking trail around Butts Park in Clinton and Jackson.
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Queen City Hotel
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.
2017 Update – Lost
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.”
Round Island Lighthouse
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.
2017 Update -Saved
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 will always ongoing but the building is now open to the public. The lighthouse is now safe in its new location. 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.
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.
2017 Update – Saved
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.
2017 Update – SAVED
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.