2005

Bryant Grocery and Meat Market

Circa 1910

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.

2017 Update – No Progress

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.


Flannegan-Lowry House

circa 1870

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.

2017 Update – Saved

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.

https://www.lowryhousejackson.com


Natchez College

Circa 1885

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 Baptist Convention is now working to redevelop the property as a retreat center.

2017 Update – In Progress

Preservation architect Bob Adams is conducting a study of the property with funds provided by the State Legislature.


Old Bridgeport Road

1822

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.

2017 Update  – Saved

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.


Jackson Municipal Library

Circa 1954

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.

2017 Update – In Progress

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 Mississippi Freedom (Civil Rights) Trail marker was unveiled at the site on August 17, 2017.


(Old) Pascagoula High School

Circa 1939

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.

2017 Update – Saved

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.


Sun-n-Sand Motor Hotel

Circa 1960

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.

2017 Update – No Progress

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.


Tippah County Jail

Circa 1938

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.

2017 Update – Saved

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.


Wilkes Home

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.

2017 Update – No Progress

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.


(Old) Woodmen of the World Building – (Harrison-Whitfield Building)

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.

2017 Update – Saved

The space is currently being used for offices among the many other buildings along Lawyer’s Row.


Laura Beth Lott