Afro-American Sons and Daughters Hospital

Circa 1928
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.

2017 Update – No Progress

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.

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Beverly Drive-In Theatre

Circa 1948
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.

2017 Update – Lost

The Beverly Drive Inn was destroyed by fire in 2010.

Chandler House

Circa 1870
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.

2017 Update – No Progress

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.

Coker House (also known as “Greenwood”)

Circa 1852
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.

2017 Update – Saved

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.

Mannsdale-Livingston Heritage District

Madison County

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.

2015 Update – SAVED

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.

Mississippi Gulf Coast

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 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 Walthall 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.

2017 Update – In Progress

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 twelve years after the storm, important buildings like the Lewis House (Oilfields) and the Austin House need our help. But there are several new good news stories. The Markham Hotel and the old Veterans Affairs property in Gulfport are both being restored! Robert Lubin is spearheading the remodeling and restoration of both buildings. The former will be a Hyatt and the later a Holiday Inn Resort.

The shell of the old Gulfport Library is going to preserved and adaptively reused as apart of the new aquarium in Gulfport. Funds for the new aquarium come from the city, state, and BP.

Mobile and Ohio Railroad Depot

Circa 1869
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.

2017 Update – In Progress

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.

Naval Reserve Center

Circa 1948
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.

2017 Update – In Progress

The State of Mississippi rehabilitated the building, but two of the original rear wings of the structur, 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.

The Picayune Colored Gymnasium

Circa 1930
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.

2017 Update – Lost

The Picayune Colored Gymnasium was demolished, although the exact date of demolition is unknown.

Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church

Circa 1921
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.

2017 Update – Saved

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.

Laura Beth Lott