2013


33rd Avenue High School

Gulfport, Mississippi

Nominated by:  The Quarters Group and the 33rd Avenue Alumni Association

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.

Designed in the International style by Gulfport architect Milton B.E. Hill, 33rd Avenue High School tells an important story about race relations and the equalization period in Mississippi.  During the 1940s and 50s, Mississippi sought to provide a system of education that was less unequal than before by building new facilities for African-American students, hoping to stave off efforts to desegregate the state’s schools.  When Gulfport Public Schools were integrated in 1969, 33rd Avenue High School was closed.  Before Hurricane Katrina, the building was used by the Department of Labor as the Gulfport Job Corps Center.

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, 33rd Avenue High School suffered extensive damage.  The storm-damaged 1930 elementary school was demolished before citizens could rally for its preservation.  In the eight years since the storm, there has been extensive debate about the fate of the remaining structures, while the buildings sit open to the elements, continuing to decay. Only the vocal and ongoing advocacy efforts of concerned citizens have prevented these buildings from being demolished.

The Department of Labor, which holds a 25-year lease on the property from the city of Gulfport, is continuing a dialogue on the future of the buildings with the city leaders, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and concerned citizens at the table.

2017 Update – In Progress

According to the SunHerald, several exterior walls of the 33rd Avenue High School will be preserved and it will become the site of a new Jobs Corps Center. The project is estimated to cost $30 million. Senator Thad Cochran is credited for getting the Department of Labour federal funds for this project.

You Might Enjoy:

http://www.gazettesm.com/2011/12/33rd-avenue-high-school-for-colored-elgible-for-historical-landmark-recognition/

http://www.angelfire.com/ab7/gp33_reunion/History.html


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Isaiah T. Montgomery House

West Main Street | Mound Bayou, MS
Listed as a National Historic Landmark

 

Significance:

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.  Born a slave on the plantation of Joseph Davis, brother of Jefferson Davis, Isaiah T. Montgomery led fellow freed slaves to establish the all black community of Mound Bayou in 1887.  Given its proximity to the railroad and the fertile Delta land ideal for growing cotton, Mound Bayou flourished under Montgomery’s leadership.  By the early twentieth century, Mound Bayou was one of the most prosperous communities in the state, with its own bank, school, industrial buildings and numerous shops.  The town of Mound Bayou was granted its charter in 1912.  Isaiah T. Montgomery, accountant, real estate developer, civil engineer and politician, died in 1924, leaving a legacy that should be remembered and celebrated. 

Threat:

The Isaiah T. Montgomery House is currently threatened by ongoing deterioration and lack of maintenance.  The house is owned by the Knights and Daughters of Tabor, a civic organization that has expressed the desire to work with the city of Mound Bayou to restore the building for use as a bed and breakfast for medical staff and families of patients at the Taborian Urgent Care Center, scheduled to open in February 2014.

Nominated by:  Whit Waide

2017 Update-In Progress

Mound Bayou residents are working with Mississippi Heritage Trust to fund the restoration of this piece of Delta History.


Mendenhall High School Auditorium

207 Circle Drive | Mendenhall, MS
Listed as a Mississippi Landmark

 

Significance:

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.  When news went out that the Simpson County School District had plans to demolish the building to make room for a new “cafetorium”, as part of a larger building program to be funded by a bond bill, the citizens rallied.  Besieged by letters, petitions and phone calls, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History designated the auditorium as a Mississippi Landmark in January 2012.  The school district’s claims that the auditorium was structurally unsound were addressed in a January 2013 Structural Assessment by engineer Mark Watson, which found the building to be in good condition.  Proponents of the demolition responded by introducing state legislation that would have revised the Antiquities Law to allow local governments to demolish Mississippi Landmarks if they could prove that they lacked the funds to restore the buildings (Senate Bill 2678) and attempts to cut funding for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (House Bill 1651), both of which failed.  A year and a half after designating the Mendenhall High School Auditorium as a Mississippi Landmark, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees voted 5-2 on July 19, 2013 to allow demolition of this venerable historic building. 

Threat:

The Mendenhall High School Auditorium is no longer threatened, it is lost.  On September 12, 2013, the Simpson County School District accepted a bid for $350,000 to demolish the auditorium and a 1950s classroom addition.  The building was demolished in October 2013, earning the Simpson County School District failing marks in history, citizenship, and stewardship.

Nominated by:  The Committee to Save Our School

2017 Update - 2013:

The lovely Mendenhall High School Auditorium was demolished by the Simpson County School District in 2013.


Meridian Police Department

2425 6th Street | Meridian, MS

 

Significance:

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.

2017 Update:

In May 2013, the police department moved into its new headquarters, leaving the fate of the Risher building uncertain.  On June 26, 2013, Mayor Percy Bland and members of the Meridian City Council expressed concerns to the Meridian Star about whether the building could be converted to another use and stated that the property could potentially be used for parking or other purposes.  Architects from around the state have rallied to advocate for the preservation of this iconic Modernist building, with the Mississippi Heritage Trust submitting an application to have the building listed as a Mississippi Landmark and Mississippi State University School of Architecture and Design offering to hold a design charrette to explore possible redevelopment options for the building.

In September 2015, the City of Meridian submitted a letter to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History stating that it supports the Mississippi Landmark listing and is now planning to restore the building for use as the Community Development Department.

Nominated by:  Michael Berk, John Poros, Michael Fazio


Merrill-Maley House

Jackson, Mississippi
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

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.  As the more desirable residential development of Jackson moved north in the 1940s, State Street gradually became more commercial in character, with many of its lovely homes being demolished.  Over the years, the Merrill-Maley House has been used as social club for servicemen during World War II, a women’s dress shop, an apartment building and an antique shop.  The building is currently vacant.

2017 Update – Saved

After years of being vacant, this property has been restored.  Owner – contractor Holt Beasley and his mother Carole completely rehabilitated the house but are still waiting for the perfect tenants. Exterior columns were reworked, the building was cleaned, and partitions were built. The Beasleys reconfigured the original staircase based on a 1940s photograph using original pieces of the banister that were found.

Nominated by:  Concerned State Street Neighbors


Millsaps Hotel

Hazlehurst, Mississippi
Designated as a Mississippi Landmark

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.

The Millsaps Hotel is currently in poor condition, with large holes in the roof causing further deterioration. The Calling Panther Heritage Foundation is working to raise money to restore the hotel for use as a cultural arts center. There is widespread community support for the restoration effort, but funding remains an issue.

2017 Update – In Progress

The first phase of restoration has been completed. During this phase, the roof was replaced, and windows and doors were repaired, and the front and back porches were restored. In 2013, the Millsaps Hotel was awarded a $176,160 Community Heritage Preservation Grant to replace the roof and repair the porches and windows.


Moss Point Central Fire Station

4323 McInnis Avenue | Moss Point, MS
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Nominated for Mississippi Landmark designation

 

Significance:

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.

Threat:

The Moss Point City Council voted 6-1 to demolish the building at its July 16, 2013 meeting. The Moss Point Historical Commission has been a vocal proponent of restoring the building for a new community use and has submitted applications for the Moss Point Central Fire Station to be listed as both a local and Mississippi Landmark. In a recent public poll, 66% of the participants voted that the building was one of the city’s historic treasures and should be restored.

Nominated by: Moss Point Historical Commission

2017 Update - Lost

Without a permit and without warning the City of Moss Point demolished the Moss Point Central Fire Station on July 18, 2015.


Southern Christian Institute

Edwards, MS
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

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.  Over the years, the educational mission was expanded, educating many future teachers.  In 1953 the school merged with Tougaloo College and was later closed.  In 1962, the campus was reopened as the site of statewide training for civil rights workers under the direction of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) activists Bob Moses and Bernice Robinson.  The college once again saw new life in the 1970s as Bonner Campbell School of Religion, which used the campus for religious retreats and a Head Start center.

Today, the campus consists of four historic buildings, Smith Hall Girl’s Dormitory (1915), Allison Hall Cafeteria (1909), Administration and Classroom Building (1926) and Belding Hall Boy’s Dormitory (1935), as well as a bell tower (1926) and a water tower, all vacant and in poor condition.

2017 Update: No Progress

The owner of the property, the 8th District Episcopal A.M.E. Church, has stated that it plans to demolish the structures and redevelop the property.


Webster County Courthouse

Wathall, MS
Listed as a Mississippi Landmark

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.  On January 17, 2013, an early morning fire severely damaged the Webster County Courthouse, putting its future in jeopardy.  The roof and second-floor windows were completely destroyed, leaving the building open to the elements.  After a community-wide debate about whether to save the structure, the Webster County Courthouse was recently awarded a $500,000 Community Heritage Preservation Grant by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to stabilize the walls and reconstruct the roof.

2017 Update – Lost

Despite the offer of funding and efforts by local advocates, Webster County demolished the structure in 2016.

Nominated by:  Holly Hawkins


West Pascagoula Colored School

Gautier, Mississippi
Listed as a Mississippi Landmark

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.

The West Pascagoula Colored School is in remarkably good condition for having been vacant and neglected for over thirty years. The Gautier Historic and Preservation Commission is working with the city of Gautier to raise funds to restore the building for use as a local history museum.

2017 Update – In Progress

In 2013, the City of Gautier received a Community Heritage Preservation (CHP) Grant from MDAH for $480,000 with a $20,000 match. Since then, the Biloxi architectural firm, Dale Partners Architects, has documented the existing structure and prepared plans for stabilization the building for future rehabilitation. The first phase of the repairs are complete, the roof has been replaced and the foundation stabilized.  The Gautier Historic Preservation Commission is still working with MDAH and estimates that the schoolhouse will be completed within the next two years. The goal is to turn the structure into a Historic Schoolhouse and Cultural Museum that showcases its history as a one-room school from the 1920s to the 1940s.


Laura Beth Lott