On Thursday, October 19, 2017, the Mississippi Heritage Trust announced the 11th list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi at the Lowry House in Jackson, once endangered and now beautifully restored. Following the announcement, guests from around the state were treated to delicious dishes prepared by Chef Ryan Caselle of neighboring Fenian’s Pub, special wines from McDade’s Wine and Spirits, spirited cocktails by Cathead Distillery and Lazy Magnolia beer while enjoying the toe-tapping fiddle music of Wolftrap Trio. A silent auction featured paintings and photography of the 10 endangered places by talented Mississippi artists, as well as get-away packages to some of Mississippi’s special historic places.
Since the Mississippi Heritage Trust published the first list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi in 1999, there have been some tremendous victories. The Cutrer Mansion in Clarksdale, the King Edward Hotel in Jackson, the L.Q.C. Lamar House in Oxford, the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center in Ocean Springs and the Tippah County Jail in Ripley are all “graduates” of the list, providing inspiring examples of what can happen when communities come together with a spirit of cooperation and a vision for the future.
For the 2017 announcement of the 11th list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi, the Mississippi Heritage Trust was proud to have noted preservation architect Robert Parker Adams as honorary chairman. In addition to his work on restoration projects including the James Observatory and the Old Capitol in Jackson, Bob has been a steadfast champion of the Mississippi Heritage Trust since it was founded twenty-five years ago.
This year’s 10 Most program is made possible through the generous support of BankPlus and many longtime supporters of preservation, including the Mississippi Arts Commission and the Mississippi Humanities Council.
To see pictures from the announcement event:
Town of Rodney
Nominated by Scott Griffin
A bustling river port before the Civil War, Rodney was largely abandoned when the Mississippi River changed course in the 1870s. The town is now a popular stop for intrepid tourists, but few of Rodney’s historic buildings remain. Due to recurring flooding and vandalism, the Historic Natchez Foundation is exploring the possibility of moving the Rodney Baptist Church outside of town to higher ground. The Rodney Presbyterian Church, listed as endangered in 2003, faces an uncertain future as the exterior brick walls crumble. Soon, little will be left of the town that nearly became the capitol of the territory of Mississippi.
Nominated by Project Chane
Like many neighborhoods, Fondren suffered from urban decay in the 1980s. Through the dedicated work of local business leaders and residents, the area has grown and thrived in recent years. Full of local stores and restaurants, the bustling neighborhood has the largest concentration of modernist buildings in the state. Today, there are concerns that Fondren will fall victim to its own success, as historic buildings are demolished to make way for large-scale developments. Neighbors have rallied to demand a local historic district designation for Fondren, which would allow for community input on future projects.
Scott Ford Houses
Nominated by Scott Ford Houses Museum Complex Board of Trustees
Constructed in the 1890s, these two modest bungalows were once home to former slave Mary Green Scott and her daughter, Virginia Scott Ford. Virginia was a practicing midwife who trained other African American women to serve the medical needs of the community. Today, the houses sit amongst the blighted properties and vacant lots that characterize the once vibrant Farish Street neighborhood. Owned by the Scott Ford Houses Board of Trustees, the organization is working to restore the buildings as a museum complex to tell the story of midwifery and African American middle-class life in Jackson, but the organization has struggled to raise funding.
Stage Marye-Gillette House
Nominated by Beard and Riser Architects
The Stage Marye-Gillette House, built to resemble a showboat, was once one of the most beautiful homes in Greenwood. Constructed in 1910, the Colonial Revival-style house stands out with its ornate wrap-around porch, central gabled dormer with a Palladian window and dentil cornice flanked by two small gabled dormers with Ionic pilasters and bas relief ornament in the gable ends. Today, the house sits empty and deteriorating, with its stunningly detailed porch in shambles. Currently for sale for $65,000, there is community interest in saving the house to become an inn and event space.
Nominated by Mississippi Heritage Trust
Constructed in 1908, the Cochran Hotel, also known as the Pinnix Hotel, replaced an older wooden hotel that was lost to fire. This fine brick building, with its welcoming wrap-around porch, is an excellent example of a turn-of-the-century railroad hotel. Citing structural issues, the owner has applied to have the building de-listed as a Mississippi Landmark in order to demolish it. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has requested that the owner provide a Structural Condition Analysis before any action is taken. Residents of Ackerman have expressed interest in restoring this local treasure to become an inn to compliment the many heritage tourism attractions in the area. The building is currently for sale for $15,000.
Temple B’nai Israel
Nominated by Institute of Southern Jewish Life
Completed in 1905, Temple B’nai Israel is remarkable for its signature dome, stained glass windows and ark of Italian marble. Built to seat 350 worshipers, the synagogue currently hosts regular services for groups of ten or fewer. While the remaining members continue to open the historic space for cultural events and celebrations, maintenance of the structure has become an increasingly difficult burden for the small congregation. Now owned by the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, the community is working to identify a new use for the temple that will ensure its future preservation.
The Walter Place
Nominated by Holly Springs Main Street Association
Built in 1859 for Harvey W. Walter by Holly Springs architect and contractor Spires Boiling, the Walter Place is a grand Greek Revival mansion framed by two Gothic towers. During the Union Army’s occupation of Holly Springs, General Grant’s family resided at Walter Place. The mansion was remodeled in 1903 by St. Louis-based architect Theodore C. Link, who was in Mississippi overseeing construction of the State Capitol in Jackson. Currently vacant, the building is suffering from the ravages of time. Located in the heart of Holly Springs, the Walter Place and five surrounding acres are for sale for $649,000.
New Hope Missionary Baptist Church
Nominated by Kendall Aldridge
New Hope Missionary Baptist Church is a rare example of an early twentieth century rural African American Delta church. Constructed in 1918, the building survived the great flood of 1927 due to its close proximity to Deer Creek, which is higher than the surrounding land. A wood-framed building with hints of the Gothic Revival style in the infilled pointed arches, the abandoned church has several large holes in the roof, allowing rain to poor in. In addition to the leaking roof, there are cracks between much of the clapboard siding, allowing water to blow in during a storm.
Nominated by Historic Natchez Foundation
An outstanding example of an early vernacular residence, Saragossa began life as an overseer’s house on the plantation owned by Stephen Duncan, who would become one of the largest slaveholders and cotton planters in the United States. Though the date of construction is unknown, an 1826 survey map depicts the house, then a side-gabled cottage with end chimneys, and eight slave quarters to the rear. Subsequent remodeling in the 1830s and 1850s enlarged the house and gave it the distinctive West Indies form it has today. Despite decades of neglect by an absentee owner, the house retains much of its historic character.
Mississippi’s National Heritage Areas
Gulf Coast, Delta and Hills
Nominated by Bill Raymond
Designated by Congress, National Heritage Areas like the Gulf Coast, Delta and Hills are a combination of natural, cultural, historical and recreational resources that have shaped a distinctive landscape. Community resources within a National Heritage Area benefit from an extensive partnership that supports heritage tourism efforts through collaborative planning, promotion and grant opportunities. The 2018 Federal Budget calls for the elimination of funding for this highly successful program, citing that the National Heritage Areas are “secondary to the primary mission of the National Park Service and would be better sustained with local funding.” The loss of federal support for Mississippi’s three National Heritage Areas would be a tremendous set-back to the many community partners who work tirelessly to develop Mississippi’s cultural assets to their fullest potential.