/Most endangered historic places Mississippi Heritage Trust’s list spotlights state’s threatened significant sites

Most endangered historic places Mississippi Heritage Trust’s list spotlights state’s threatened significant sites

Mississippi Heritage Trust celebrates its 20th anniversary as an historic preservation advocate. It also has another list of 10 Most Endangered Historic Places (its 12th to date) that needs attention, support, and saving. This list was announced at the Morris Ice Company, Jackson. It includes structures across the state such as Mississippi’s Freedom Houses or towns’ historic water towers to sites that are key to communities’ cultural identity such as the Lundy House in Lexington, once a stagecoach stop, and hotel, and the Po Monkey’s juke joint in Bolivar County. The biannual list of culturally and historically significant sites in Mississippi Heritage Trust’s state is published twice a year. While the nonprofit does not intervene to save sites, it helps focus advocacy, encourage enthusiasm, create partnerships, and guide communities along the historic preservation path. Lolly Rash is the executive director of Mississippi Heritage Trust. She cites several notable successes in MHT’s 20-year history, including the Lowry House, Jackson (now MHT headquarters), Cutrer Mansion, Clarksdale, and the White House Hotel, Biloxi. Rash states that “it doesn’t happen overnight.” Rash says, “It doesn’t happen overnight.” For example, Freedom Houses were safe havens during civil rights for people working on social justice issues. Rash states that Freedom Houses were necessary to protect workers from harm. This listing will encourage people to recognize these buildings and commemorate them. Felicia King was just 20 years old when she discovered that the 645-square foot rental house in her family was a Freedom House. Estell King, her paternal grandfather, owned the house in Indianola in the late 1960s. It was home to Freedom Riders, who lived there after their original headquarters were bombed and destroyed. She says that a bomb attempt on the house her grandfather owned was stopped by its location on the property. King wants to restore the roof and make the house a tourist attraction. “The B.B. “The B.B. King Museum is about a mile away, or maybe a mile and half,” she said. This could also be a draw as a landmark for civil rights. “Quite a lot of things happened when the Freedom Riders visited town.” Canton has restored its Freedom House to make it a museum. However, others are rediscovering theirs. Po Monkey’s, a Bolivar County juke joint that was the last of Mississippi’s rural juke places, is also on this year’s top 10. Its future was put in doubt by the 2016 death of Willie “Po Monkey” Seaberry, longtime owner. Will Jacks, the program manager for Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area says that the structure is in “dire straits” but not in dire straits. The 10-year-old project “Po’ Monkey’s: Portrait of a Juke Joint” is Jacks’s new photographic book. It examines the selling and packaging of cultural engagements and addresses long-term economic issues based on cultural history. He sees Po’ Monkey’s preservation as a “litmus-test” of how the state will deal with cultural items that are no longer in existence. “How will we pay attention to our history and help create a framework for our future… so we continue to offer authentic cultural experiences that are interesting in the world?” Talks have started about moving Po’ Monkey’s building to Merigold for a museum. Lexington saw a plan to tear down the circa 1860 Lundy House. It was once a hotel and stagecoach stop, and is now an anchor in the historic district. The public protest led to the building being placed on the 2019 endangered species list. Robin McCrory, Lexington Mayor, notes the important contribution that the stagecoach stop made in the state’s founding. She says that she understands it to be one of three remaining in Mississippi. The building may need to be moved by community leaders who are trying to raise funds and support. McCrory states that small towns are the heart of Mississippi’s history and culture. “Even though we may not have many things going for our communities, we still have the significance and value of our past.” This is worthy of preservation to help communities build their future. It’s so important to us. The 2019 endangered places list also includes Mississippi’s historic water towers. Some of these have been saved as community icons. Others are in poor condition and could be lost. The Flora water tower, built in 1914, was destroyed by a tornado. Edwards advocates are hoping to raise funds to help the town’s 1917 structure be restored as a catalyst to redevelopment. Highland Park Dentzel Carousel is in Meridian — This late 19th-century carousel, which is a National Historic Landmark (and the only one from Dentzel blueprints), is one of very few in existence. The city has made significant investments in its restoration and maintenance. However, increasing crime and blight in this area make it worth considering moving. Arkabutla childhood home of James Earl Jones — This modest house, where Jones was born in 1931 and his family moved north in 1935, is in serious condition and could soon be gone. E.F. Young Hotel, Meridian — This was the first hotel to be opened to African Americans in the city. It operated until 1978. Guests included Leontyne price, Ella Fitzgerald and the Harlem Globetrotters. It is now in poor condition and requires extensive rehab. Gillespie Jackson House in Starkville — This 1850 grand house is noted for its vernacular Greek Revival interior details and sits at a busy commercial intersection. It is available for sale as commercial land. Stutzman House and Blacksmith Shop, Woodville — This is the region’s last standing
The original signage from the blacksmith shop is still in place, as well as much of its original equipment. This circa 1805 house is one of Wilkinson County’s oldest. They have been vacant since 2006. Salem School in Macon — This 1914 school was in use up until 1939. It has features such as a pressed steel ceiling, beadboard wainscoting, and counterweighted panels which divided the classrooms. Despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is in poor condition despite the good intentions of the nonprofit that was formed to restore the building. MHT’s 2019 listing also gave Hattiesburg’s Pat Harrison Waterway Building a “Dishonorable mention.” The recent demolition of the midcentury modern building by Forrest County without review by Mississippi Department of Archives and History Department sparked outrage.