10 Most Endangered Historic
Places List Announced
On Thursday, April 28, 2011, the Mississippi Heritage Trust (MHT) unveiled the 2011 list of Mississippi’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places. The 10 places listed represent important historic resources around the state that are in jeopardy of being lost if something is not done to save them. Mississippians are realizing the value and importance of historic structures and are using the list to help raise awareness about the most critical places in need of saving and the perils they are facing.
The 10 Most list is compiled from nominations submitted by the public to MHT. Selections are based on the significance of the site to the community, state or nation, as well as the nature and immediacy of the threat to the property, such as development pressure or neglect. A jury of Mississippians carefully reviewed the submitted materials and collectively reached a consensus regarding the endangered places for 2011. Nominations are accepted year–round by contacting the MHT office.
A photographic exhibit of the 10 Most sites for 2011 has been developed to travel around the state raising awareness about the endangered properties on the list. The exhibit will visit the cities and towns with sites on the list, be featured at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, be displayed during MHT events, and travel to other communities in Mississippi that would like to host the exhibit.
Without awareness and protection, the places that we know as Mississippi will be lost forever. Lend your support by becoming a member of the Mississippi Heritage Trust and join other Mississippians in the fight to save the historic places that make Mississippi so unique!
2009 10 Most Endangered sites:
click on the name
photos and information about each site
Alcazar Hotel - Clarksdale
Church Street - Port Gibson
Ebenezer A.M.E. Church - Raymond
Front Street Historic District - Pascagoula
Hinds County Armory - Jackson
The Oakes African American Cultural Center -
Teoc Community - Carroll County
Threefoot Building - Meridian
Wood College - Mathiston
Clarksdale, Mississippi (Coahoma County)
The Alcazar Hotel was once one of the premier hotels in the South. The four-story brick building was built by Charles O. Pfiel in 1915. Exterior details of the hotel include tri-partite wood windows, decorative brickwork, cast stone detailing, and a terra cotta cornice. Originally, the hotel had a spectacular glass dome skylight on the second floor which provided natural light down to the first floor lobby. The first floor featured a restaurant and commercial spaces where many of Clarksdale’s prominent businesses operated over the years.
The Alcazar once hosted such guests as playwright Tennessee Williams. The hotel is best known, perhaps, for being the location where WROX radio station broadcasted for nearly 40 years. Legends like Ike Turner, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and many others performed live and were interviewed at the station by Early Wright, one of the South’s first black disc jockeys.
The hotel eventually ceased operation and gave way to offices and other commercial uses. In the early 1990s, WROX moved out and the Alcazar lost its most famous tenant. In 1994, when the Alcazar Hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, only a handful of commercial tenants remained. New owners acquired the property in 2007 and began cleaning out and securing the building with hopes of redeveloping it as residential units. Due to the lack of market demand and adequate funding, those plans have not come to fruition. As time passes, there continues to be deterioration due to water infiltration and vandalism. The redevelopment of the Alcazar hotel would be a milestone in rebuilding Clarksdale’s downtown community.
Natchez, Mississippi (Adams County)
Arlington was constructed circa 1818 by John Hampton White. The design of the house, while not documented, has been attributed to Levi Weeks, the architect of Auburn in Natchez. The Classical Revival style introduced to the Natchez region at Auburn was interpreted in a slightly different way at Arlington to create the second of the grand columned mansions for which Natchez is so well known. The finely-executed red brick exterior was ornamented with elaborate fanlights over the first and second floor entrances on the front and rear elevations, and marble window trim, porch floor and steps. The interior was also finely-detailed and is apparently the first appearance of a floor plan so often employed in Natchez mansions. The plan is composed of a grand central hall opening front to back, flanked by two rooms on each side, with the staircase located in a separate secondary hall between two of the flanking rooms. This plan is also seen at Rosalie (ca. 1820), Melrose (ca. 1845), and Stanton Hall (ca. 1857) among others.
Adding to Arlington’s architectural significance is the survival of its landscaped, park-like setting and much of its mid-nineteenth century interior decorative arts. In 1973, Arlington was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and due to its national significance, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974. It is one of 13 such designated properties in Natchez and one of only 39 in the entire state.
On September 17, 2002, a fire caused major damage to the house, destroying the roof and most of the second floor, including many of the fine antique furnishings and art. After the fire, as much of the interior furnishings and art work were salvaged as possible by volunteers. Due to the efforts of the Historic Natchez Foundation, shortly thereafter a new roof was installed on the house. Since then, the owner has done nothing else to save the house. It is still open to the elements, has suffered extensive vandalism, and continues to deteriorate with no plans to restore this architectural gem of Natchez.
circa 1820 - 1930
Port Gibson, Mississippi (Claiborne County)
Located near the confluence of Bayou Pierre and Little Bayou Pierre, Port Gibson was established on March 12, 1803, making it the third-oldest incorporated town in the state. Serving as the county seat of Claiborne County since its incorporation, Port Gibson was spared when Gen. U.S. Grant made the town the first objective in his campaign to capture Vicksburg in 1863, supposedly saying the town was “too beautiful to burn.”
Many of the antebellum homes, churches, and commercial buildings that lined the streets during the Civil War still stand, and Church Street in particular hosts a wealth of beautiful architecture combined with graceful old live oak trees. Many blocks of Church Street are contained within the Market Street-Suburb St. Mary Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Seven churches and one synagogue stand on the aptly-named street, ranging in style from exotic Moorish to the stately classical.
Church Street long ago became part of U.S. Highway 61, and the heavy commercial traffic that has gradually increased over the decades has already done harm to many of the historic buildings and has diminished the residential appeal of the street. An effort t by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) o expand U.S. 61 to an expressway is nearly complete, with the Port Gibson section of highway one of the last to be upgraded. The Port Gibson Heritage Trust and many other interested citizens have banded together to encourage MDOT to re-route the highway outside of town, leaving Church Street to recover its residential and semi-forested environment. MDOT has resisted the idea, pushing forward with its plans to use the existing right-of-way to expand the roadway to meet modern codes despite local opposition. The controversial project has never undergone the normal mandated federal and state preservation reviews because MDOT insists that it will be using only state money to complete this federal highway project. The current economic downturn has brought the planned work to a standstill, but the fate of Church Street continues to hang in the balance.
Ebenezer A.M.E. Church
Raymond, Mississippi (Hinds County)
Built in 1885, the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church replaced a frame Methodist church on the site originally used by all denominations for worship on Main Street in downtown Raymond, re-using much of the lumber from the older church for its construction. In 1939, the growing Methodist congregation again built a larger sanctuary, and transferred stewardship of the 1885 church building to the African American Ebenezer A.M.E. congregation. At that time it was moved to its present location on Dry Grove Road and continues to serve the Ebenezer A.M.E. parishioners today.
This modest frame church originally featured towers that pierced the roof on the main façade and flanked a gothic-inspired pointed arched window. When it was re-located in 1939, the towers were capped at the roofline, the pointed arched window replaced by entrance doors and the side entrances sided over. It retains, however, its original massing and proportions and dignified round window with simple quatrefoil tracery on the façade.
The future of the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church is uncertain, threatened by a declining congregation and the resultant drop in revenue needed to conduct much-needed maintenance on the wood-frame and clapboard-sided building. It is also threatened by possible development in the immediate area.
In addition to its significance to the Ebenezer A.M.E. congregation, the Church is also closely associated with the history of the Raymond Methodist Church. The shared heritage that began in 1939 with the transfer of the building provides an exceptional opportunity for a diverse preservation collaboration that could also include the Friends of Raymond, Inc. and the Raymond Historic Preservation Commission. A community-wide effort to preserve and maintain the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church would insure that this important historic resource is not lost to deterioration or development.
Front Street Historic District
circa 1840 and circa 1890-1910
Pascagoula, Mississippi (Jackson County)
The Front Street Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, was Pascagoula’s first historic district. It encompasses the 2800 and 2900 blocks of Front Street and is located directly east of the Northrop Grumman Shipyards, where the Pascagoula River flows into the Mississippi Sound. Originally, five houses stood in the district, each representing different periods of vernacular design distinctive to the area. Neglect and/or fire took three over the years but the John B. Delmas House and the Charles B. Delmas House have survived.
The John B. Delmas House, built circa 1840 by its namesake, is one of the four oldest surviving buildings in the City of Pascagoula. Delmas, a ship chandler and a pilot, was a direct descendant of Hugo Krebs and the son of Valentine Delmas, one of the earliest settlers in the area. Delmas’s wife was Mary Elizabeth Grant, daughter of Captain John Grant, known as “Father of the Port of Pascagoula.” The house is a two-story wood vernacular frame structure. What looks like an addition to the rear of the home is actually what remains of the original circa 1840 structure. The two-story portion was built around 1872. The primary facade features a full width two-story gallery with simple square columns and molded capitals. The interior was subdivided into apartments but the exterior has not been altered.
John B. Delmas built a home for his son, Charles B. Delmas, directly to the south of his own. The Charles B. Delmas house, built circa 1890-1910, is in slightly better condition and is a two-story vernacular wood frame structure. It also features a full width, two-story gallery on the primary façade. Most elements of the gallery were lost during Hurricane Katrina, including the gallery floor at the second story. The original turned and bracketed posts have been replaced with simple square posts which are currently holding the porch roof in place. Instead of a central entrance, two entrances open onto the porches at both levels. The south entrance at the ground floor was added in the 1940's when the house was converted into a duplex. The back gallery was also enclosed at that time.
In addition to the highly-significant architectural resources, archaeologists have found evidence of prehistoric environments and subsistence practices throughout the district and have named the site “Singing River.” This important repository of information has, and can contribute to a better understanding of Mississippi prehistory.
Both houses are now vacant, and years of neglect, not to mention Hurricane Katrina, have left them in a deteriorated state. Their location in a waterfront revitalization zone is another concern as developers could demolish the houses. Losing the last two houses of the Front Street Historic District, and an important part of Pascagoula’s history, would be a terrible loss for the community.
Hinds County Armory
Jackson, Mississippi (Hinds County)
Completed in 1927 for the Mississippi National Guard, the Hinds County Armory is believed to be the oldest surviving 20th century armory in the state. It may be the only building from that era intentionally built as an armory. The National Guard used the building as a training facility for nearly 50 years. The armory was one of the primary mobilization sites for Mississippi troops who served in World War II. Many returning soldiers mustered out in the armory. It is one of the state’s finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture and one of the few secular buildings employing the style.
The Hinds County Armory is a two-story brick building on a limestone water table. A massive tower with a pyramidal roof and four pyramidal pinnacles is centered on the main façade. The main entrance to the building features a large arched opening with concrete surround which has a large multi-light transom over double entrance doors. Corner pilasters on all four corners of the building are capped with pyramidal pinnacles, and centered on each side façade is a smaller, dual-pinnacled tower with an arched door opening. The interior features a large drill hall with fixed bleachers on three sides and a small stage. Classrooms and storage rooms are found on the second floor above the offices.
The building was damaged in Jackson’s 1979 Easter Flood and has not been used since. The roof leaks, and the building continues to suffer from water damage and a lack of maintenance. Located on the state fairgrounds, the Mississippi Fair Commission has no current plans for the structure. Like many public entities which own historic buildings, the Fair Commission is unlikely to invest funds in the building absent a plan for use. As recently as July 2007, the building was called “useless.” It is clear that the current owners do not intend to invest any money in the structure. Public support is needed to encourage the Fair Commission to at least stabilize the structure until a new use can be developed; otherwise this unique historic structure could be lost forever.
The Oakes African American Cultural Center
circa 1866, 1930
Yazoo City, Mississippi (Yazoo County)
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, the Oakes House was home to the Mary and John Oakes family, one of the most prominent African American families in Yazoo County. The family, originally from South Carolina, moved to Yazoo City in 1853, after John Oakes bought the freedom of Mary and her two children. The Oakes African American Cultural Center, commonly known as the "Oakes House," began as a one-room structure that was on the lot when John Oakes purchased the property in 1866. John found work as a contractor while Mary operated a restaurant they owned on Main Street. In 1884, their son, A.J., founded Oakes Academy, a private school for blacks, and served as principal for the next 16 years. He resigned in 1900 to work full-time for the Oakes Lumber Company and his construction company, which helped rebuild Yazoo City after a 1904 fire destroyed much of the town. The fire did not reach his company, nor did it climb the hill to the Oakes House, thus allowing it to remain in its original state. By 1930, the one-room structure had grown to a two-story home with Colonial Revival detailing, including a wrap-around two-story gallery supported by Tuscan columns.
Currently the Oakes House is being used as a museum that not only tells the history of the Oakes family, but it also tells of the struggles and triumphs of African Americans in Yazoo County and the State of Mississippi. In the 1990's, an intense project helped restore the leaded-glass entrance doors, original mantels, chimneys, walls, and stairs.
Over the years, the house has deteriorated due to lack of funds for maintenance and museum operations. The current condition of the building is in serious disrepair; including an unstable and deteriorating foundation, worn roofing, broken and missing window panes, and exposed piping. Funds are desperately needed to fix the problems and maintain the house or it could continue to deteriorate to the point where it must be closed to the public due to safety concerns.
In 1850, William Alexander McCain purchased Waverly Plantation in Carroll County. The original 2,000-acre cotton plantation is now 1,500 acres but still remains in the McCain family. As typical of plantations before the Civil War, the McCains owned slaves who worked the fields; however, it is what happened after the Civil War that is more unusual. When the war ended, many of the freed slaves remained closely entwined with the McCain family and stayed in the area of the plantation, which later became known as the Teoc community. These freed slaves whose surname reflected the name of their former owners became tenants and sharecroppers of the white McCains. Unlike other sharecropping relationships of the time, they worked in a more hospitable environment.
The white and black McCain families took different paths, but both produced leaders. The white McCains produced military leaders with two Navy Admirals, and John McCain, who was a Navy pilot in the Vietnam War, became a U.S. Senator and later the 2008 Republican nominee for president. The African American McCains and other Teoc descendants have a rich history of military service since World War I, worked rigorously to advance the Civil Rights movement, were active participants in the NAACP, and produced Leflore County’s first African American school superintendent and Greenwood’s first African American fire chief. Other important family members include Elizabeth Spencer, from the white McCains, who is a prize-winning novelist, and “Mississippi John” Hurt, of the African American McCains, who was a famous blues guitarist. In the 1990’s Teoc’s African American church began organizing a Teoc reunion which has grown to include both white and African American and started a modern dialogue between Teoc decedents.
There are a couple of surviving plantation era buildings including the former manager’s home, which became the white McCain family home when the original home burned in 1892, and a potato house. The former manager’s home is in ruins and open to the elements. There are several extant buildings from the early 1900’s in rural Teoc, including the commissary which is vacant and deteriorating. An iron bridge crossing the Little Teoc Creek survives, although its future is unclear as it has been replaced by a concrete bridge. Also extant is the John T. Long House, dating from the 1890’s, in excellent condition with a log smokehouse. Other surviving structures include a cotton crib in deteriorating shape and a single chimney remaining from a 1930’s log community house. Many members of the African American McCain family are buried at the Teoc cemetery, which was begun in the late 1800’s on land donated by the white McCains.
It is important to save this unique piece of Mississippi not only for the physical places that remain but also for the unique history of the people of Teoc that produced both white and African American leaders.
Meridian, Mississippi (Lauderdale County)
“A magnificent monument to the growth and progress of the City of Meridian,” as stated by the Threefoot Realty Company brochure shortly before its opening in 1930, the Threefoot Building was the premier office building in east central Mississippi. It was named after its first owners, the Threefoot brothers, who were part of a successful Jewish-German family in Meridian. Standing 16 stories, it is the tallest building in Meridian. Designed by C. H. Lindsley, who was known for monumental building designs, the Threefoot Building is great example of Art Deco architecture, with classic setbacks and polychrome terra cotta accenting the first-floor granite water table and the upper-floor spandrels and parapets. The building also boasts an ornamental Art Deco lobby decorated with marble flooring and wainscoting, plastered cast walls and ceilings, and etched bronze panel elevator doors with decorative dial indicators above each elevator. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and designated as a Mississippi Landmark by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in 2008.
Since the upper floors of the building have remained vacant for decades and the entire building has been vacant for several years, the building has been deteriorating. The terra cotta on the upper floors has begun to spall causing a safety hazard. The building is owned by the City of Meridian and they do not have the resources to maintain or restore it. The City has begun negotiations with a developer to take ownership of the building and restore it for a new downtown hotel. However, the slow down in the economy has hurt the chances of the project going through and if it does not happen, the building’s fate is uncertain.
1914 - 1955
Mathiston, Mississippi (Webster County)
Wood College in Mathiston opened in 1886 as Woodland Seminary under the auspices of the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1897 it was renamed Bennett Academy, and in 1915 moved to its present location. It began teaching junior college courses in 1927 and was renamed Wood College in 1936. It operated as Wood College until closing in 2003. During its later years in operation, the residential college had about 250 students and numerous buildings on campus. The campus consists of a collection of early- to mid-20th century educational buildings, located in a pristine and undisturbed site. The oldest building on campus, Wood Hall, built in 1914 and renovated in 1986-87, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The open-air Cathedral of the Pines on the campus was completed in 1955 in a modern style varying from the largely traditional style of architecture found on the other campus buildings including Miller Hall (1935-36), the Dean’s Home (1924), the Gymnasium (1938), Wood Memorial Building (1950 and 1953), George Levy Hall (1948), Bennett Hall (1966), Miller Hall and others. The buildings were constructed largely with funds from the former North Mississippi Conference of United Methodist Women. The full campus has been surveyed and determined to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
After the College closed, all but one of the buildings on the campus was left vacant. If not properly cared for, the vacant buildings could quickly deteriorate from a lack of maintenance. The owners, whose wish is to sell the property, are considering diverse offers. If the land is sold for development, or if the land is divided and sold as individual properties, the idyllic setting and cohesion will be lost. Not only is the campus significant for its physical structures and layout, it also played a key role in the lives of countless individuals who attended the college.
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clicking on the year:
1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011
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