Courthouse named endangered historic site

From Press & Staff Reports

 

More than 250 preservationists from around the state gathered Nov. 14 in Jackson for the announcement of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi for 2013-14.

Mississippi Heritage Trust President Brad Reeves welcomed guests to the historic Cedars, once in danger of demolition and now a community arts center and event venue.

Walt Grayson announced the historic sites that have been placed on the list, including the Webster County Courthouse in Walthall.

Courthouse Fire

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.

The Beaux Arts structure is listed as a Mississippi Landmark.

On Jan. 17 of this year, an early-morning fire severely damaged the courthouse. The roof and second-floor windows were destroyed, leaving the building open to the elements.

Last month, the board of trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History awarded a $500,000 Community Heritage Preservation Grant to stabilize the walls and reconstruct the roof.

According to architect and Walthall Mayor Belinda Stewart, the executive committee of the MDAH board of trustees has also recommended that the board consider additional grant funds after the insurance settlement with the county has been finalized.

The Webster County Board of Supervisors has taken no action regarding the grant, and has not committed to either restoring the courthouse or building a new one (see related Page 1 article).

Exhibits Tour

During last week’s biennial recognition of Mississippi’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann urged guests to take an active role in helping to save endangered historic resources around the state.

“I am committed to preserving the heritage and culture of all Mississippi,” he said. “As state land commissioner, our agency works tirelessly to preserve our state lands and protect our natural resources. As honorary chairman of this initiative, I look forward to protecting Mississippi’s cultural resources as well.”

MHT Executive Director Lolly Barnes closed the program with a thank-you to the many people who have played a role in making this year’s program a success.

“The Mississippi Heritage Trust is lucky to have so many friends,” she said. “We could not undertake advocacy efforts like the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi without your support.”

Following the announcement, guests enjoyed a fall dinner, surrounded by children’s artwork depicting the places that matter in Mississippi.

Exhibits on the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi will tour the state through 2014, stopping at city halls, libraries and visitors centers. The exhibits will be on display at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, the Biloxi Visitors Center and the Mendenhall Public Library through January.

Preservationists looking to explore Mississippi can sign up to participate in the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Waymarking program at www.waymarking.com under MS Heritage Trust.

The Mississippi Heritage Trust was established in 1992 to be a statewide voice for preservation in Mississippi. The organization is the statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and works closely with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Mississippi Main Street Association to save and renew places meaningful to Mississippians and their history.

To learn more about the Mississippi Heritage Trust, visit www.mississippiheritage.com. To read more about this year’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places, visit www.ms10most.com.