JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – On October 19, the Mississippi Heritage Trust (MHT) announced the 14th list of Mississippi’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places.
This year’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi for 2023 are as follows:
Benson Cabin – Plantersville
The Benson Cabin is part of a nineteenth-century homestead from the earliest years of settlement in the Chickasaw Territory of Itawamba County on land that was purchased from a Chickasaw woman in 1837. Six generations of the Benson family have lived there, operating a successful cotton gin, grist mill and store on the property into the 1950s. The current owner of the home is no longer able to care for the property, and officials with MHT said its remote location leaves it vulnerable to break-ins and vandalism.
Flatiron Building – Eupora
The Flatiron Building in Eupora is a two-story brick building constructed in approximately 1915 on a triangular piece of land across the tracks from the train depot. The first floor was originally used as a restaurant while the upper floor was most likely used as boarding rooms. A community landmark, the building has suffered from neglect for many years. Despite several offers to purchase the building, MHT officials said the current owner has taken no action to sell or restore the building.
Lura’s – New Albany
Lura’s is a modest metal building located in what was once a thriving Black community in New Albany. During segregation, it served as a restaurant and movie theater and still retains its original tin-clad projection box. Almost all other buildings in this area have been lost except for one that serves as a studio for musician Sam Mosely. Vacant for many years, MHT officials said current owner Sean Johnson purchased the building to protect it from demolition and would like to see it restored to become a community gathering space once again.
Knoxo Freedom Schools
Joe Magee and his wife Lucy bought two buildings in Knoxo, a small town near Tylertown in Walthall County in the 1930s on the site of a railroad crossing and former sawmill camp. Here, the couple operated Joe Magee’s Grocery and Lucy Magee’s Dry Goods Store through the Great Depression, WWII and the Korean War. In 1961, Bob Moses used the stores as Freedom Schools to educate African Americans about voter rights. Joe and Lucy’s daughter, Ruby, attended the Freedom Schools and became the first Black registered voter in Walthall County. Ruby still owns the buildings and would like to see them restored to become monuments to the Civil Rights movement.
Historic Homes of Ocean Springs
The Old Ocean Springs Historic District was established in 1987 and includes over 400 contributing buildings. Rapid development and natural disasters have taken a toll on the historic houses in the district, leaving local landmarks like the O’Keefe Boarding House, Lynwood and the Von Rosanbeau House in danger of being lost to neglect and demolition. Organizations like Historic Ocean Springs Association and the newly formed Ocean Springs Historical Society are working to ensure that Ocean Springs maintains a balance between growth and preservation of its rich architectural heritage.
Faler Mansion – Bassfield
The Faler Mansion was built in 1910 by German immigrants John and Dora Faler in an unusual construction style featuring poured concrete blocks and steel beams. Originally featuring 60 stained glass windows and 10 fireplaces, the three-story house is almost identical from every elevation. Though in disrepair, the home remains the most impressive structure in the small community of Bassfield. Sitting empty and neglected for over 60 years, the sturdy construction methods have kept the house standing. Local preservationists hope the restored Faler Mansion will spur additional preservation efforts in the area.
Wade School – Hurley
The Wade School opened in the fall of 1926, consolidating several one-room rural schoolhouses in the area. It was originally designed to house grades 1-10 with four classrooms and an auditorium. By the mid 1930s, the school was known as the Wade Consolidated Vocational High School and served grades 1-12. After construction of the East Central School in 1959, the Wade School was converted into a teacher’s home. Vacant since 2001, the school is in poor condition. Though local advocates would like to see the Wade School restored to become a community center, Jackson County has submitted a Notice of Intent to demolish the building to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).
Alyene Quin Home – McComb
Alyene “Mama” Quin owned a small café on Summit Street which became a center of civil rights activity. After receiving threats, she began serving meals out of her home. A longtime member of the NAACP, Alyene’s home was bombed on Sunday, September 20, 1964, destroying the front of the house and narrowly missing her two sleeping children. The day after the bombing, Alyene traveled to Washington D.C. and met with President Lyndon Johnson to demand increased protection for Black people in McComb and the South. Today the Quin Home is in poor condition.
Prentiss Institute – Prentiss
Founded by Jonas and Bertha Johnson in 1907, the Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute served as an educational facility for African Americans until it closed in 1989. During its heyday, the school had more than 700 students, 24 buildings and 44 faculty members. The campus includes the beautifully restored Rosenwald School and is listed as a National Register District. While a few buildings are still in use, much of the campus is neglected.
Paramount Theater – Clarksdale
Constructed in 1918, the Paramount Theater hosted vaudeville and stage productions as well as movies. Deferred maintenance led to water intrusion and the collapse of the roof, leaving the building open to the elements. An exterior stair located on the rear of the building to access the balcony was originally the entrance for African Americans and serves as a clear reminder of segregation. Today, the charge to save the Paramount Theater has been taken up by Griot Arts, a non-profit organization committed to intentional engagement to learn and understand stories of those who experienced segregation as part of the redevelopment of the theater to become part of a larger community education center.
Dishonorable Mention – Soso Gymnasium
Constructed of stone, the Soso Gymnasium was built in the small town of Soso in 1940. Neglected for many years, the gym had fallen into a state of disrepair. The Jones County School Board requested approval for demolition from the Jones County Board of Education in April of this year, while Mayor Ralph Cahill asked that the Soso Gym be turned over to the town, which was pursuing Mississippi Landmark status for the building as part of plans for its rehabilitation to once again become a community resource. In August, a majority of the roof caved in, and MHT officials said the school board demolished the building without submitting a Notice of Intent to the MDAH, in violation of the State Antiquities Act.