Mississippi Heritage Trust
With Lolly Barnes at the helm, this organization is making enormous strides in the state, helping save our historic buildings for future generations.
- by Rebecca Orfila, photos courtesy MHT and Ellis Anderson
As in the case of Mary Helen Schaeffer’s home, MHT calls on volunteer professionals and other resources to help secure historical properties under threat of loss. In coordination with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, plus a number of state and federal funding agencies and available private and public funds, MHT strives to serve the state of Mississippi.
History and preservation are important to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Many of the Coast’s historical landmarks and structures have been pounded by hurricanes and gales, resulting in historical homes left twisted and pushed off their foundations. Some damaged structures were abandoned.
Lolly Barnes serves as Executive Director of MHT, which is supported by the MHT Board of Directors led by Doyce Deas of Tupelo. Along with Director of Programs Amber Lombardo and Special Projects Coordinator Erica Speed, Barnes is an active leader and contributor to the identification and preservation of historical properties and at-risk structures. Her team also develops educational materials and holds workshops throughout the state for preservationists, architectural historians, and historians.
In recognition of her work with the Mississippi Heritage Trust, Lolly was recently awarded the Presidential Citation from John Beard, President of the Mississippi Chapter of American Institute of Architects (AIA). The award is given at the discretion of the AIA-MS President for exceptional work performed on behalf of AIA-MS.
The Mississippi Heritage Trust was established in 1992 as a non-profit organization. Its mission to save and renew places meaningful to Mississippians is accomplished by education, advocacy, and preservation. In a recent interview, Barnes said, “Informing the public of historical properties and their contribution for defining the sense of community” is an important component of MHT’s longstanding missions.
One of MHT’s biennial activities is the naming of the Top Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites in Mississippi. Barnes said, “The goal of the program is to raise awareness about the many threats facing our rich architectural heritage.”
The first site identified on the Save My Place Program was the Biloxi Lighthouse, which was damaged by Katrina’s storm surge and high winds. It took over a year and $400K $400,000 to restore the structural and electrical components, plus the lookout windows. The restoration of the tower was complete and ready for tours in March of 2010.
In 2015, the 1929 Jourdan River School (formerly the Kiln Colored School) was added to the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s Top Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites. The Top Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites is a program that serves to identify and champion the protection and restoration of important historical sites.
Other schools on the MHT list of recognition and preservation projects include the Randolph School in Pass Christian, West Pascagoula’s Colored School, 33rd Avenue School in Gulfport, and the old Pascagoula High School.
Also on the list is the Valena C. Jones Colored School in Bay St. Louis which is situated on a high point in town and received little damage during Hurricane Katrina. The Hancock County Emergency Operations adopted the structure as a base of activity. With input from MHT, the restoration of the gymnasium included new windows, reinforcement of masonry walls, and replacement of the classic curved roof of the gymnasium. Later, a Boys and Girls Club was established in the gymnasium.
The Heritage Award of Excellence for Restoration/Rehabilitation has recognized the Hancock Bank Building (Pass Christian), 513 E. Scenic Drive (Pass Christian), Beauvoir (Biloxi), Bay St. Louis City Hall, Dantzler-Fabacher-Franke House (Gulfport), and 139 Seal Avenue (Biloxi), and 123 Seal Avenue (Pass Christian), to name a few.
When asked what 2017 might bring for MHT, Barnes responded, “We will celebrate the 25th anniversary of MHT and another year of being a successful non-profit organization.” Important to the continuing life of the Trust, efforts will be made to “build out our capabilities as an organization” and to continue fundraising efforts.
On Saturday, November 19, MHT will present “Delta Drive-In” at the Burrus House in Benoit, Miss. The event celebrates the 60th anniversary of the filming of the cult classic “Baby Doll." There will be an open house to explore the exemplary restoration of the antebellum Burras House from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., followed by a screening of the film. Tickets are $75 a person, with proceeds benefiting the Burrus Foundation and the Mississippi Heritage Trust. See the Facebook event page for more details.
Are you interested in attending the Delta Drive-in event or becoming a member of the Mississippi Heritage Trust? Contact MHT by email at email@example.com or phone at (601) 354-0200.