Thursday, September 23, 2010
Preserving Holly Springs’ history
By SUE WATSON
A Victorian Gothic-style house built in the early 1800s on Randolph Street is being restored by the Holly Springs Federated Improvement Club.
The house has served many families, first the slave owner who built it, then two African American families who purchased it, and many students, faculty and couples who boarded at the house.
The house was purchased by the Federated Improvement Club in 1989 and was intended to be used as an African American museum or art gallery. Instead, the house has been used for cultural activities, community meetings, fund-raisers and for art exhibits, said Leona Harris, a member of the Holly Springs Federated Improvement Club. Harris is also curator of the Ida B. Wells Museum just a few doors up the street from the Bessie Jones House.
Builder Craig Hendrix (Hendrix Home Builders and Residential Repairs) has been hired to repair the over a century old house - starting with repair of the brick underpinning, then repairing, cleaning up and painting the exterior, and finally sealing up some leaks on the roof, Harris said.
Hendrix has been working on similar jobs for the last year in the city of Holly Springs, he said, and he loves working on structures connected with the city’s history.
“I love anything that has to do with preserving history and especially Mississippi history and anything to do with the war era,” he said. “The Historical Preservation Committee has helped guide me through the ordinances pertaining to preservation.”
A history of the Bessie Jones House written by Harris was published in the October 8, 2009, issue of The South Reporter. Some highlights follow:
• original property - the 12-room, two-story house, slave quarters, a large barn and a carriage house was the property of a white man who owned slaves in the early 1800s. Other houses on Martin Street once were a part of the original property.
• Griffin Logan, an African American, bought the house for his family in 1897.
• the property was sold to the Bessie Jones family in 1917. The barn, carriage house, and surrounding buildings were converted into rental properties by the Jones family.
• the Bessie Jones House was altered to suit the needs of the Jones family which including use as a boarding house. The house was used by MI College and Rust College students. It substituted as a men’s dormitory in the 1940s when a dormitory burned at Rust College.
• married couples also boarded at the house, including the late Henderson Milan and his wife Mary, who rented a bedroom apartment and kitchen in the house when they married October 24, 1951. The Milans continued to live in the house eight years. Milan became known locally as a columnist for The South Reporter, chronicling the news in the African American community and activities at Hopewell #1 Church, of which he was a member.
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