Lolly Barnes was recently named executive director of the Mississippi Heritage Trust. Barnes, a Biloxi native, brings 20 years of preservation experience to MHT. A Biloxi native, she received a B.A. in history from LSU, and a M.A. in history from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Q — What’s the mission of the Mississippi Heritage Trust?
A — The Mississippi Heritage Trust works to save and renew places meaningful to Mississippians and their history.
Q — What are some of your immediate goals as executive director? What are some of your long-term goals?
A — One immediate goal is to reach out to communities around the state to let them know that the Mississippi Heritage Trust is a resource in their efforts to save the historic buildings that tell the story of Mississippi. One of the first calls I received after taking over as executive director was regarding the future of the Mendenhall High School Auditorium, a Mississippi landmark that is slated for demolition to make way for a new cafeteria. I have been working with a local committee to persuade the Simpson County School District to consider other options for the school expansion that would include the restoration and community use of this charming 1938 art deco structure.
Long term, I would like to see the Mississippi Heritage Trust lead the way in educating individuals and civic organizations about the many important reasons to preserve historic structures, building a strong grassroots advocacy network for historic preservation throughout the state.
Q — What role does preservation of Mississippi’s historic places play in economic development?
A — One need look no further than Ocean Springs to find a dynamic example of the importance of historic preservation in economic development. With the restoration of many historic structures as the cornerstone of its economic redevelopment strategy, downtown Ocean Springs has become a nationally recognized tourism destination, with a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants and cultural attractions that contributes to the positive quality of life for its residents.
Q — What’s the overall recovery status of the historic places damaged by Hurricane Katrina?
A — While it is heartbreaking to remember all the wonderful historic landmarks that were lost in the storm, I am incredibly proud of the Gulf Coast’s determination to save as many damaged historic structures as possible. I recently had the opportunity to attend the rededication of the Rectitude Masonic Lodge in Gulfport, as well as the ribbon cutting for the Randolph School in Pass Christian, one of the few remaining Rosenwald schools in Mississippi. It was tremendously rewarding to see the hard work and collaborative effort of so many individuals, civic groups and governmental entities to save these special places come to fruition.
Q — The MHT adopted a list of 10 most endangered historic places in 2011. What’s the status of the places included?
A — Sadly, Ceres Plantation in Warren County was demolished in 2012 by the Warren County Port Commission. This c. 1860 building could and should have been saved. It is a tremendous loss for Mississippi. One bright spot is the Amzie Moore House in Cleveland, once a meeting place for civil rights activists, including Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses and Medgar Evers. With funding from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Community Heritage Preservation grant program, restoration of this cultural landmark is about to get underway.
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