Decorative medallions may be replaced at museum

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 23, 2004

[4/23/04]Barely visible medallions are nonetheless important parts of the architecture of the Old Court House Museum, and replacing them is being considered.

The 1858 building, designated a National Landmark, is being reroofed and refurbished on the outside, and the remaining corner pieces were discovered during the process, said the museum’s director and curator, Gordon Cotton.

The medallions were decorative, but did serve a purpose.

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“There’s usually an odd pocket there when you try to bring two square pieces together,” said the architect for the renovation project, Al Hopton of Jackson.

“They put a metal medallion there as just kind of a cover,” Hopton said. “What was there has rotted out or rusted out, or the birds and squirrels and something else have” nested behind the pieces and hastened their deterioration.

Both Hopton and Cotton said they did not know the pieces existed until after the renovation began late in 2003. The project is now scheduled to be completed by about July of this year, said James Bounds, superintendent for the project’s general contractor, Mayrant and Associates of Jackson.

The metal pieces are at 20 corners on the building’s cornice, Hopton said. The outside of each is about six inches square and is imprinted with images of plant leaves.

Local artist Hobbs Freeman, who works in metal, visited the museum Thursday to estimate the work. If he bids on and wins the job of creating replacement corners, he said he would use heavyweight copper and a special forming technique to try to replicate the pieces as closely as possible.

“The metal is heated and formed and beaten into the right shape,” Freeman said of the technique, which he said is called repouss.

The pieces themselves are barely visible from ground-level outside the multistory building.

“It’s just a decorative touch that they added,” he said of the building’s original designers.

The largest part of the project is a replacement of the building’s copper roof.

“We’ve got about half the main roof torn off and almost half put back on,” Bounds said, adding that the project is on pace to be completed ahead of schedule.

It is also undergoing other cleaning and repairs, including patching of cracks and leaks on the building’s exterior walls.

“That part of the building takes a beating from the winds coming off the Mississippi,” Hopton said of the top of the building.

Budget constraints on the project have resulted in it being scaled back from original plans, and the building’s exterior is being restored on a funds-available basis, Hopton said.

“The whole approach is to start from the top down,” Hopton said. “We want to make it dry, and we want to put a roof on it we hope will last for a lot of years.”

The currently approved estimate of the work’s cost is about $800,000, approved by the Warren County Board of Supervisors using a state grant supplemented with local money.

Replacement of the corner pieces was not a part of the project’s original cost estimate. If it is to be done its cost will constitute a further addition to the project’s overall cost.

All such additions must be approved by the county’s board of supervisors.

The Old Court House Museum opened in the building in 1948 after government operations moved across Cherry Street into the courthouse now in use. Warren County still owns the older building and the museum inside it is operated by the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society.