Beck House owner says he’ll repair South Street home|[12/12/07]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The owner of the historic Beck House at 1101 South St. told the Board of Architectural Review Tuesday he will perform needed repairs and maintenance on the home and that city overtures about intervening are premature.

The home shows exterior signs of wear and decay. Vicksburg’s inspections department presented Robert Rosenthal, owner since 1989, a list of necessary work, including replacement of window glass, restoration of damaged cornices and roofing and stabilization of railings and chimneys.

In November, city officials asked inspections director Victor Gray-Lewis to look into the potential costs of repairing signs of wear to the manor, built in 1875 by the steamboat executive R.F. Beck. Under a state law authorizing municipalities to take action in preventing “demolition by neglect” to historic homes and landmarks, repairs can be undertaken by the city and the costs can be enrolled as a tax lien against the property.

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Rosenthal, 62, a former manager with the Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi River Commission, works in real estate development and said he will undertake the repairs himself. He was granted 30 days to start the work by filing for building permits from the city.

Rosenthal formerly owned the former Carr Central High School building, receiving the deed from the City of Vicksburg for $40,000 under a deal saying if renovations were not begun in a year, the city could reclaim the property. Work did not begin due to repeated denials of financing to turn that structure into an assisted living facility. City officials, however, declined to reclaim the property, which has since been obtained by developer Webber Brewer, who has gutted the structure in advance of transforming it into apartments plus a museum area to house the old school’s artifacts.

Rosenthal said he and Gray-Lewis discussed plans to fix up the Beck House in October, after Rosenthal was contacted about violations to the city’s building codes. “We had a plan about what we would do and how long it was going to take. Mr. Gray-Lewis was very helpful,” Rosenthal said.

In another matter, the review board voted to issue a certificate of appropriateness to Harold Adair for a brick and iron fence at 1001 Jackson St.

Also Tuesday, city officials met and approved a loan from the City of Vicksburg to its public transit commission until funds from the Mississippi Department of Transportation clear.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen called a meeting Tuesday to authorize $12,143 for the NRoute bus service. The bus system ceased to operate as a city department Oct. 1, but some of its funds are still managed in a city account.

The loan was for the amount of funding from MDOT expected to arrive Dec. 19.

“We just want to make sure they don’t start bouncing checks,” South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman explained during the short meeting.

The minivan system, created in June 2006, relies on grants, advertising revenue and public funds for 90 percent of its operating costs. Fares cover 10 percent.