County to plan for Ceres designation|’Landmark’ could save old house

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Talks between state historians and Warren County should start next week over appropriate uses for the Ceres Plantation House if the structure becomes a Mississippi Landmark.

In an update to members of the Warren County Port Commission, Executive Director Wayne Mansfield said he and Hank Holmes, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, would mull options for the house, parts of which date to 1830.

Friday, MDAH directors moved a step closer to awarding the protected status to the vacant residence in the county’s industrial park.

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“We are going to sit down with Archives and History and work with them to find a potential entity to acquire and relocate the building,” Mansfield said. He also indicated leaving the house where it is might be OK if someone with financial backing enters the picture.

“If someone develops a strong, sound plan of preservation for the building at the site…,” Mansfield said.

A 21-day MDAH comment period should start by the end of April. Trustees will meet July 23 to vote on landmark status on Ceres and three other structures and sites owned by public entities.

The house, just off the Flowers interchange from Interstate 20 and hidden by trees, would join more than 30 state landmarks in Vicksburg and Warren County.

It became county property in 1987 with the grant-funded purchase of farmland for transformation into the 1,290-acre Ceres Research and Industrial Complex.

The house, which has had myriad uses, has been eyed for demolition or removal by commissioners since a plant nursery based on the property closed in 2007 and the panel, appointed by supervisors, has two offers pending to raze and salvage the structure. A third offer, submitted by De Reul of Vicksburg, was rejected as nonresponsive. De Reul, who moved to Vicksburg from Missouri, proposed redevelopment of the area as a tourist attraction.

While the state ponders landmark status, no major alteration may be made to the house, now in serious disrepair. MDAH has considered protecting the house before, but not acted.

Once a structure or site is designated a state landmark, only activities consistent with the Department of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation may be performed. Approved structural changes among a 16-point list of items include roof replacements, gutter work and aesthetically appropriate equipment additions, such as air conditioning units and removal of trees 6 inches in diameter or less.

Reul’s pitch has taken root with local and state tourism officials, preservationists and others. She wants to transform the site into a 19th century-themed cultural village.

Also to be considered by MDAH for possible landmark status are southern portions of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus in Harrison County, Brooklyn School (South Forrest Attendance Center) in Forrest County and Tate Hall, located at Northwest Mississippi Community College, in Tate County.

Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at