Ceres: Future of site, house stuck in muck

Published 12:05 am Sunday, May 23, 2010

When the five people serving as members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors decided in 1986 to purchase 1,290 acres of farmland adjacent to the Big Black River, what to do with the old farmhouse and assorted outbuildings was an issue.

As former Chancery Clerk Oren Bailess said last week amid new discussion of the buildings’ future, “We had that discussion 20 years ago.”

At the time, the investment that became Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex was a wise one. Sites at the original and expanded Port of Vicksburg were becoming scarce and there were some manufacturing and industrial prospects that didn’t desire waterfront sites. Ceres, to be developed and also operated by the Warren County Port Commission, held great promise and still does.

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Initially, plans were to use the old house as a reception center and, for a time, it served that purpose. It has also been a rental home and restaurant — but most of the time it has been empty and deteriorating. Supervisors and port commissioners aren’t in the preservation business.

Wayne Mansfield, commission director, now says the panel, which sought proposals to raze or move the home earlier this year, will trash those and instead seek only offers to purchase the home (for a nominal sum) and relocate it (which will cost much more.)

This comes as the Mississippi Department of Archives and History ponders the weighty question whether enough of the home, a portion of which is 170 years old, should be come under its protective umbrella as a Mississippi Landmark.

We are strong believers in preservation. We respect history and heritage for its own sake and in light of the fact history-related tourism is an essential part of the local economy.

Yet we still believe a decision on the future of the Ceres house was made 20 years ago. Its fate was decided when it became part of an industrial park.

There’s every good reason to hope someone with both the desire and the financial means to respond to the county’s new proposal will do so.

If not, our guess is we’ll be having this discussion again, perhaps 20 years from now.