Red Barn’s remains to be razed

Published 11:44 am Thursday, April 26, 2012

The iconic Red Barn on the site of a proposed Mississippi Delta museum in Rolling Fork will be razed by June 15, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.

The barn off U.S. 61 North was not part of the museum, though it was seen as a surefire draw for tourists and Delta buffs. Built by the Graft family in 1918, the old barn collapsed in heavy winds nearly a year ago, on April 30.

Work to take down what’s left of the exterior wooden walls and doors will begin around May 15, Corps spokesman Kavanaugh Breazeale said after a public meeting Wednesday at Rolling Fork Library. Two silos next to the barn will stay, he said.

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The Department of Defense owns the 33-acre site eyed for the museum, which the Corps remains authorized to build. The Corps, however, was stripped of $6 million in startup cash in a Defense Department appropriations bill two weeks before the barn collapsed. The center, dubbed in 2010 as the Holt Collier Interpretive and Education Center, was to feature wildlife exhibits and host educational programs by this year.

What happens to the wood once it’s down will be up to Mississippi’s Lower Delta Partnership, a cultural development group of individuals and private and public agencies, Breazeale said.

Among the eight people who attended Wednesday’s public meeting were officials with the Corps, Rolling Fork, Sharkey County and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s office, Breazeale said.

One option discussed would involve building a smaller version of the barn on the site, whether the museum is built or not, he said.

“The Corps will find the best ways to preserve the barn,” he said.

More than 130,000 Native American artifacts were unearthed on the property after the DOD purchased the land in April 2010. The cache included burned corncobs, small handmade tools and knives, animal bones and artwork.

Talks between the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and several native tribes on how best to maintain the site are ongoing, Breazeale said.