Genella building holds history, new potential

Published 9:16 am Thursday, September 8, 2016

It’s been a fine furniture store and a dance hall.

Just like many of the buildings in downtown Vicksburg, every few years it morphs into what the new owner needs.

This time around the four-story Genella building at 1108 Washington St. is adding multiple positions to its long resume — as the building predates the Civil War.

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“The building’s gone through a lot of changes over the years,” its current owner Skippy Tuminello said. “I had to repair a lot of Civil War damage. It had three direct hits during the siege.”

The building has a special attachment to Tuminello, who has owned it since approximately the late ’60s.

“The most important (historical) thing is that my grandmother was born here in the 1880s,” he said.

The building’s current renter, Karen Davis of 620 Tresses on Crawford Street, is looking to build a slice of her own history in the building.

She said she is in the midst of a renovation that includes plans to turn the second floor into a salon, the third floor into living quarters and the top floor into an art gallery.

“I’ve been working downtown for 15 years, so it just seemed more economical to live and work in the same place. I work long hours so any house I’ve had was a hotel room anyway,” Davis said, noting she was looking for a place to allow her business to expand. “It looks like a lot and it is a lot, but I’m hoping to have it done by the end of the month.”

Work on the building has included painting, staining parts of the original pine floors, fixing up the wiring and other tweaks to make it work for Davis’ needs.

Tuminello said he has dreams of turning the basement into a pizza shop and replacing one of the building’s long-gone features — its balcony and deck, which he said he regrets they ever tore down.

He said those plans aren’t in the works yet: “I’m waiting for the right tenant.”

“It would make a good restaurant,” Davis agreed, smiling. “It is something to think about.”

Tuminello, who owns eight other properties downtown, said he updated the plumbing, electrical and added an apartment in the back when he bought the building, adding it has remained mostly untouched in the basement which he said houses the state’s oldest elevator.

The current renovations, he said, are part of downtown “coming back.”

“I remember when you couldn’t hardly walk down the street on Saturday afternoons there would be so many people down here. It really was unbelievable,” he said.