Turn the page on history

Published 7:20 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2019

This morning, with fanfare and ceremony, the demolition of Kuhn Memorial Hospital’s two buildings gets underway, and with it, a page in the city’s history will turn.

A city-owned building, Kuhn was a state-funded and operated charity hospital where many Vicksburg residents were born, received treatment for injuries and illness and many doctors and nurses received experience they would later use in private practice or at other hospitals here and across the state.

But outside of its service as a hospital, Kuhn has had a tragic history. Closed in 1989 when the state of Mississippi decided to shut down its charity hospital system, Kuhn remained empty; a mass of brick and concrete slowly being affected by time and the elements.

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There were many plans to use the vacant buildings on the campus — a veterans home, a facility to treat youth who suffered from mental illness, a nursing home and assisted living facility for the elderly — none of which came to pass. It was later donated to a nonprofit organization and then sold to numerous investors during county tax sales.

And all during that time, it continued to deteriorate to the point where city officials got involved, eventually putting the property under its slum clearance ordinance and then acquiring the property.

City officials are making the right move to take the buildings down. They’ve become an eyesore and a blight, and a danger to the community that surrounds it, and the start of Kuhn’s demolition will be welcomed by its neighbors.

But what will happen when it is down? That appears to be the real question surrounding the end of Kuhn. What will that property become? Hopefully, not another vacant overgrown property in the city.

The Board of Mayor an Aldermen have an urban renewal plan to transform the Kuhn property into a multiuse residential/commercial development with recreation facilities, and the board is looking for a developer to take over the project.

We hope that’s the case, and we hope whoever takes over the property will fulfill the board’s vision. And that means the board will have to be careful in marketing and selecting someone, or some company, to develop the Kuhn property.

The start of Kuhn’s demolition begins a new page for embattled property. Let’s hope whatever replaces Kuhn enjoys a better life and history than its predecessor.