City of Vicksburg gets state approval for roof repairs on historic buildings

Published 12:40 pm Friday, July 22, 2022

City officials have received approval from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to replace the roofs on two of the city’s historic buildings: the old Carnegie Library building and the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot.

The letters approving the work were received Monday by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Both were dated June 20.

Community Development Director Jeff Richardson said the board set aside a total of $100,000 for both roofs. He said the plan was to fix one roof to get a better idea of the project cost before moving to the second building.

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The library and Depot roofs are similar in size and scope, he said, “But there’s going to be more flashing work and little more difficulty at the Old Depot, so we’re going to be asking for more money for the Depot’s roof next (fiscal) year.”

The reroofing on the old library will proceed, Richardson said, adding the Depot’s roof has been delayed to 2023 because some of the $100,000 were diverted for a new roof on another historic building, Fire Station 7 on Washington Street.

Richardson said a spring storm that passed through the area caused significant damage to the fire station’s roof.

“We found out the (roof) decking was rotting, making it an emergency,” he said.

He said state archives officials granted emergency approval to repair the fire station.

Richardson said money for the Depot’s roof will be in the 2023 budget.

The old library building is located on South Street and houses the city’s Community Development offices.

The catalyst for the Carnegie Library building came in 1910 when the Vicksburg Library Association contacted Andrew Carnegie to ask if he would help the Association build a new library.

Carnegie was an early 20th-century industrialist and philanthropist who donated money to build more than 2,500 public libraries nationwide. Eleven Carnegie libraries, including the one in Vicksburg, were built in Mississippi between 1904 and 1916. Most of the buildings still exist, although only three are still used as public libraries.

The Carnegie Library was completed in February 1916 and opened that March. It served as the city’s library until 1979 when the present Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library opened.

The total cost of the Carnegie building was $28,000, with $25,000 of the cost donated by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation on the condition the city find a lot for the building and agree to support the library once it opened.

The Civic League raised $5,000 to purchase a site for the building and later bought a lot on the northwest corner of Monroe and South streets for $4,000. The remaining money was used to purchase books and supplies. Initially, the building’s main entrance was on Monroe Street, but Richardson said the doors facing Monroe are kept locked.

Located on Levee Street, the 116-year-old depot was built in 1906. It was bought by the city in 2001 for $295,000.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation in 2007 awarded the city a $1.65 million grant to renovate the building, and in 2009 allocated $250,000 in stimulus funds for the project.

Work on the depot restoration began in 2010 but was halted in the spring of 2011 when the Mississippi River dumped 4 feet of water into the building as it reached record heights in Vicksburg, cresting on May 19 of that year at 57.1 — 14.1 feet above flood stage and nine-tenths of a foot above the Great Flood of 1927.

The flood forced the board in 2011 to approve two amendments to the original renovation contract with contractor Kenneth R. Thompson Jr. of Greenwood totaling $56,000 for repairs.

When the repairs and renovations were completed, Vicksburg Main Street and The Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau leased offices in the building, but later relocated after the 2016 mid-winter Mississippi River flood threatened the building once again.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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