Fondren Named “Endangered” By Mississippi Heritage Trust
by Jim Wilkirson, FRF Executive Director
Last week on Thursday evening, the Mississippi Heritage Trust announced its biennial list of the “10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi” and bestowed one of this year’s titles on the “Fondren Neighborhood.”
Starting in 1999, the MS Heritage Trust has issued its list with the goal of raising awareness of some our state’s greatest treasures, hoping to protect, promote and eventually revitalize and restore the historic places named to the list. Since their initial listing, there have been a number of tremendous victories achieved by the awareness brought about by the Trust and many of these victories reside in Jackson with other notable listings around the state.
Locally and most notable in the Fondren area is The Cedars, listed and designated in 2001, now fully restored and maintained by Fondren Renaissance. The Cedars is actively recognized as one of the most well-known public arts and education facilities in the state hosting regional art shows, arts camps, the MS Juried Show as well as Symphony at Sunset. Other local victories include the Westbrook House, the King Edward Hotel and the Lowry House, the most recent of our areas restorations and now home to the MS Heritage Trust. Although many other sites and specific buildings have been named, there are those that have now been lost and others that still show no sign of progress. Those that have been saved, however, provide inspiring examples of what can be achieved when residents, businesses and communities come together with a cooperative spirit and a clear vision for the future.
Of this year’s Fondren Neighborhood designation, nominated by Fondren advocate and businessman Ron Chane of Project Chane, the Trust said, “like many neighborhoods, Fondren suffered from urban decay in the 1980s. Through the dedicated work of local business leaders and residents, the area has grown and thrived in recent years. Full of local stores and restaurants, the bustling neighborhood has the largest concentration of modernist buildings in the state. Today, there are concerns that Fondren will fall victim to its own success, as historic buildings are demolished to make way for large-scale developments. Neighbors have rallied to demand a local historic district designation for Fondren, which would allow for community input on future projects.”
In making his comments at the awards ceremony, Chane said, “Fondren is what it is because of what it is not”. All in all, what has become “Jackson’s hippest neighborhood™” is rapidly changing, and, with three grants slated to begin in the area before year’s end, there is much more development slated for the future. He says “hopefully, this ‘endangered’ status will prevent future threats to the character and integrity of a great district tilled by creatives and built by dreamers.”
Fondren Renaissance recognizes that we have a continuing passion in our community to raise awareness of our historic residences, buildings, places and surroundings that define and set Fondren apart from everyone else. Recognitions such as the one given by MS Heritage Trust are a positive and good thing. They raise awareness, make us reflect, focus and ultimately react to what the needs are for the community through the eyes of those who live and work here. We ask that you join our continuing efforts and partnerships with those such as MS Heritage Trust in making Fondren the most notable and sought after destination in our state.