Campus restoration, arts school now getting statewide attention

Published 5:00 am Friday, July 14, 2000

Many eyes will be on the Whitworth campus and on Brookhaven inthe coming months as contractors begin building restoration worktoward the campus becoming the home of the Mississippi School ofthe Arts.

At a preconstruction conference Thursday in Lampton Auditorium,architects, contractors, education leaders and other officialsdiscussed construction schedules, site security and various aspectsof the $1.6 million project.

Dr. Steve Williams, assistant to Dr. Richard Thompson, the statesuperintendent of education, said the project has statewideinterest because it will be a state school. Not only local leadersand citizens, but education and legislative leaders around thestate will be keeping close watch.

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“This is a high profile project all over the state,” Williamssaid. “No one wants anything to go wrong with any project, but thiswill be under the microscope.”

Evidence of that could be seen in Architect Larry Albert’sdiscussion on techniques of clay tile roof installation. All orparts of several of the buildings are to have that type ofroof.

Before beginning the roof work, Albert requested contractorsprovide a demonstration and explanation of their technique by theemployees who will be doing the work. In the overall project, themoney spent on the roof is not great, but it does go to the mostimportant section of the buildings, the architect said.

“This money is the most important amount of money you willspend,” Albert said.

Another example involves historic preservation of items in thecampus buildings. Albert cited Department of the Interiorguidelines.

“Those guidelines say we have to save as much as possible,”Albert said.

Albert said he wants to remove as little as possible from thebuildings. While some items could be duplicated, he said it isvital to make sure some historic items are preserved.

“It’s real important from a historical standpoint to not throwanything away if it’s the only one,” Albert said.

For historical reasons, Albert said more photographs than normalwould be taken during the project. Buddy Bernard, of Bernard andSon Construction Company, said several disks had been filled and hecould get those to Albert for use toward the photographcollection.

Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett, who attended the morning meeting,took a chance to get a few pictures of his own later Thursday whenhe and his wife Roberta walked around the campus and thebuildings.

The 210-day project clock officially starts ticking Monday, butcontractors have been able to get a little head start on thebuildings.

Benny Wester, superintendent for Bernard and Son, said EnochHall is the most sound of the campus buildings. Johnson Instituteand Cooper Hall are in roughly the same condition.

However, Johnson is the first priority and will be moredifficult because of its age and condition of its roof. Thoughtrusses are solid, sunlight peaked through several holes in theJohnson roof as Barnett and Wester looked skyward.

“It’s basically like taking a bridge off the top of thisbuilding,” Wester said in describing the upcoming work.

When this phase of the work is finished, the buildings willappear to be restored. However, that will only be on the outside.and future work will be done inside to the get buildings ready forstudent and faculty use beginning in the fall 2002.

Barnett said he had been waiting many months to see the”historic day” when work finally begins on the Whitworthcampus.

“It’s finally arrived,” Barnett said. “It’s a great day forBrookhaven and the state of Mississippi.”