Old School In Line For New Start

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Old Wesson Public School building mayfinally be nearing its renovation completion after efforts begannearly 10 years ago to get the building back in use.

    Wesson Mayor Alton Shaw has hopes that the building, built in 1889,will undergo its final renovation project beginning at the start ofOctober.

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    The timeline started in 2000. Acquiring funds for the renovationshas been the main setback, Shaw said.

    By 2003, an exterior renovation had been completed in preparationfor the Saint Ambrose Leadership College. Plans were for thebuilding to become a leadership college for outstanding high schoolgraduate males, but the plans fell through, according to Shaw.

    “This included window replacements, brick replacement andpainting,” Shaw said about early renovation efforts. “Prior to theexterior renovations, the building had been named one of the top 10most endangered buildings in the state by the Mississippi HeritageTrust.”

    Shaw said the final renovations will include replacing the floors,adding heating and air conditioning, electrical work and newplumbing and bathrooms. He also said the stair towers will need tobe redone, and an elevator from the basement to the top floor ofthe three-story building will be installed.

    The total cost of the final renovation project will be $1.4million, according to Shaw. The funds will come from stateappropriations and $500,000 in federal funds. Because of thebuilding’s historic value, advantage of tax credits can be takenfor the preservation of a historic landmark to cover the remainingcosts.

    The project will be under the direction of architect Joseph Orr andconstruction company McMillan-Pitts, both out of Canton. Shaw saidthe final project should ideally last about six months.

    “It’ll be great to see the building in use again,” Shaw said.

    Originally constructed in 1889, it suffered a fire in 1890 and wasrebuilt by 1893, according to the historical marker sign standingin the schoolyard.

    Until about 1960, the building had been used as Wesson’s publicschool. After that point it had been the focus of many failed reuseefforts until left completely vacant in 1994.

    It was placed on the state’s top 10 endangered buildings list in2001 due to vacancy, poor maintenance and vandalism since 1994,according to the Mississippi Heritage Trust.

    Shaw said other than a few events like the community haunted housein October last year and Boy Scouts of America meetings held in thebasement, the building has not been in any use.

    He said once the project is complete, about $2 million total inrenovations will have gone into making the building usableagain.

The ultimate goal of the renovations is toallow the building to be used as a community center, Shaw said.

    “We want people to be able to come and offer different kinds ofclasses to the public,” he said. “The stage is still intact sothere can be dances, plays, recitals.

    “And people have inquired a lot already about using it forweddings, receptions and family reunions,” the mayor continued. “Soit will be great to finally see the building in use again for thecommunity.”