Two JDC historic places nominated for top 10 list

Published 11:05 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Two Jefferson Davis County structures one in Bassfield and on in Prentiss, have been nominated for the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi.

The Faler Mansion in Bassfield was built around 1910 of solid concrete blocks that were poured on-site, and was designed to look exactly the same from all four sides. The original owners John Adam and Dora Strahan Faler, immigrants from Germany, were reportedly “fearful of a fire,” as noted in a 1979 Jackson Clarion-Ledger article, so he used as little wood in the construction as possible.

The structure itself took several years to build and at one time a particularly striking feature was the stained glass windows that adorned nearly all of the 60 windows.  In more recent years the abandoned structure has made a perfect place for Halloween activities and became the fun “haunted house” for the community with scary for fun antics performed by locals. However, its crumbling façade has made it unsafe, and it remains as a visible reminder of its past grandeur and the happy family that lived there. 

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Also nominated, Ransom E. Olds Hall is a rectangular three-story brick veneer former dormitory building on the Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute campus. It was built in 1969 after a new building program was launched on campus and named after the pioneer of the American automotive industry. Interestingly, Olds designed a 1915 truck which he named the R.E.O. Speed Wagon because it had the capability of going fast while carrying a heavy load. Decades later, a keyboardist studying the History of Transportation saw the name on a chalkboard in his classroom and the famous rock band was born.

The Ransom E. Olds dormitory is located at the corner of J. E. Johnson and St. Stephens Road. It is relatively unaltered but is in deteriorated condition with significant water damage having occurred.

“I nominated the Faler Mansion and the Ransom E. Olds Dorm because they are both historic buildings in our county,” said JDC Econimic Development Director Gary Bass. “The Faler Mansion was built and owned by a prominent cotton gin owner and was an architectural anomaly being identical on all four sides.  The dorm was built with the financial backing of a famous automobile inventor and sits on a historical site, the Prentiss Institute.” 

Due to its history, particularly its connection to Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee, Bass also nominated the PNII campus as a whole.

“Both sites are endangered because they continue to deteriorate and losing them to time like so many other buildings in our county would be a travesty.” 

The Mississippi Heritage Trust will announce the 14th list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi on Oct. 19 at Hal and Mal’s in Jackson.

Since the Mississippi Heritage Trust published the first list of the 10 Most Endangered in 1999, there have been some tremendous victories.

“The Mississippi Heritage Trust’s Top 10 List is the first step in gaining notoriety for the properties in an effort to secure historic preservation grants and other funding opportunities both sites desperately need.”