Two JDC properties made most endangered list

Published 8:34 am Thursday, November 2, 2023

Two Jefferson Davis County structures, one in Bassfield and one in Prentiss, have been named to the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi. The Mississippi Heritage Trust announced the 14th list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi on Oct. 19 at Hal and Mal’s in Jackson.

“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,” said JDC Economic Development Director Gary Bass. “Greater still will be the number of visitors to Jeff Davis County now that the awareness has been created. Our challenge will be to capitalize on the inclusion in this list and find ways to monetize it.”

The Faler Mansion was built in 1910 by German immigrants John and Dora Faler in an unusual construction style featuring poured concrete blocks and steel beams. Originally featuring 60 stained glass windows and 10 fireplaces, the three-story house is almost identical from every elevation. Though in disrepair, the home remains the most impressive structure in Bassfield. Sitting empty and neglected for over 60 years, the sturdy construction methods have kept the house standing.

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Founded by Jonas and Bertha Johnson in 1907, the Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute served as an educational facility for African Americans until it closed in 1989. During its heyday, the school had more than 700 students, 24 buildings and 44 faculty members. The campus includes the beautifully restored Rosenwald School and is listed as a National Register District.  While a few buildings are still in use, much of the campus is neglected.

Also nominated for the list was the Ransom E. Olds dormitory located at the corner of J. E. Johnson and St. Stephens Road on the Prentiss Institute campus. It is relatively unaltered but is in deteriorated condition with significant water damage having occurred.

The dorm was named after the pioneer of the American automotive industry. The great-granddaughter of Olds, Diana Anderson Tarpoff, made a trip to see the dormitory recently. Tarpoff runs the R. E. Olds Foundation and resides in Lansing, Michigan. “We were fascinated about this when Gary called,” said Tarpoff.  “I think it is very interesting and I think it is wonderful that you are taking the initiative to see what can be done with it.”

Bass will work with the Mississippi Heritage Trust and the Delta Regional Authority as well as the Department of History and Archives along with Visit Mississippi on furthering the goal of saving the Faler Mansion and resurrecting and revitalizing the Prentiss Institute campus.

“I hope that others will get onboard the historic preservation train and help move Jeff Davis County forward in 2024.”

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