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Crumbling houses at Fort Rosalie site may come down soon

NATCHEZ — The derelict houses along the Natchez bluff could soon be coming down as the National Park Service starts gearing up for the start of work on its long-awaited Fort Rosalie project.

Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said the park service expects any day to have clearance to remove the final deteriorating housing from the fort site.

The site of the fort is 35 acres of the Natchez bluffs and riverfront, though the park service does not own all of it. The park service’s portion of the original fort site currently spans south to north from Green Street to D.A. Biglane Street and east to west from Canal Street to the edge of the bluff.

The Fort Rosalie park will ultimately have a lot of continuity with the existing walking trails along the bluff, Jenkins said.

The park service is also completing the historic structure reports for two buildings that will be preserved, the former Fat Mama’s Tamales location and the Stietenroth House, and the plans for how those buildings will be saved and used are under way, Jenkins said.

“I have a new chief of maintenance coming into the park who has experience working on log structures,” Jenkins said.

The Fat Mama’s cabin was originally built on the fort site 1939 as a tourist attraction.

When the Natchez Board of Aldermen meets today, Jenkins is on the agenda to address them. She said part of her goal in appearing before the board is to update and inform the aldermen on the various stages of the park service’s projects in the area, but part of what she wants to do is discuss a memorandum agreement the city signed with the park service which has certain stipulations about Fort Rosalie.

One of those stipulations specified that the Isle of Capri Casino would have a 20-year lease on the riverfront, a lease which would have expired in 2012, Jenkins said.

Another would be about the area known as Little Mexico, the land along the water’s edge from where the Isle of Capri boat is currently docked to the end of the Mississippi River bridge. Little Mexico was leased for the Isle of Capri, but was ultimately pledged to the park service, Jenkins said.

Likewise, the agreement specified the building of a second parking lot for the casino if gambling was determined to be a viable industry in Natchez, Jenkins said.

“I want to find out where we stand with that,” she said. “I just want to make sure that these things that were signed 20 years ago are not forgotten.”

Natchez is preparing to celebrate the tri-centennial of its founding in 2016, and that founding is tied directly to Fort Rosalie, Jenkins said.

“As we are celebrating the creation of the fort, I don’t want the fort to get lost,” she said.