Help set for Historic Natchez Foundation, Auburn

Published 12:05am Saturday, December 14, 2013

NATCHEZ — Whether saving Adams County’s history from fire or moisture, two local historic properties have been awarded preservation grants from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

The grants — to the Historic Natchez Foundation and Auburn Museum and Historic Home — were two of 26 grants totaling $2,980,194 awarded for preservation and restoration projects across Mississippi.

HNF will receive $134,000 to go toward the installation of a fire suppression system in the foundation’s offices at the former Natchez Institute building.

HNF Director Mimi Miller said while the funds aren’t enough to fund the entire fire suppression apparatus, they can go toward installing a sprinkler system in the Institute’s basement.

“We have the responsibility of the protection of not only the Adams County courthouse records, but our own archives — including photos — in the building,” Miller said.

“The archival things are in the basement, so you can’t just fire suppress the whole building. Our primary concern is protecting the Adams County courthouse records and our archives more so than the building, because if we have a fire, we would lose the public history of Adams County.”

Auburn will receive $157,688 to restore the kitchen building, which stands separate from the main house on the museum property in Duncan Park.

The city-owned property is operated on a long-term lease by Auburn Antebellum Home, formerly the Auburn Garden Club, which was restructured several years ago to be a historic preservation group.

Auburn President Clark Feiser said the group had asked for more funding — including money that could have been used for interior renovations and air conditioning of the kitchen building — but the money could be used to accomplish some of the most immediate repairs needed to the kitchen building, including termite and moisture control.

The grant comes with a required 20-percent match, bringing the total money associated with the grant that will be spent on the restoration to approximately $189,000, Feiser said.

“With the $189,000 I really think we can get quite a bit of it done, the outside and the first floor, maybe not the second floor quite like we would like to,” Feiser said. “We will apply for the remainder of the funds to archives and history next year.”

The majority of the 20 percent match will come from the City of Natchez, and approximately $7,500 will come from Auburn Antebellum home, Feiser said.

Auburn was built in 1812, the kitchen building — with servants’ quarters upstairs — was constructed sometime in the early 1830s. In the last year, the Auburn group has announced its intentions to incorporate the kitchen building more fully into the historic home tour, including the story of George Davis, a black servant who managed the home for many years.