Margaret Martin needs return to form

Published 12:05am Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Volunteers with the Natchez Festival of Music find themselves in a tough spot. They want to have their cake — or at the least the decorations — and eat it, too.

Festival organizers effectively want to change the word “temporary” to the word “permanent” on an addition recently created at the festival’s headquarters, city-owned Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center.

Wonderfully talented set designers reworked the center’s stage to mimic the 1960s Apollo Theater to serve as a set for “Get On Up,” a film about James Brown.

But because the former Margaret Martin High School building was named a Mississippi Landmark in 1993 by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, locals gave up the rights to fully control the building’s future.

Once a structure earns the Mississippi Landmark status, members of an MDAH committee must pre-approve any exterior or interior changes to the building.

That requirement is exactly for situations like the case in hand. While the Hollywood improvements make the former school’s stage prettier and more ornate, the changes are not true to the building’s own history.

The point of preserving a building’s history isn’t merely so the building is protected until such time as it can be embellished to be a more grand, more primped up version of itself.

The goal of preserving Mississippi’s landmarks is quite the opposite — protecting the property’s historic character.

We appreciate the determined effort on the part of the volunteer Festival of Music board members to improve the building’s look, but in this case, the Hollywood-applied hair and makeup needs to be removed now that the building’s 15 minutes of fame are behind it.