National Register status sought for Margaret Martin
NATCHEZ — Students once studied history there, and now the City of Natchez is moving to ensure Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center is enshrined in the annals of history.
Community Development Director James Johnston got permission from the Natchez Board of Aldermen this week for the Historic Natchez Foundation to nominate the Margaret Martin facility for National Register of Historic Places landmark status.
“We have so many historic properties here on the National Register, and that building has some tremendous historical significance,” Johnston said.
National Register status would qualify the building for federal grants for historic preservation, among other things.
Built in 1927 as Natchez High School, the Gothic Revival style building was designed by architect P.J. Krouse and is already designated as a Mississippi Landmark.
“This building probably represents one of the few times Natchez opted to do something for its black citizens first,” HNF Executive Director Mimi Miller said. “It and Brumfield (school) were in discussion, and the crowding at the (black) Union school was recognized and so Brumfield was built on St. Catherine Street first.”
When the school was built, the historic house Belvedere was moved from the property to its current adjoining location on Homochitto Street.
Classes started at the school in the fall of 1928, with the first class graduating in 1929. The final high school class graduated in 1963, and was converted to Margaret Martin Junior High School, named after a long-time teacher and principal. The Natchez-Adams School District closed MMJH in 1989.
The building currently houses the Natchez Festival of Music, Natchez Ballet Academy, the Natchez Gymnastic Association and was featured in a pivotal scene in Tate Taylor’s “Get on Up” after movie crews transformed the auditorium to resemble the famous Apollo Theatre.
The national register has three levels of significance, federal, state and local, Miller said.
“There is no doubt it will be approved because the integrity of the building is good and it has local significance,” she said.
Miller said getting the nod for state significance might hinge on how many buildings Rouse designed or how many gothic architecture high schools are in the state.