City, casino hope to save smokestack

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Standing tall and not-so-sturdy above the Natchez skyline is a tower of brick — the only remaining clue to an integral piece of city history.

The 83-year-old smokestack marks the site of the old box factory which was also the first industry in Natchez to hire black workers at a living wage.

City officials condemned the smokestack in June when loose bricks began falling from the top of the structure. Metal barriers now surround the stack’s base to keep pedestrians safely away from falling bricks.

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Isle of Capri Casinos leases the property on which the stack stands from the Biglane family to serve as a parking lot for visitors to the floating casino.

Casino Manager Wendy Grandin said Isle of Capri is still looking at options for the smokestack’s fate, but because it is a historical piece, they hope to restore it.

&uot;It’s definitely something we want to do, because it’s so historical,&uot; Grandin said of a possible restoration.

The casino has hired experts to come and look at the smokestack to determine if it is salvageable, Grandin said. Projected cost of a restoration will also play into the casino’s decision to keep or demolish it.

In making the stack secure, several exact procedures still need to be considered, Grandin said.

City Engineer David Gardner said the stack itself is structurally sound and in no danger of falling on parked cars. Instead, the cement used to bind the brick together is deteriorating and losing its adhesiveness, causing an occasional brick to fall. Before any work can be done on the stack, the city engineering department and Natchez Preservation Commission must review and approve the plans.

Gardner said he hopes Isle of Capri will find a way to save the stack. Not only is it historical, the stack is a &uot;conversation piece&uot; for visitors to the city, he said. &uot;You look up at that stack and ask ‘what is that?’&uot; he said. &uot;It’s part of the overall charm of Natchez.&uot;