Church Hill community named to National Register

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2001

CHURCH HILL – An area of the Church Hill community has been designated a Rural Historic District, the first such district in Mississippi to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Church Hill was the ideal area to launch the state into new National Register territory, said Mimi Miller, preservation director of the Historic Natchez Foundation and author of the nomination.

&uot;There were many other important rural areas around Natchez, such as Pine Ridge, Kingston, Second Creek and Cannonsburg; but the only one that was intact was Church Hill. It had both the historic church and the store,&uot; Miller said.

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Moreover, the residents of Church Hill were enthusiastic about the National Register status and ready to work to help preserve the community.

&uot;Church Hill has almost no home trailers visible from the road and very little chainlink fencing; and the cluster of historic houses includes outstanding examples of Federal, Greek Revival and Gothic Revival architecture,&uot; she said.

&uot;Boundaries were drawn to include only land purchases that were historically associated with extant historic buildings and linked by modern ownership.&uot;

Historic houses in the district include Wyolah, the most complete plantation complex in the Natchez area. Other plantations are Oak Grove, Lagonia, The Cedars, Rokeby and Donaho.

Central to the district are Wagner’s Store and, across the road, Christ Episcopal Church.

Wagner’s Store will be the focus of initial preservation efforts, Miller said. And to formalize the action, a Church Hill Preservation Trust has been established as a special program area of the Historic Natchez Foundation.

&uot;Affiliation with the Foundation allows the Church Hill Preservation Trust to solicit tax-deductible donations and take advantage of the organizational stability of the Foundation,&uot; Miller said. &uot;We realize people may ask what we’re doing in Jefferson County,&uot; Miller said. &uot;But we’ve always felt our concern should be the Old Natchez District, and that included Church Hill. Besides, Jefferson County does not have a preservation organization.&uot;

Church Hill residents have raised nearly $24,000 to begin restoration work on Wagner’s Store, which was showing signs of advanced age, Miller said.

Dating to about 1870, the simple frame building remained in operation for more than 100 years as a store, post office and voting precinct. The Wagner family purchased the house in 1928. Adolph Wagner Jr. and his wife, Lou, closed the store in 1996. Earlier this year the Wagners donated the store to the Church Hill Preservation Trust, and work began to stabilize the building.

&uot;I’m glad to see the store restored,&uot; Adolph Wagner said. &uot;I grew up in that store and was postmaster from 1963 to 1993.&uot;

Residents plan more fund-raising activities, including a barn dance at Anna Seed House on Friday. Complete restoration of the store may take about $125,000, Miller said. The trust also will turn attention to the church, Christ Episcopal Church, a fine Gothic Revival-style church built by the parishioners in 1857. Once the store has been restored, exhibits about the Church Hill area will be installed and the building will be open to the public. Donations may be made to the Historic Natchez Foundation with designation to the Church Hill program.

&uot;People may even signify where they want their money to go – to the church, the cemetery or the store,&uot; Miller said.