City receives state grant for courthouse

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 8, 2001

NATCHEZ – The Mississippi Department of Archives and History on Friday approved a $400,000 historic preservation grant for renovation of Memorial Hall for use as a federal courthouse.

&uot;This puts more of the funding in place so we can proceed with this (project),&uot; said Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith. &uot;The next step is to issue urban renewal bonds.&uot;

That leaves $1.5 million to be funded by the city and Adams County, which agreed in November to split the local cost of the project 50-50 with the issuance of urban renewal bonds.

Email newsletter signup

With regards to the $400,000 grant approved Friday, &uot;it’s not as much as we wanted, but it’s $400,000 we don’t have to come up with locally,&uot; said Sammy Cauthen, president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

Originally, the Historic Natchez Foundation – which applied for the grant on behalf of the city – asked the Department of Archives and History for $500,000.

But the $400,000 is still impressive, considering that more than 60 applications were submitted from around the state and, only $6 million was available, said Historic Natchez Foundation Executive Director Mimi Miller.

&uot;It speaks well for this project&uot; that the application was approved, Miller said.

Other funding for the $4.7 million project includes $1.8 million from the General Services Administration and $1 million from the U.S. Marshals Service.

In a November meeting with city officials in Birmingham, Ala., federal officials expressed their intention to have the building renovated and in operation by October 2003.

The structural integrity of the building – which has been used at different times in the past as an opera hall, a public library and a skating rink – is good, Miller has said.

However, work is needed on the building’s mechanical system and floors, and some windows and doors must be replaced.

Local officials have been trying to lure a federal courthouse to Natchez since 1999, when they successfully lobbied Congress to pass a bill allowing Judge David Bramlette to request federal funding.