Park service to partner with city for grants

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; When most people think of Natchez National Historical Park, they think of the antebellum house Melrose, or the William Johnson House, or Fort Rosalie, or the Forks of the Road.

But according to the legislation that created it, the park also takes in historic landmarks and historic districts throughout the City of Natchez.

As such, the park’s officials can apply for a variety of grants to help fund preservation and cultural and natural resource projects throughout its jurisdiction.

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And partnering with local governments, organizations and residents to make such projects happen is what the park’s new superintendent, Keith Whisenant, hopes to do. For example, the park, along with the Historic Natchez Foundation, is applying for a $125,000 Save America’s Treasures grant to fix structural damage at the antebellum house Auburn and restore the old billiards hall.

&uot;I was elated when I heard&uot; about the grant, said Colleen Small, president of the Auburn Garden Club. &uot;It (the damage) has become a major issue with us. And with our funding, all the club has been able to do is Band-Aid (fixes).&uot;

Cracking bricks, rotting cypress floors and structural damage to the staircase’s banister are among points that need fixing in the aging house, Small said. But that’s just one example of funding the park hopes to secure for local projects, Whisenant said. The park plans to apply in October for up to $25,000 for each of three projects. The first would be additional research on the history of the park’s sites, such as the Forks of the Road or the antebellum house Rosalie. &uot;There are still records in Spain or France that, as far as I know, haven’t even been touched yet,&uot; Whisenant said.

The second would be the completion of renovations at the old Main Street post office, now home to the museum of the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture.

&uot;The third project could be hosting workshops, Š maybe on how to restore cultural resources in (historic) homes,&uot; Whisenant said. &uot;We may ask interested parties to submit their proposals in June of what they’d like (the workshops) to be.&uot;

The park is also reaching out in other ways, such as hosting free walking tours of downtown Natchez starting Memorial Day weekend.

The tours, which will begin at the corner of Canal and Washington streets, will start at 10 a.m. May 24-26 and will also be held starting 10 a.m. Saturdays through Labor Day.