City OKs demolition for Fort Rosalie

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The National Park Service has cleared another hurdle in its quest to develop the Canal Street site that was once the location of historic Fort Rosalie.

On Tuesday, the Natchez Board of Aldermen voted to amend its memorandum of understanding with the Park Service to allow the federal agency to demolish nine properties it has acquired at the site.

Two more structures will be moved offsite; the other two, Fat Mama’s Tamales and a Park Service office, will be kept at the site. And that still leaves about 14 pieces of property the Park Service hasn’t acquired yet.

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This has been a long time coming, said those familiar with the project. A study on how the site could best be used was conducted several years ago.

Then, when the Park Service started buying property at the site in 1995, the city and the agency agreed that every effort would made to relocate the structures from that site for use as housing elsewhere, said City Attorney Walter Brown.

&uot;But that hasn’t gone swiftly, so the government is suggesting, and we’re concurring, that rather than relocating&uot; the property, the plan should be amended, Brown said.

The Historic Natchez Foundation has already signed off on the plan, and the amended agreement has also been sent to the state historic preservation officer for his approval, Whisenant said.

The agreement will then be sent to a federal advisory council for its OK. After that, the Park Service can put structures up for demolition, although Whisenant said no timetable has yet been finalized for the project.

The Park Service’s original plan called for the Canal Street site to be developed as a picnic area and green space with interpretive exhibits about Fort Rosalie.

However, since the plan was developed several years ago, the agency may hold new hearings to get input on what the public would like to see at the site, Whisenant said.

In addition, archeologists would be called in to check the site for artifacts of the area’s French and Spanish eras.

In other business, aldermen also voted to declare the Forks of the Road a local landmark.

The site at Liberty Road and St. Catherine Street, the location of a 19th-century slave market, already has a state historical marker.

Concerned citizens and local governments have also pushed for the National Park Service to erect an interpretive center on the property.

And earlier this summer, the City of Natchez received a check for $130,000 from the state Department of Archives and History to buy the site and place signs there.

The state actually awarded Natchez a $200,000 grant in February 2001 to buy the land, but negotiations tied the parcels up until two of them were sold to the city in January.

Meanwhile, the Board of Archives and History agreed to pay $92,000 to cover the cost of two parcels but, in January, upped that amount to $115,000.

That was enough to also partially reimburse the city for appraisals on the land and pay for signage the site, according to Brown.

However, the $130,000 is enough for the land, the signs and the full cost of the appraisals, city officials have said.

Also during Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, aldermen voted to declare the old Britton & Koontz First National Bank on Main Street surplus property. The building is now not being used.