Confusion surrounds sale of historic church windows

Published 12:59 am Saturday, October 27, 2007

NATCHEZ — The green and blue stained glass windows from the former Natchez First Baptist Church are neatly tucked away in the back of Addie’s Antique shop.

And those very windows are causing quite a controversy.

Jim Thompson, the building’s construction manager and brother of its owner Judith Weatherly, said he had permission from the Natchez Board of Alderman to remove the windows.

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Alderman Jake Middleton said the board did give permission, but may have not been correctly informed of Thompson intentions.

Middleton said Thompson told the board he wanted to remove the windows to keep them safe during the renovation process.

Middleton said he was under the impression Thompson intended to keep the windows safe until renovations were complete so they could be reused.

Thompson said he never intended to reuse the windows but did not originally intend to resell them.

“People constantly asked to buy these windows,” he said.

Approximately 180 widows are for sale, they start at $400.

And while Thompson was given permission to remove the windows, by the aldermen, some say it is not within the power of the board to grant such a request.

Mimi Miller director of the Historic Natchez Foundation is one of them.

Miller said Thompson visited her one day in August and told her he planned to remove the windows.

Miller said she explicitly told Thompson not to remove the windows.

Thompson said he had no recollection of any such conversation.

On Aug. 30, Miller said she started receiving phone calls saying that the windows were being removed.

Miller then called City Building Inspector Paul Dawes and he ultimately stopped the project.

Work on the building temporarily stopped.

And that’s when Weatherly and Thompson were ultimately given permission by the aldermen to remove the windows.

Dawes he does not believe the alderman had the authority to grant a request to remove the windows.

Dawes and Miller both said that changing a building’s faade by removing stained glass windows would need to be approved by the Historic Natchez Foundation and other city groups.

“They are selling our history,” Miller said.

Miller is also concerned that the building is being unduly exposed to the elements since it has no windows.

And exposure to the elements will soon be increased because Thompson said they plan to sell the roof as well.

“We have to make a profit,” he said.

But profit margins may soon be the least of his company’s, Dream Homes, problems.

Thompson said when he applied for a clean-up permit he was told he did not need one and is still working with no permits.

Dawes said that Thompson did not need a cleaning permit but work like window removal requires a permit.

“No one has ever come here and said they don’t like the work we’re doing,” Thompson said.