Forks of the Road site ideas presented

Published 11:41 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2009

NATCHEZ — What one wants and what one can afford are often two different things.

And that was exactly what Grover Mouton told citizens Tuesday night at the first in a series of community workshops aimed at designing an interpretive museum for the Forks of the Road historical site.

“We are going to have limited funds,” Mouton said. “We are in a recession and almost in a depression.”

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Mouton, director of the Tulane Regional Urban Design Center in the School of Architecture presented preliminary ideas for the development of the historic site.

The presented ideas included models found in other areas of the world that might work at the Natchez site, but Mouton stressed that the images and designs were simply tools and not final plans.

“These ideas are meant to generate discussion with the community over the next few workshops,” Mouton said.

The ideas included modern modular buildings that could include educational classrooms and meeting facilities, chapel-like facilities, open air pavilions and a temporary building that resembled a large covered hallway.

Mouton said a temporary structure could be the best option during hard economic times when federal funding isn’t readily available.

A temporary structure would allow the site to be developed in a timely manner but would allow for change down the road when money becomes more available, Mouton said.

“Temporary buildings are spectacular because they don’t have to remain,” he said.

And, although the structure would be temporary, Mouton said much consideration is given to aesthetic appeal.

“They do these kinds of buildings all the time in Paris,” Mouton said.

But Mouton stressed that the purpose of his visit and the series of workshops that will follow is to get a feel for what the community wanted to see at the site.

“We are here to find a way to make this a reality for all of you,” Mouton said. “That is what we are really here for.”

Community members attending the meeting suggested possible developments at the site that included a statue depicting a black family being separated at the auction, a recreation of a slave market, the use of living history to tell the story of the slave trade in Natchez and the possible expansion of the site to include the surrounding land.

Ser Sesh Ab Heter-CM Boxley, coordinator of the Friends of the Forks of the Road society said the full development of the Forks of the Road is necessary to give a complete history of the site.

“We need to create an component of living history,” Boxley said. “This project needs to have additional land acquisition.”

Mouton said that while the community’s ideas were well received, it was important to remain practical while developing a plan for the site.

“There is an urgency to get something up,” he said. “The country is shifting because Obama is the president. These kinds of stories are beginning to be of great interest to folks.”

Despite the urgency to begin developing the site, Mouton’s goal is to make sure the community gets what it desires once the construction begins.

“We have to make sure you like it and want this,” Mouton said.

To do that, Mouton and his group will take the information gained from the meeting and develop plans that more accurately depict the desires of the community.

He also invited others who did not voice their opinion at the meeting or who were not able to attend the meeting to e-mail him their ideas at

“We will come back with two or three options and maybe get down to one or two at the next meeting,” Mouton said.

No date has been set for a second community workshop.