Historic Natchez Foundation wins top honor

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 6, 2010

NATCHEZ — The Historic Natchez Foundation recently received a big pat on the back for more than 30 years of hard work.

The foundation received the Organizational Achievement award from the Mississippi Heritage Trust during the group’s spring meeting in May.

David Preziosi, executive director of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, said it was the plethora of projects the foundation has undertaken since its inception that set it apart from other preservation organizations.

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Both professionally staffed and volunteer organizations are eligible for the award.

“All of the work since the foundation was started really made it standout,” Preziosi said.

Preziosi said programs such as the 1979 Storefront Grant Program to provide funds to restore storefronts downtown and the establishment of National Register of Historic Places historic districts soon after are examples of how the foundation has been active since its beginning.

The foundation was first organized in 1974 by a group of volunteers and opened its first office in 1979.

Mimi Miller, director of the Historic Natchez Foundation, said the award is a testament to the work of the board and volunteers.

“A lot of different people have contributed for many years, and it is because of them that the foundation received this award,” Miller said.

The Historic Natchez Foundation was also recognized for its preservation of properties, assistance to owners of historic homes and its publications and lectures about the history of Natchez.

Two of the people most responsible for making the Historic Natchez Foundation worthy of a state-wide achievement awards were also recognized during the awards ceremony.

Ron and Mimi Miller were given the Al and Libby Hollingsworth Lifetime Achievement Award for service for historic preservation in Mississippi.

“We don’t always give that award out,” Preziosi said. “It is the highest honor we have to recognize individuals for doing outstanding work. Ron and Mimi have certainly done that with their entire careers dedicated to preservation.”

Ron Miller was the Historic Natchez Foundation’s first director and was followed in that role by his wife in 2008.

“We knew the organization was getting the organizational achievement award, but the lifetime achievement award was very much a surprise,” Miller said. “We had no idea.”

Miller said Preziosi kept the surprise hidden even while using the foundation’s computer to do research for the lifetime achievement award presentation.

“He had spent time at my computer, and I had no idea what he was doing,” she said. “I thought he was looking for things for the organization award, but he was really pulling things for the lifetime achievement award.

“David did a great job of telling the audience about us with great humor.”

Preziosi said the Millers work needed to be recognized.

“They have become leaders in preservation not only in Natchez but across the state and the country,” he said. “It was important that those achievements be recognized.”

Ron Miller was also the recipient of an award for Outstanding Service for his work in the Gulf Coast Field Office of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Laurietta Plantation in Fayette won the Heritage Award of Excellence for Restoration and Rehabilitation, the highest level award for restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures in the state.

Originally constructed in 1870, Mac and Tere Thomas purchased the 600-acre plantation and decided to restore the deteriorated home.

Using old photographs, field observations and records of original details, architectural detail of the main house the original paint colors, patterns and faux finishes were replicated.

The restoration project took three years to complete.