Historic Natchez Foundation welcomes preservationist

Published 12:08 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SUBMITTED PHOTO — Trevor Brown has been hired as deputy director of the Historic Natchez Foundation. Above, Brown gives a tour Hancock County Courthouse in Bay St. Louis. The courthouse was one of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Gulf Coast office restoration projects after Hurricane Katrina.

NATCHEZ — A new face in town will soon become a best friend and advocate to the old homes of Natchez.

The Historic Natchez Foundation will introduce its new deputy director, Trevor Brown, at Thursday’s annual meeting of the group.

Members will have a chance to meet the 32-year-old Baton Rouge native, who will start his job in Natchez in March, at the cocktail reception and meeting at Elms Court.

Brown has been working at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Gulf Coast office since 2006, and under former HNF foundation executive director Ron Miller in that office since 2008, preserving buildings that were damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Because of the unusual nature of Katrina and the unusual nature of Trevor’s job, he has been involved in restoration of more buildings in four and half years than most (preservationists) have in a lifetime,” HNF Executive Director Mimi Miller said.

Brown earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Southern Mississippi University and his master’s in historic preservation at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2006.

Brown said he has overseen up to 15-20 different projects at once at his job preserving buildings in Hancock County, in Biloxi.

A favorite project of his was the restoration of the Little Theater in Bay St. Louis. The building that formerly housed the little theater was destroyed in the storm, so his department restored a condemned building and relocated the theater there.

“We stepped up to take on a project that a lot of people over the years overlooked,” Brown said.

His department moved the little theater into the newly restored Scafide building, a Queen Ann-style house built by the former mayor of Bay St. Louis, John Scafide, in 1916.

The building was also the focus of the 1966 film “This Property is Condemned,” staring Robert Redford and Natalie Wood.

“The irony (of the film title) was not lost on anyone involved in the project,” Brown said.

The building sat vacant nearly from the time they filmed the movie there up to the rehabilitation, Brown said.

“(The building was) a day or two away from being demolished,” Brown said. “And now it’s one of the landmark buildings.”

For Brown, the field of historic preservation combines a number of his passions.

As a history major at the University of Southern Mississippi, Brown worked part time in construction and enjoyed it, he said.

“I was lucky enough to discover historic preservation. (The field) co-mingles all my interests with history, building and science, and then I discovered the program (at SCAD),” Brown said.

Mimi said as deputy director, Brown would do a little bit of everything at the small nonprofit.

She said Brown would probably be inclined have the most involvement with preservation aspects of the job, but he’s interested in the diversity of his new daily duties.

Miller said she would stay on as executive director at the foundation. But with someone else in a leadership position at the foundation, Miller said she looks forward to catching up on a backlog of labeling and organizing the database of Natchez history.

“I know everything in (the collections), but I need to make sure they’re all identified so they can go into the computer,” she said.

Miller said she thinks Brown and his wife, Makalah, will be a great fit for Natchez.

“He has a great sense of humor; he’s funny,” Miler said.

“Natchez wouldn’t do well with someone straight laced. And in a job that can be controversial, you need a sense of humor.”

Brown said in the whirlwind tours of Natchez he was given by Ron Miller, he’s seen enough to get him excited about the move and the job.

“Natchez is important not only on a state level but a national level when it comes to historical architecture,” Brown said.

“I’m really exited to get up there.”