Work to add St. Catherine Street to Natchez Trails continues
Published 12:01 am Tuesday, November 18, 2014
NATCHEZ — Even as the Natchez Trails project advertises for bids to expand down St. Catherine Street, those associated with the project are learning more history that will be included on the signs that will mark the trail.
The trail will eventually have 32 panels depicting the history of St. Catherine Street.
Twenty-seven of those panels are on display at the Historic Natchez Foundation, and HNF Executive Director Mimi Miller said any time someone comes in to look at the panels, she learns something new about the street.
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“We have come across other information since we set up the displays, and we have done some panels other than those on display,” Miller said.
“It continues to be an ongoing project, and as information has come up, we have tried to incorporate it.”
One of the things discovered since the panels were put up was about the destruction of the Forks of the Road by black Union soldiers.
“They were given the order to demolish it, take materials from it and build barracks,” Miller said. “They dismantled it, working all night when they were given the order.”
Miller said those working on the project have also worked to document the history of the street in the last century, and Natchez resident Duncan Morgan has been particularly helpful in helping interpret and identify things.
St. Catherine was the most ethnically diverse street in the history of Natchez, Miller said.
“You had French, Polish, German, English, Irish, Italian families, one family from Denmark and a huge African-American population,” she said.
“Of all the streets in Natchez, no street expresses as well the whole African American story from slavery to freedom, where on one end you have the Forks of the Road slave market and on the other end you have Hiram Revels’ church.”
Revels was the pastor of Zion Rest African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the first black man to serve in the U.S. Senate.
David Gardner with the Community Alliance said the city will receive bids Dec. 9.
If the project is awarded then and the Mississippi Department of Transportation — which is providing funding for the project — approves, work to add St. Catherine Street to the Trails can begin in late winter or early spring.
The work will include repairing the existing sidewalks and curbs and installing the historic panels, Gardner said.
It will also include installing a new traffic signal at the intersection of St. Catherine Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Street.
“It will be one of those nice, black poles that you see in other areas of town, with a mast arm extending over the roadway and no wires,” he said. “It will have the area where pedestrians can push the button to get the green light to cross the street as part of the Trails project.”
Gardner said the alliance hopes to one day add another phase connecting the six miles of trails that will include downtown Natchez, the bluff area and St. Catherine Street to the Natchez Trace by way of Liberty Road.
“Then we could boast that we are the longest trail in America, because the Trace is 444 miles,” he said.