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FOR Natchez group applies for state grant, seeks donations

NATCHEZ — The triangle filling station is looking for a little help from its friends.

The Friends of the Riverfront (FOR) Natchez campaign has applied for an $8,600 grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to preserve the threatened structure at the intersection of St. Catherine and Martin Luther King Jr. streets.

Nearby Zion Chapel AME Church owns the building, which lies at the edge of the historic downtown district.

FOR Natchez President Chesney Doyle said the building’s flat roof and surrounding parapet details are severely water damaged, and previous attempts to save the structure have further complicated renovation.

“The parapet at one point in time started to separate from the roof or leak somehow, and it was skimmed over with a thin layer of cement,” Doyle said. “Now there’s cement that has all broken up and disintegrated.”

The MDAH grant would fund about half of the $17,000 needed to stabilize and preserve the structure of the historic building.

If FOR Natchez receives the grant, the other half of the funds would likely come from private donations.

“If you break that down into gifts of $1,000 or $500 about a project you’re passionate about, you can raise the money,” Doyle said. “People will support a project they’re passionate about, and we as a community are passionate about getting this story told.”

The organization is committed to a master urban plan for economic revitalization in Natchez. Its plan is based on two anchor areas — the bluff and the historic black business district.

“As we were working toward our goal of funding the downtown plan, we began to realize that these precious tangible assets in our black history district were imminently threatened,” Doyle said. “So we started a sub-project to evaluate the condition of the buildings and try to encourage action toward the preservation of the buildings.”

The sub-project’s first focus on the triangle filling station, which FOR Natchez, in partnership with the National Park Service, would make into a black history museum.

“It would be a triangle black history station,” Doyle said.

The building would become an open-air pavilion and museum-quality exhibition on the building itself, reconstruction-era history and civil rights history of the neighborhood, Doyle said.

The former filling station is now occupied by a barbershop, which Doyle said would be welcome to stay right where it is.

“Since our group, FOR Natchez is all about economic revitalization of downtown, it would really be the antithesis of what we’re trying to do to try and not have the barber shop,” Doyle said.

Barbershops are traditional places in historic black business districts to come together as a community to talk and exchange information, Doyle said.

“It works beautifully for the barber shop to remain in place and continue doing what it does: giving haircuts and sharing the news of the day with locals and maybe a few thousand other tourists that one day might come our way,” Doyle said.