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Natchez Historic Foundation honors preservation efforts in city

NATCHEZ — Preservation efforts — both big and small — were honored Thursday night at the Historic Natchez Foundation’s annual celebration of history, community and activism.

HNF Executive Director Mimi Miller handed out awards during the foundation’s annual meeting at its headquarters on Commerce Street.

Miller said the awards honor all of the people who have been instrumental in furthering the mission of the foundation.

Ricky and Wanda Smith were honored for their preservation of the historic house Ravennaside on South Union Street.

The George and Ethel Kelly Restoration Award — named after the the couple who restored the historic house Melrose — was presented to the Smiths by the Kellys’ granddaughter Julie Ferry Hale.

The Smiths recently bought and restored the landmark Colonial Revival house, once owned by Roane Fleming Byrnes who was instrumental in creating the Natchez Trace Parkway.

“We not only bought the house for us and for our family,” Wanda Smith said. “We bought it for all of our friends in Natchez.”

North Carolina author Karen Cox was honored for the publication of her book “Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race and the Gothic South.”

The book, Miller said, has the potential to once again shine the spotlight on Natchez. Cox is currently negotiating the movie rights for the book, she said.

“Just as much as (the Goat Castle Murder) was a publicity bonanza then, the book is being a publicity bonanza for us again,” Miller said.

California couple and part-time Natchez residents Dan and Jan Shiells were honored for their efforts to start a fund for the foundation’s Courthouse Records Project.

Miller said the Shiells’ contributions will help catalogue and organize records from the Adams County Courthouse — records Miller called a treasure trove of history and an economic generator for the area.

The foundation also honored F.O.R. Natchez with the Charlie Compton Preservation Award  for its continued efforts to revitalize downtown Natchez.

In 2017, the nonprofit commissioned a four-phase study aimed developing a master plan for downtown, using community input.

F.O.R. Natchez President Chesney Doyle accepted the award for the organization.

“If everyone who is involved came up to accept the award, I realized it would be the entire room,” Doyle said.

Those who were honored with special merit awards Thursday night include:

• Mike Blattner for the adaptive reuse of the former Harold and Miller warehouse on the corner of High and Canal streets

• Natchez Brewing Company owners Pat and Lisa Miller for their business in Blattner’s building

• Eddie Burkes for his efforts to establish and organize the Downtown Natchez Farmers Market

• Mac Hazlip for the renovation of his cottage on Briel Avenue

• Jeremy Houston for the establishment of Miss-Lou Heritage Tours

• Rebecca McGehee as HNF volunteer of the year.

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