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Owners of Prentiss Club grateful for city’s support

Shreveport residents Fred and Melinda Kent purchased the Prentiss Club building in June with plans to turn the historic building into a museum and a venue for hosting weddings and other public events.

Sunday afternoon Fred Kent said he and Melinda were devastated after learning a fire had significantly damaged the building Sunday morning.

The couple had just completed renovations to the building, he said, and hoped to open the building next week.

“We had just finished the basement,” Fred said, adding the couple were traveling over the weekend and had a shipment of artwork en route to be placed in the museum.

He said a bed from the 1800s had recently been placed in the master bedroom they had planned to use as a bridal suite.

“We’re sad,” Fred Kent said. “We were doing this for the people of Natchez for the tourism and were hoping to draw people from a 250-mile radius.”

Monday afternoon, Fred said they were waiting to find out the cause of the fire and were still en route to Natchez to assess the damage and consider the future.

The couple, Fred said, has hired an engineer who is expected to be in Natchez this week to assess the damage and advise on possible preservation of the building.

Fred said he and Melinda are grateful for the support from Natchez residents.

“We are very touched by the outpouring of love and concern by the citizens in Natchez,” Fred said. “It’s been overwhelming.”

Fred said the couple had recently created a website at prentissclub.com to highlight the venue.

“The Prentiss Club was chartered in 1903 as a private men’s club and named after Seargent S. Prentiss, a Natchez lawyer whose portraits adorn the façade,” the website states. “The Prentiss Club’s construction dates to 1905 with Natchez contractors Stietenroth and Dowda entrusted to carry out New Orleans architects Soule and MacDonald’s design.

“It is an elegant Italian Renaissance palazzo of tan brick, consisting of two stories over a basement, with a hipped tile roof. According to the National Register nomination form, the Renaissance Revival Prentiss Club ‘is one of the finest examples of the style in the state and certainly the best example in Natchez.’

“The building includes the main floor with a double parlor, dining room, and kitchen. The top floor is a large ballroom that will seat up to 100 for dinner. The basement is a bar and cocktail area.”

The Kents also shared pictures of the interior after the recent renovations that can be viewed online at natchezdemocrat.com.

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