Historic Natchez College: a new era dawning

Published 5:45 pm Sunday, January 22, 2023

Last week was exciting – great news continues to come for Natchez! And tops on that list was learning that historic Natchez College on North Union Street is about to have new life! For many years, this historic site has sat dormant – but a new era is now dawning!

Thanks to a Lilly Endowment grant of $750,000, the Greater Missionary Baptist Convention and Mississippi Department of Archives and History have now partnered to begin Phase One of the restoration of this important site of Natchez and Mississippi History.

The historic Huddleston Memorial Chapel will be the first building to be restored, to be followed by restoration of the women’s dormitory (Phase Two), and eventually restoration of the grounds to include installation of an amphitheater (Phase Three). When completed, Natchez College will become the Baptist Heritage and Art Center.

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The great announcement came with a visit by our US Congressman Bennie Thompson, along with Rev. Reginald Buckley, Baptist Convention President, MSDAH Executive Director Katie Blount, and so many others who were here to celebrate this great news! We are so grateful to all who have worked so diligently to make this a reality for Natchez!

I am especially proud of Alderwoman Valencia Hall who is working tirelessly to promote development in Ward One and in Natchez overall. Her continued commitment does not go unnoticed.

Natchez College was a vital center of education to African American citizens of Mississippi for over 100 years, from its founding in 1884 up until it’s closing in 1989. It has sat neglected in North Natchez for decades. We are so grateful new life is now coming.

As announced by Katie Blount, restoration of this site will be a key component of overall historic preservation efforts in our area, to include the restoration of Jefferson College, the first institution of higher learning in Mississippi, located in Northern Adams County at Washington. The first territorial capital of Mississippi, it is here where our statehood began. And work will soon begin to transform Jefferson College into a Museum of Mississippi History and a Historic Preservation Field School, sponsored by a partnership between Mississippi State and Tulane.

Great things continue to happen for Natchez! Because Natchez Deserves More.

Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.