Owners of Ritz Theater granted OK to begin stabilizing south wall of building

Published 3:38 pm Friday, June 16, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The owners of the Ritz Theater in Natchez got the go-ahead from the city’s preservation commission to begin work to stabilize the south wall of the building.

Frankie Legaux, the city’s planning director, told preservation commission members that the south wall of the building at 127 N. Commerce St. needs to be reconstructed because its condition makes it a hazard to public safety. “The city’s building official and fire marshal have determined it is unsafe and needs to be made safe,” she said. Strong winds or storms could cause further damage or collapse, Legaux said.

Bricks and other material from the wall have begun to fall into the breezeway between the Ritz and the building to the south of it, known as the blue building.

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The Ritz Theater was constructed in 1935 and contributes to the historic nature of the area, Legaux said.

“It will be determined as the work progresses whether the wall will be partially or completed reconstruction,” Legaux said. “What will exactly need to happen, they are not quite sure. That depends on what they find when they begin the work.”

R.L. Blanton Construction is working on the project and a representative was present at the meeting with building co-owner Mamie Henry. Steve Campo, a member of the preservation commission, is also a co-owner of the building and recused himself from voting on the issue.

“The front of the Ritz is what needs to be preserved,” Henry said. “This wall is not only dangerous, it is dangerous to the façade of the Ritz. Every time the wind blows, it pulls on the front façade of the Ritz, which is truly the only thing we need to save on the building.”

She said the wall does not touch upon any other structures, other than the front façade and at the back, touches upon what used to be a restaurant.

The commission approved plans for the work to go forward.

In other action at its Wednesday meeting, the commission:

• approved a request by Wes and Tammy Pack, owners of Holly Hedges, 214 Washington St., to add steel handrails to the front steps.

• approved a request from Conner Burns at 209 Franklin St. to construct a 387 square foot accessory building.

• approved requests from Adam Vegas of Horizons Land and Development to remove bars on the first floor windows, to replace a second floor door with a window and remove a door awning, staircase and exterior lights from the south side of 307 S. Wall St.

• set specifications for Edan Autry for work at 21 Ridge Alley. Autry requested to install new siding, vinyl windows, a rear stoop at the back door of the home and a fence, as well as enclose a crawl space with lattice. The preservation commission is requiring her to replace two metal doors with wood doors, work which was done without preservation commission approval.

• approved a request from Cindy Booker to reframe and reroof the rear portion of 219 Clifton Ave. and construct a new rear porch and entry door, as well as a request to re-side and re-trim the northern most rear existing wing to match the existing south wing.

• approved a request from Maggie Brown, 701 N. Rankin, to remove rotten stairs and carport roof at the rear of the house and replace with two new stairways and a deck.

• approved a request from the Preservation Society of Ellicott Hill to demolish the existing arbor and replace with lattice fence and a wall at Magnolia Hall, 215 S. Pearl St.

• approved a request from Patricia Junkin to install an architectural shingle roof at 701 N. Pearl St.

• approved a request from Barbara Hanley, 313 S. Pearl St., to place Aeratis shutters on original windows where there is evidence of shutter hinges.

• approved a request from the owners of Twin Oaks, 71 Homochitto St., to add new aluminum five-foot fending along the perimeter of the property with electric gates and driveways.

• approved a request from Anna Marie and Johnny Gooden at 10 Oak Court to demo a garage and install a smaller building at the rear of the property.

The preservation commission will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, July 12, at 5:15 p.m. at the Council Chambers, 115 S. Pearl St.