Preserving the past, building a future: Entergy grant will help fund field school at historic Natchez site

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, September 28, 2023

By Kristyn Merritt

The Natchez Democrat

Under the shade of an ancient oak tree, a significant step was taken on Wednesday towards preserving Mississippi’s rich history.

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In a press conference held at Historic Jefferson College in Washington, Mississippi, Entergy Mississippi announced a $250,000 grant to the Foundation for Mississippi History to aid the restoration and transformation of Raymond Hall into a student dormitory for the forthcoming historic preservation field school, which will be operated by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).

For years, the closure of Jefferson College had left citizens and history enthusiasts wondering about the future of this treasured site. However, the press conference marked a significant step towards the development of MDAH’s Natchez Center for American History, which not only will serve as an interpretive center but also as a field school.

Haley Fisackerly, president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi, expressed his enthusiasm for being part of this transformative initiative. “Natchez is an incredibly special place, and to understand the state’s history, you must visit here at Jefferson College,” he said, adding emphasis on the importance of preserving this historic treasure for future generations and cultivating a workforce skilled in the preservation of Mississippi’s renowned architecture.

“This effort will provide a diverse workforce for not only Natchez but also for Mississippi,” Fisackerly said.

Entergy Mississippi’s involvement in this project also coincides with its 100th anniversary. “Imagine life when we first entered the industry and what others thought about this new market. We have been a part of almost half of Mississippi’s life,” Fisackerly said.

Carter Burns, speaking on behalf of the Historic Natchez Foundation, highlighted the foundation’s longstanding relationship with Historic Jefferson College and support of efforts to develop a field school. “It has been a long-term goal of our institution to see trades such as this become a part of our local area, because the trade is dying out, and we need a new generation to fill those shoes,” Burns said. He also acknowledged the unparalleled historical integrity encompassed by sites like Jefferson College.

The press conference, attended by several community members as well as Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson and MDAH Director Katie Blount.