City seeking historical survey for downtown neighborhoods

By HASKEL BURNS,

Approximately 300 structures ranging in age from the late 19th century to the late 20th century in a historic Hattiesburg area will soon be surveyed to identify their roles in the city’s history, including civil rights, religious and civic significance.

Hattiesburg City Council members recently approved the submittal of a Certified Local Government Grant Application to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History that would cover half the cost of a survey of residences and businesses in the Arledge Subdivision and the Katie-John-Dabbs neighborhood. Russell Archer, historic preservation planner for the city, said the survey would entail on-the-ground field documentation of all the structures within that boundary, which is bordered by Katie Avenue to the north; Dudley W. Conner Street to the east; Duke Avenue, Steven Street and Ruby Avenue to the south, and Dabbs Street to the west.

“It’s going to be what they call an ‘intensive-level’ historic survey,” he said. “A consultant would go out and document all the structures, which would include a written description of the property, architectural notes, at least one photograph of the property, and they would include some history in the report.

“We saw the need identify what historic resources are in that area, being a historically African-American neighborhood. We know that they played an important role in Hattiesburg’s development, so this survey would kind of help us achieve a better understanding of what’s there and what the significance of those structures are. You can imagine everything, from an average residence to some of the churches in that area, that are really historically important.”

The total project cost of the survey would be $10,000, with the grant covering $5,000 and the city covering the other half of the cost. Although a consultant has not yet been chosen, the proposed timeline for the survey is from September 2019 to July 2020.

The survey is the first step in city officials getting a better idea of the stories, contributions and patterns of development of the area.

“From that point, we can either just leave it at that – and have an important historical document and resource to refer to – or we can use that as a basis for deciding if it makes sense for Hattiesburg to have additional historic districts designated,” Archer said. “Such as like we have The Oaks, Parkhaven and North Main districts, we may perhaps find some pockets of the (Arledge) area that would warrant having that historic designation. But that would be more of a Step Two.”

After the survey, each structure in the area will be featured in a Historic Resources Inventory Sheet. That document will bear property description, the aforementioned photograph, and legal information including the parcel number.

“So we’d be able to refer to that resource inventory sheet to find further information about any of those properties within that boundary area,” Archer said. “So it’s pretty valuable for us to have that, as a foundation for knowing what is there and what is the importance of those resources.”

Officials hope to hear from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History by May or June, at which point the city would issue Requests For Proposals for a private consultant for the survey.

“The state has qualifications for who can do the work, under their grant guidelines,” Archer said. “It would be someone who is familiar with how to document historic structures.”