Thursday, March 08, 2007

What is the World is the Antiquities Law? And Why Should You Care About It?

The Antiquities Law is not a law dealing with old people - or even old furniture. It's a law protecting historic properties in Mississippi. You should care about it, because it's helped to make Natchez what it is today - a historic mecca attracting attention from across the country. You should also care about it, because it can protect the treasure that is Natchez from ignorance and greed.

Protected historic properties are called Mississippi Landmarks. They can be sites, objects, or buildings and must be of historical, archaeological, or architectural significance. They are generally publically owned - that is owned by the state, a county, or a city.

How does a property get to be a Mississippi Landmark? That determination is made by the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, after ample opportunity for public comment.

The law clearly states that once a property has been designated as a Mississippi Landmark, it
"may not be taken, altered, damaged, destroyed, salvaged, restored, renovated or excavated without a permit from the board or in violation of the terms of such permit".

The law also clearly states the penalties for violation of this law:
"Any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500.00) and not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000.00), or by confinement in jail for not more than thirty (30) days, or by both such fine and confinement. Each day of continued violation of any provision of this chapter shall constitute a distinct and separate offense for which the offender may be punished."

The Mississippi Landmark designation is the highest form of recognition bestowed on properties by the state of Mississippi - and it backs up its committment to preservation with some real money. The state has established a grant program especially for these landmark properties. Approximately half a million dollars in grant funds are available annually through the Mississippi Department of Archives.

I've prepared a list of Mississippi Landmarks in Adams County, if you're interested.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for providing this information. People are now aware of the binding agreement in 1985 by the City of Natchez to abide by the Mississippi Antiquities Law, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior protection of historic properties. The Mississippi Attorney General had told Mayor West in the fall of 2005 that he was NOT to demolish the pecan factory building, which the City had owned since 1993. The City leased the building for storage, but gave the lessee 24 hours to vacate it in 2005. From then on, the City has had absolutely NO security for the property--no sign saying "No Trespassing," no fence, no boarded up openings, not even barrels with yellow caution ribbons. Instead, the building was allowed to be gutted and trashed out. There is no way that skateboarders could go through the horrible debris of conduit pipes, boards, broken windows with the stones and bricks that broke them, destruction of the ducts for heating and cooling, etc. People need to write to the Mississippi Attorney General and insist that the law be applied to the Mayor. The Pecan Factory was destroyed viciously and with great violence. The building really was important to the Jewish history of Natchez. After the Civil War, the Jewish merchants provided an economy for Natchez, which allowed people to survive. During WWII, the local Jewish people rescued a number of families from Germany and not only brought them here to live, but gave them jobs and helped them become a valuable part of the community. The Jewish people of Natchez deserve the greatest respect from our community.

DietLysol said...

"Natchez, where the future is yesterday."

I'm going to copyright

41 years in this burg, and it just keeps getting worse each year.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Diet-Lysol,

Yes it is getting worse. That's why it's time for a change in leadership.

Look at how long the various aldermen have been serving. They are the ones who make the decisions and plan our future.

Now Jake Middleton think his years on the board qualify him to be mayor!

These individuals have done little to nothing for Natchez.

Don't blame it on the State Legislature and the Antiquities Law. Blame it on our leaders.

And yes, if you insist, also blame it on the poor, undereducated constituents who year after year buy the campaign bull and vote these self-serving, do-nothings into office.

And blame on the middle and upper economic classes who stand by and complain about the leadership, but then do nothing to help.