Friday, December 4, 2020

Abbeville Schools, Avent Acres up for Historic National Register of Historic Places

By Alyssa Schnugg
News Editor

The Gordon Community and Cultural Center Board of Directors is seeking help to renovate the old Head Start building from the Board of Supervisors. Photo provided by Janice Carr.

There are currently 15 places in Oxford and Lafayette County that are listed on The National Register of Historic Places, including the Courthouse, College Hill Presbyterian Church and Rowan Oak.

If approved by the Mississippi National Register of Historic Places Review Board, two more historically significant areas could bring that number up to 17.

Last week, the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors approved signing a letter of support to designate the Gordon Community and Cultural Center (former Abbeville School) and the old Head Start as Mississippi landmarks and to be added to the National Register.

The two buildings, located at 35 County Road 115, were once schools for the black children of Lafayette County before integration was mandated. In 2007, Janice Carr and several others started working on renovating the former Abbeville School that now houses several community events, including the Summer Enrichment Camp. The funds were raised through fundraisers, private donations and in-kind donations by local contractors and businesses.

The seven-member board that manages the Gordon Community and Cultural Center is now working on renovating the second building to be a trade school.

Carr said the designation would help prevent the buildings from being torn down and it could secure preservation grants to help continue the restoration and renovations of both buildings.

Avent Acres

The Avent Acres Neighborhood Historic District map. Provided by the City of Oxford.

On Tuesday, the Oxford Board of Aldermen approved a similar request from the city’s Planning Department to approve the nomination of adding the Avent Acres neighborhood to the National Registry as a National Historic District.

The Avent Acres neighborhood and surrounding areas, located near Avent Park, were recently surveyed to determine the historic integrity of the neighborhood as a possible National Register District.

The survey revealed that the historic significance of Avent Acres stems both from its place in American history and its architecture. It was built by prominent Memphis builder Wallace E. Johnson in partnership with T. Edison Avent in the early 1950s. The development is representative of post-WWII era architecture and design. Originally intended to house returning WWII veterans, the homes exemplify the efficient, low-overhead styles built in cities around the country in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Listing on the National Register imposes no restrictions on the property owner and is largely honorific, and is used as a means of documenting important historic resources nationally.

If the Avent Acres Neighborhood Historic District were to be listed on the National Register, it would be one of the first of its type (in age and style) in the state.

The Douglass Subdivision homes are included as a part of the larger Avent Acres Neighborhood Historic District due to their similarities in age and style, in addition to its proximity to the Avent Acres neighborhood.