Center needs help in funding repair
A section of the east wall on the first floor of the 1868 St. Francis Xavier Convent, which is now part of the Southern Cultural Heritage Complex, has collapsed.
Efforts are currently being made to rebuild the wall, the executive director of the SCHF Stacie Massey said, but the community's help is needed.
"The construction of the temporary wall is just starting. Our fundraising goal to correct the problem that caused the wall's failure and to rebuild the exterior brick wall is $200,000. The community and those who love these buildings are responding, and we appreciate that so much. We have already raised almost $7,000 in just a couple of weeks of this fundraising project. But we still have a ways to go," Massey said.
The four-story Sisters of Mercy convent building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Mississippi Landmark.
Built in 1868, the structure is one of the largest and best preserved example of 19th-Century Gothic Revival architecture in Mississippi and is one of the most historically significant buildings in downtown Vicksburg.
On January 31, bricks began to fall from the wall causing the collapse, and it has been the SCHF's immediate concern to stabilize the building and protect it from further collapse, Massey said.
However, before any work could begin, the foundation had to consult with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Laird and Smithers, Inc. was contacted and hired following approval from the department to give a structural engineer's opinion to determine a plan to secure the convent building, determine the collapse, develop a plan to fix the problem and rebuild the wall.
"Fountain Construction Company was hired to do this work," Massey said, which includes shoring up of walls for support in the basement and three of the four levels of the convent, carefully bringing down the exterior brick wall (saving the historic bricks and eight windows) and constructing a temporary exterior wall to weatherproof the convent.
"The engineers will then be able to get into the convent safely and determine the cause of the collapse and develop a plan to fix the problem, rebuild the exterior wall and restore the interior side of the wall.
"At this time, the shoring of walls, and the demolition of the brick wall is complete, and the construction of the temporary wall is just starting," Massey said.
For those wanting to donate to the rebuilding of the convent wall immediately, Massey said they could send a check made payable to SCHF, 1302 Adams Street, Vicksburg, MS, 39180. The SCHF is also working on a way for individuals and groups to donate online, and hopes to have this information available on their website soon.
"The convent should be preserved and restored because of its historical significance and importance to the community," Massey said.
In addition to the convent's historical value, the building is used for SCHF events, which includes lectures, book signings, performances and tours. For more information about the SCHF, call 601-631-2997 or visit http://southernculture.org.