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Natchez Preservation Commission reviews plans for architectural landmarks
from Staff Reports - NEWS
October 10, 2018 - ListenUpYall.com

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Construction work is set to start soon on renovating the Natchez Eola Hotel.

Natchez Planning Director Rico Giani said the city building permit was to be issued today for refurbishing the building that’s been the centerpiece of downtown Natchez since its construction in 1927. The hotel closed in 2014.

The hotel renovation project manager met with the Natchez Preservation Commission on Tuesday and said his construction crew will be working here for the next eight months or so.

Giani, who administers construction regulations for the city, said the Eola redevelopers hope to have a banner at the building by next week declaring their intentions to have it reopened as a hotel as soon as renovations are completed.

While most of restoration will be in the interior, the developers plan to tear down the hotel’s North Pearl Street wall that fronts its courtyard, Giani said.

Once Natchez’ grandest hotel, the Eola closed in December 2014 when Virginia attorney Rob Lubin bought it from Bob Dean. The building has been one of Natchez’ most significant – and tallest – structures for 91 years.

While extensive plans were made by Lubin for it to be converted into apartments, he decided last year that blueprints would be reconfigured for it to be a 75-room hotel instead. He had previously said that’s not financially feasible, but he reconsidered amid local pleas for it to reopen as a hotel.

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The Natchez Preservation Commission began the process Tuesday to take the owner of a dilapidated national historical landmark to court as the city continues to struggle with what can be done to save the antebellum mansion.

Now vacant and seriously deteriorated, Arlington was seriously damaged by fire more than a decade ago. Absentee owner Tom Vaughan has been taken to court before and fined by the city for neglecting the 200-year-old house, but it further deteriorates.

The city Preservation Commission voted Tuesday to begin a so-called “demolition by neglect” process that gives Vaughan three months to show he’s reversing the mansion’s decay. If not, the city can file misdemeanor charges against him in court and have fines imposed on him. An alternative – albeit unlikely -- is for the city to put in money to preserve the mansion and impose a tax lien on Vaughan to make him reimburse the city for the expenses.

Natchez Planning and Zoning Director Rico Giani said Vaughan has not responded to the city’s complaints about his negligence. Giani said records show Vaughan has a Jackson residential address.

Arlington was built around 1818 and has been designated a national historic landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Its sprawling estate is located on John Quitman Parkway.

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In other action Tuesday, the Preservation Commission approved plans for reroofing the old Prentiss Club, which was seriously damaged by fire in September. The 113-year-old building’s original rounded red-tiled roof was destroyed. Owners Fred and Melinda Kent asked the commission’s permission to reroof it with similar-looking red flat shingles as they attempt to restore the Renaissance Revival-style building on Pearl and Jefferson streets. The Prentiss Club was the center of Natchez social activities until the Eola Hotel was built in 1927, according to Mississippi Department of Archives and History records.




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