Burns Belfry to open next summer

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – The transformation of a historic church building into a museum and venue for community events is slated to be completed by June.
Oxford aldermen voted on Tuesday to award a contract to Hooker Construction for Phase III of the Burns Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center restoration and renovation. This final work, priced at $304,000, will complete the once-failing structure, which was built mostly by volunteers in 1910 as a home for one of Oxford’s oldest black congregations and served in that capacity until 1974.
The building, part of the Freedmen Town neighborhood, last served as an office for author John Grisham in the 1990s. He donated it to the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Society for the use of the Oxford Development Association, an African-American cultural and economic development organization.
Jim Pryor of the Heritage Society presented the Oxford Board of Aldermen with a check for $84,704 from the society’s fundraising efforts toward the construction and announced the target date for opening.
“Phase III will complete the Burns Building inside and out and will build a parsonage building to the side. We’ll complete its inside later,” he said. The replicated parsonage will include office space.
Fundraising and planning for the project began as early as 2002. The first restoration efforts – the stabilization of the building to avoid further deterioration – were completed in 2008.
Alderman Preston Taylor made the motion to contract the Phase III construction.
“I want to thank you,” he told Pryor during the presentation. “I know a lot of work has been done.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com