Historic preservation seen as key community link

town_tupelo_greenBy Dennis Seid

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Ken P’Pool said the lessons learned from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina can be applied in Tupelo after it endured a devastating tornado six weeks ago.

“The major difference is the extensive destruction with Katrina, of course. … but just because there’s impact to only one town or one area doesn’t mean it has any less impact there,” said P’Pool, historic preservation division director for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

“What’s that saying? Minor damage is what happens to somewhere else; major damage is what happens to your place,” he said to the Historic Preservation Conference on Monday in Tupelo.

The group wrapped up its three-day conference Tuesday in the All-America City, having spent its time visiting historic sites and sharing stories and ideas.

P’Pool has been working on historic preservation on the Gulf Coast, even nine years after Katrina hit.

Having a disaster plan in place, making contact with key organizations and agencies and pushing for funding are keys in helping restore critical pieces of a community’s history, he said.

“In the process of recovery efforts of the Department of Archives and History, we were able to financially invest in some 300 historic buildings in south Mississippi and helped rehabilitate other buildings,” he said. “It was important to preserve the heritage of the Gulf Coast, as well as provide 4,000 jobs.”

P’Pool said another key component in disaster recovery is to do a damage assessment. He said teams have been sent to Tupelo, and those results should be revealed in the coming weeks.

Rebuilding and restoring old buildings should remain a priority, he said.

“What came out of Katrina was this quote: ‘Historic buildings are powerful symbols of continuity and stability. They are the icons around which our communities will rebuild,’” he said.

Lolly Barnes, executive director of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, said historic buildings are important for a community that would otherwise not have key links to its past.

dennis.seid@journalinc.com