Pontotoc’s oldest house in limbo

HED: Pontotoc’s oldest house still in limbo

READ-IN: First United Methodist Church’s board chairman told a Historical Society envoy that the church was not interested in selling the MacMackin House.

By Errol Castens

Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

PONTOTOC — Pontotoc’s oldest known house may have reached the effectual end of its life, but there is still a faint hope for its survival.

Representatives of the Pontotoc County Historical Society met with the Board of Trustees of First United Methodist Church of Pontotoc on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to save the MacMackin House, but the preservationists’ informal offer to buy the house was rejected. On Thursday, the church’s general assembly confirmed that decision.

The MacMackin House, whose original part dates back to the 1830s, is owned by the church and sits across Green Street from the main church building on a site intended for the construction of a fellowship hall.

With church officials saying the MacMackin House is in bad condition and is a liability, the historical society had hoped to buy or lease it with an aim to restoring it.

The lack of concrete plans and remuneration apparently killed any further negotiations.

“They wanted to know what sort of an offer we were prepared to make, and we told them we didn’t have any authority to make an offer,” said Judge Fred Wicker, who chaired the historical society delegation to the church. “We conferred among ourselves and said we would recommend that the society make an offer of $50,000. Afterward (church Board of Trustees chairman) Shane Clayton called me and said they were not interested in selling at all. Apparently they don’t recognize the historical importance of the house. That’s a shame.”

“We bought all that property for church use, and they’re not making any more land adjacent to our church,” Clayton said later. “Whether we use it next week or whether it waits for our grandchildren to use it 35 years from now, the board of trustees is not interested in selling any of the property the church owns.”

There remains one hope for the MacMackin House to survive in its original site. First United Methodist Church officials will confer with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History about the house’s historical significance and ask architects offering proposals for a Christian life center to consider it in the design.

“We are asking them to tell us if it’s feasible to incorporate it into a Christian life center and whether it can be restored cost-effectively,” Clayton said.

If that admitted long shot fails, Pontotoc resident Mary Horne has proposed that the MacMackin House bricks, which some historians speculate were made by Chickasaw laborers, be used to build a small building — a prayer house or a memorial, she suggested.

“It could be non-denominational,” Horne said. “Maybe there’s a little piece of historic land that could be used for it. I think teenagers could work with their parents along with people who are trained in carpentry. It would join the community in something, working together.”