Saturday, January 30, 2010
Lassiter Warehouse, Levee Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi
In the late 1800s and up through the mid-20th century, Vicksburg was a bustling manufacturing and trading city. The waterfront was lined with warehouses, foundries, small factories, and processing plants. The black and white aerial photograph, taken in 1953 after the tornado, shows how downtown Vicksburg was entirely developed. (The post-tornado photograph was loaned by a generous coworker. The tornado will be the subject of a future essay).
By the time I moved to Vicksburg in the 1980s, many buildings had been torn down. Old-timers still speak of the inept redevelopment efforts in the 1970s that led to the destruction of so much of the city's heritage. Today numerous empty lots provide few clues to the commercial buildings, hotels, shops, and houses that once stood there.
The white brick building in the second photograph was the W. W. Lassiter Warehouse at 1308 Levee Street, also known as the Surplus City Building. From the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation (http://www.preservevicksburg.org/):
"Built about 1907, this is the last remaining warehouse along the city's waterfront in an area that was lined with brick warehouses of every description, and was historically the largest and most important wholesaling district in Mississippi. When the Lassiter Warehouse was built, it was one of 50 warehouses and commercial buildings on the Vicksburg commercial waterfront. Original roof trusses, brick arches between rooms, windows, doors, fireplaces, cypress floors, and coal chutes remain, although some elements have been hidden by new materials."
Photographs 3 and 4 show the wood supports and massive bearing walls in the basement. The cypress posts were reasonably resistant to termites, and the floor joists were probably heart pine. The high pitch content also usually resisted termites. We rarely see construction of this quality today.
Sadly, the building was partly dismantled in 2008. The bricks were recycled.
May 2012 update: The shell of the warehouse remains, but there is no action on dismantling the remainder. The casino is also bankrupt and closed, so this part of Levee Street is pretty forlorn.