Sunday, May 20, 2018

Fading quickly: Fortification Street, Jackson, Mississippi

Fortification Street is one of the main east-west thoroughfares through downtown Jackson. East Fortification, between the I-55 exit and North State Street, passes through the Belhaven neighborhood, a traditional 1920s and 1930s residential area. The highly respected New State Theater is just a block north. But drive west of North State Street, and the scene gets scummy quickly. Let us take a short short tour of the area, starting just west of North State and proceeding west. Most photographs are from Kodak TMax 100 film taken with a compact Olympus Trip 35 camera.
513 East Fortification Street
Garage at 513 East Fortification Street
The neighborhood was once residential, with handsome 1920s and older cottages. The huge Baptist Hospital complex is just to the north. Its footprint gobbled up many former residential blocks. Now, because of the heavy traffic, living on Fortification would be noisy and unpleasant.

427 East Fortification Street
A sign at the back of the handsome Queen Anne cottage at 427 identifies it as the Galloway-Williams House, 1895. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) fact sheet describes it as:
The Galloway-Williams House is one of Jackson's finest examples of a Queen Anne style cottage with Eastlake-inspired ornament. Both its external and internal character are almost completely intact. It is one of only a very few such structures remaining in an area of Jackson which was once dominated by similar late-nineteenth-century residences. Its site is an especially important one, directly across Fortification Street from the fastidiously restored Gothic Revival Manship House, one of Jackson's most notable historic structures.
930 North Congress Street
A short diversion onto North Congress Street reveals a semi-residential semi-professional neighborhood. This big 2-storey house was unoccupied.
395 East Fortification Street
1009 North West Street
At the corner of West Street and Fortification, we have the typical gas station-convenience store-strip mall. Not too inspiring. I wonder if it replaced a neighborhood grocery store?
998 North Lamar Street
1107 North Lamar Street
Let's walk another block west and turn left onto North Lamar Street. Again we see a residential neighborhood with some occupied houses and many abandoned units. It is sad.
Cohea Street
I did see a number of modest new houses or townhouses on Cohea Street, so some degree of revival underway. Maybe a reader can let me know who is funding this project or what is happening.
Grayson Court, no longer extant
A couple blocks west and we reach what is left of Grayson Court. This was once a double row of shotgun houses. In 2004, they were pretty nasty, although I met a workman there who was painting and repairing. They have all been torn down, and even the lane is hard to see.
Just south of Fortification Street overpass is a complex of steel buildings and sheds. I think these were once a soybean processing facility. It has been closed for many years. At one time, many of the men in the Farish Street district to the south may have worked in the plant.
Canadian National Railway shunting yard, view north from Fortification Street overpass
View northwest to Wood Street from Fortification Street overpass.
Continuing west, Fortification Street rises over the Canadian National Railways rail yard on a 4-lane overpass. There is a good view of the tracks from here. To the west, a broad area of debris and brush was, I assume once industrial. Now it looks like an area to dump bricks, gravel, and brush. And maybe an occasional body?
Salem Street cottages
Just south of the Fortification overpass is a group of cottages along Salem Street. I saw the standard Pit Bull dogs tied up and decided I better not venture into the area alone.
Bell Street
Walking north on Wood Street, the first cross street was Bell. A stream of clear fresh water was flowing in the gutter. In the distance, city workers were repairing the pipes, which had burst in the unusual freeze of early January. The City suffered hundreds of burst pipes, which compounded the problems of aging and ill-maintained pipe infrastructure.
1107 Wood Street
TJ's lounge sits at the corner of Wood and Bell Street. TJ was sitting in a car watching the city workers and the flowing river of fresh drinking water. We chatted. TJ does not allow anyone under 31 or any drugs, hard liquor, smoking, weapons, or firearms in his club. He said many lawyers and professional people came to listen to Blues.

This is the end of this tour. There is plenty more to record in Jackson.

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