Sunday, July 1, 2018

Fate still unknown, the Carnation Milk Plant, Tupelo, Mississippi

The former Carnation Milk evaporated milk plant sits just south of downtown Tupelo off Carnation Street (where else?).
Postcard, unknown date, title "Carnation Plant looking west, Tupelo, Miss. [graphic]", from the Cooper Postcard Collection, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
The 36,000-square-foot plant opened in 1927. According to the Daily Journal,
It opened Saturday, May 14, 1927. Tupelo threw an unprecedented celebratory parade and party, attended by some 15,000 to 20,000 people. It was a big day; it was a historic day. 
For nearly all of the next 45 years, the Carnation Plant lived up to expectations. The dairy industry flourished in Northeast Mississippi. Thousands of dairy farmers enjoyed consistent income, even through the Great Depression. Two and a half generations of workers made the Carnation Plant a part of their memorable and proud careers. The aging plant finally closed its doors in 1972.
But because of its solid, well-built construction, the old building has been considered for many other uses since it was shuttered 39 years ago – a police department and jail, city offices and even a history museum.
There have been numerous studies and plans drawn up to move the Oren Dunn Museum into this once-proud but now-lonely building. Currently, however, those plans simply gather age and dust – just like the Carnation Plant itself. For now, it is remembered only for what it once was, not for what it could be again. The once-shining example of hope and promise in Tupelo 80 years ago simply grows old, both in reality and in all of our Southern Memories.
The nomination for the National Register of Historic Places states that the plant closed in 1965.

As of 2018, the old factory is closed and unused. The Oren Dunn City Museum proposed to refurbish and use the plant, but the cost would have been $ millions, and in 2012, the museum abandoned plans to move its collection to the factory. The site has lost some of its outbuildings. Despite being on the National Register of Historic Places, city workers demolished a storage building and the manager's office.
One sunny afternoon in May, I looked around briefly. The building was secured, or at least there was no obvious access.
Some of the old architectural elements were photogenic. These frames are from a Motorola Moto G5 phone, but one day I need to return with a film camera.

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