Jackson MS - Delight and Disappointment


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North America » United States » Mississippi » Jackson
August 21st 2013
Published: October 29th 2013
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Quite A Majestic ExteriorQuite A Majestic ExteriorQuite A Majestic Exterior

Old State Capitol Museum - Jackson MS
The drive on I-20 from Vicksburg MS to LeFleur's Bluff State Park Campground in Jackson MS on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 was about fifty miles and took about an hour. LeFleur's Bluff State Park is set amid the hustle and bustle of the City of Jackson and is somewhat of an island in the storm. The campground is situated about a mile from the entrance and borders a quiet lake with many lakeside campsites. The facility was mostly vacant and found me chatting with only two other campers during my week-long stay.

Thursday found me heading for downtown Jackson to visit the Old (State) Capitol Museum. As with most downtown attractions in most cities, parking is a challenge – at least until the visitor learns the lay of the land. I found, however, a vacant, no-charge two-hour parking space a couple of blocks from the museum. Amazingly, most of the spots were unused. As I walked to the Old Capitol, I passed an interesting building and noted that I should make an inquiry. It turned out that the building is the War Memorial Building, but it is not open on a regular basis. The interesting exterior makes the interior enticing.
Now, That’s A Spiral Staircase!Now, That’s A Spiral Staircase!Now, That’s A Spiral Staircase!

Old State Capitol Museum - Jackson MS


The Old Capitol was completed in 1839 and was the seat of state government until 1903 when the New Capitol was completed. Essentially, the building was abandoned until the state museum moved into the facility in 1961. The museum was closed in 2005 as a result of structural damage caused by Hurricane Katrina but, after being thoroughly repaired and restored, was re-opened in 2009. At that time it was decided the Old Capitol Museum would concentrate on the history of the building and not on the display of historical artifacts. Those artifacts will??? be housed in an apparently??? “yet to be completed” building.

Predictably, I started my tour with an orientation film. The procession of capital cities leading to the selection of Jackson as the permanent capital was explained. Interestingly, there was no statehouse before The Old Capitol was built and officials usually met in members' homes. In the Governor's Office, a life-sized figure representing the governor sits behind a desk while a recording explains how various governors have responded to the needs, problems, and complaints of the citizens.

Another series of exhibits explains how the Old Capitol was built, outlines the problems caused by years of
Debate Rages In The Mississippi SenateDebate Rages In The Mississippi SenateDebate Rages In The Mississippi Senate

Old State Capitol Museum - Jackson MS
neglect following the construction of the New Capitol and describes the renovation and restoration actions that have been necessary to preserve the landmark. Across the hall, important documents that shaped the history of the State and that were implemented during the reign of the Old Capitol are on display.

Upstairs, the Senate Chamber has been restored to its original condition. Figures representing senators sit or stand near replica desks and lights are arranged overhead such that, when a senator speaks, a spotlight shines on the figure while the visitor listens to him argue in support of or in opposition to a proposed bill. The House of Representatives chamber has been restored to the appearance it had when Mississippi Representatives voted to secede from the Union.

Almost all the rooms have an audio presentation, and the Old Capitol Museum comes close to offering the visitor a "living history" experience. One can hear speeches of those representing Mississippians in the House and Senate as well as a case being argued before the Supreme Court. Throughout the building, subjects such as the slave trade, Indian relocation and women’s suffrage are addressed and post-Civil War exhibits are found outlining readmission to the Union and the methods used to subordinate freed Negroes via The Black Codes - apprentice papers, vagrancy laws and rules of property ownership. The architecture is superb, the history is amazing and this attraction ranks as a “must see” for the visitor to Jackson.

I made a short stop on the return to my truck for a closer examination of the art incorporated into the exterior of the War Memorial Building and decided the outside of the building is interesting but not extraordinary. My next stop was the new State Capitol. Construction on the building began in January 1901 and ended in August 1903 at a cost of $1.1 million, and the statehouse was renovated between 1979 and 1982 for a cost of approximately $19 million. The tour guide was entertaining and knowledgeable, and she provided a nice narrative in layman’s terms. Sans several paragraphs of architectural mumbo-jumbo, there is not much to say about the building so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. If time is short, my preference would be to visit the Old Capitol Museum (history is more important to me than architecture).

On Thursday, I had two targets when I headed to downtown
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State Capitol Building - Jackson MS
Jackson where a number of attractions reside in a single block. I was really looking forward to visiting the International Museum of Muslim Cultures and broadening my very limited knowledge. From the literature (including the web site), my understanding was that GROUP tours were by appointment and the listed hours of operation were for walk-ins. Copy and paste from the web site:

HOURS OF OPERATION

• Tuesday - Friday* (10:00 am - 5:00 pm)

• Saturday & Sunday (By Appointment Only)

• *(Closed Friday 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm in observance of Jumah Prayer)

IT’S THURSDAY!!! A very cordial security guard called whomever and related that ALL tours are by appointment. Please, whomever, update the web site!

Since the Russell C. Davis Planetarium/Ronald E. McNair Space Theater was not yet open, I decided to culture myself and visit the Mississippi Arts Center and the Mississippi Museum of Art that are separated from each other by a nice pedestrian mall. Please, don’t ask me the difference except that, I’ll bet, there’s a different fiefdom commander for each! After cruising around both galleries for a handful of minutes, I got a cup of coffee from a
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Jackson City Hall - Jackson MS
snack bar (I wasn’t charged since it was not yet officially open for the day) and went to the mall area where I struck up a conversation with a blue-collar fella whose wife was getting reculturized.

I knew from the literature that movie presentations at the Ronald E. McNair Space Theater are oriented to both adults and children. Fortunately, the first movie of the day was an adult-oriented movie about the solar system because the exhibits at the Russell C. Davis Planetarium are, to be nice, limited. It turns out that two cameras accompanied Dr. McNair on STS 41-B launched on February 3, 1984. One of Dr. NcNair’s responsibilities was to capture footage for the planetarium’s film production “The Space Shuttle: An American Adventure.” After he was killed in the Challenger explosion, the theater was dedicated to his memory on January 10, 1987. Other than the excellent movie, there is little reason for the tourist to visit this attraction.

My next stop was at the historic Jackson City Hall which remains the functional command center of the city. A nice statue of the city’s namesake, Andrew, greets the visitor. The exterior and the common areas of the interior
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Jackson Fire Headquarters - Jackson MS
are impressive, but there are no tours and I didn’t venture into any of the offices. On the city hall property there is a 1912 memorial to the Woodmen of the World whose age makes it worth a brief stop. Next door to city hall is the Jackson Fire Department headquarters – the old central fire station. The city’s Fallen Fire Fighters’ Memorial is adjacent to the historic building and depicts a firefighter carrying a young girl who is still clutching her doll. All three stops are nice but none hold major value for the average tourist.

Saturday I drove to Hattiesburg MS for the day to visit with my great-nephew and his family. My older great, great-nephew, Tyler, was moving into the college dorm to begin the next phase of his life. It happens that he managed to merit housing in the honors area of campus housing. Congratulations, Tyler. I had a very nice visit, conversation lingered into the late evening and I ended up appropriating Tyler’s bed for the night. After returning to Jackson on Sunday morning, I kicked back for the remainder of the day.

As I was researching the attractions in Jackson, I came
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Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum - Jackson MS
upon the Dizzy Dean Museum and learned that it had been incorporated into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Both it and the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum are situated across the street from LeFleur's Bluff State Park where I had my camping spot. Most of the better-known athletes from Mississippi were football players - Brett Favre of Gulfport, Archie Manning of Drew, Jerry Rice of Crawford, Walter Payton of Columbia – but one athlete well-known to me has gained fame as a professional bull rider - Chris Shivers of Natchez.

When I was six years old, we got our first television and had a choice between two channels. During baseball season, the game of the week was aired on Saturday afternoons. It was hosted by Jerome (Jay) Herman “Dizzy” Dean and Harold Peter Henry "Pee Wee" Reese – both Hall of Famers. They were two of my heroes! Dean was born in Lucas AR but married a young woman from Bond MS where they made their home after his retirement from broadcasting. I still remember him singing “The Wabash Cannonball” ala Harry Caray’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The attraction is a nice change of
This Train Leads To The Lumber MillThis Train Leads To The Lumber MillThis Train Leads To The Lumber Mill

Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum – Jackson MS
pace for those interested in sports but probably would be less interesting to the mainstream non-Mississippian tourist.

A parking lot or two away I found the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum. This attraction is a substantial complex that includes a large indoor museum and “Small Town Mississippi” – a collection of imported/replica buildings and artifacts. Historically, agriculture and forestry have been the two most important economic engines in the state, and the museum takes the visitor through three eras that transported those commodities to market - the Water Era, the Railroad Era and the Road Era.

As the visitor moves through the museum, the exhibits progress in a timeline of sorts. The initial offering is a sizeable collection of hand tools used in lumbering. The rapid growth of New Orleans in the early 1800s and the availability of the Mississippi River increased the significance of the Mississippi timber industry. The first steam-powered lumber mill was constructed in 1835, and a significant foreign market for Mississippi lumber had been established by the 1850s. Forestry was one of the first Southern industries to recover after the Civil War.

Well-done dioramas provide timely reprieves from reading nicely-done, informative placards that
A Crop Duster Of The DayA Crop Duster Of The DayA Crop Duster Of The Day

Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum – Jackson MS
describe events and their repercussions such as how the depression of the 1840s forced cotton growers to diversify their acreage into pastures for livestock, groves for fruit trees and gardens for vegetables to make the plantation more self-sufficient. A train layout depicts the multiple interfaces of forestry and agriculture with Mississippi’s railroads. The journey continues through time with the introduction of machinery used both in forestry and in agriculture including airplanes and equipment used in crop-dusting operations and Mississippi's newest agri-business - farm-raised catfish.

Stepping outside, one enters “Small Town Mississippi.” This is one of the most comprehensive early 20th century villages I have seen and includes a print shop, a gas station, a doctor's office, a one-room schoolhouse, a church, a blacksmith shop, a children’s' barnyard and a general store with a live "proprietor" who has bottled sodas ON ICE and other snacks for sale. It happens that the “proprietor” of the day hails from Tupelo MS which led to an informative introduction to my next destination.

Now, I ask you, “Would ‘Small Town Mississippi’ at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum be complete without a cotton gin and a saw mill?” Never fear – both are
The Horse Watering Trough That Once Stood in Front Of The Old Capitol In JacksonThe Horse Watering Trough That Once Stood in Front Of The Old Capitol In JacksonThe Horse Watering Trough That Once Stood in Front Of The Old Capitol In Jackson

Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum – Jackson MS
on the grounds. The cotton gin is extremely well-documented, but the saw mill could use a few placards. The tour winds down with a stroll through the residential portion of the town and culminates with a statue that “is a tribute to the working men and women of Mississippi and America." This attraction is one of the best of its kind I have seen. The narrow focus (agriculture and forestry) provides the opportunity to really learn about the history of the largest segment of Mississippi’s turn-of-the-century working class. If possible, visit during a festival when the facility becomes a living history museum.

My week in Jackson was one of the most extreme since the beginning of The Great Adventure. Unexpected highs such as the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum followed unanticipated disappointments such as the International Museum of Muslim Cultures. I knew beforehand that the Mississippi Governor's Mansion would be closed for repairs until late 2013. If merely a slight detour is required (or a day trip from my great-nephew’s place), I might MAKE AN APPOINTMENT to visit the International Museum of Muslim Cultures, confirm that the Governor’s mansion is open for tours and make another visit to Jackson.
"Logs, Prepare Yourselves For The Blade""Logs, Prepare Yourselves For The Blade""Logs, Prepare Yourselves For The Blade"

Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum – Jackson MS
Overall, it was a fair-to-middlin’ week; however, it was what it was and The Great Adventure continues!


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LeFleur's Bluff State Park Campground - Jackson MS
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Along The Drive From The Entrance To The Campground

LeFleur's Bluff State Park Campground - Jackson MS
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The Inside Of The Dome Is Elegant

Old State Capitol Museum - Jackson MS
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Not A Pleasant Subject In 2013

Old State Capitol Museum - Jackson MS
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There's A Lot Of Photographic Obstacles

State Capitol Building - Jackson MS
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A Tribute To "Our (Confederate) Mothers"

State Capitol Building - Jackson MS
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Quite Ornate

State Capitol Building - Jackson MS
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Glass Blocks In The Floor Above

State Capitol Building - Jackson MS


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