- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - The little yellow house next to Oxford’s City Hall has an uncertain future.

The Skipwith Cottage, which came from the estate of the same family that donated land and endowment for the University of Mississippi Museum, has for nearly four decades sat atop a stone-tiled stage that forms the roof of office space that until recently housed Oxford’s Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP).

Much of that time it was the city’s official visitor center - a role that has in recent years has been shared by City Hall, the Oxford Conference Center, the current Visit Oxford office and, starting in October 2015, the former Freeland Law Firm office.

City officials have discussed renovating the office space to house the City Clerk’s Office, Volunteer Oxford or some other entity of city government. It also has been proposed for eventual demolition to create a pedestrian gateway to the Square from a proposed parking garage behind City Hall.

In either case, the Skipwith Cottage cannot stay where it is.

Jim Pryor, chairman of Oxford’s Historic Properties Commission, has asked the board of aldermen to consider funding a move to city property across from the Lafayette County-Oxford Public Library.

In his scenario, the 17-by-19-foot building would serve as a second visitor center, directing people especially to such historic sites as the L.Q.C. Lamar House, home of Oxford’s most renowned statesman; the Burns Belfry Museum and Cultural Center with its focus on African-American history; and Cedar Oaks, dubbed “the house that would not die” after surviving both Civil War-related arson and 20th Century development.

Pryor said the cottage also could be used for children’s programming at the library.

A couple of challenges face such a move, he said.

“To move it, if you lift it, it’s going to involve lifting some wires. We may also have to move a parking lot light,” he said. “Second item is cost. The site preparation cost is a slab, connection to the slab, curbcuts and ADA compliance - and then the moving itself.”

In Pryor’s scenario, the building would not be plumbed, sharing restroom facilities instead with Oxford Skate Park or the Library.

Pryor, who has helped oversee foundation-to-roofline restorations of the Burns Belfry and the L.Q.C. Lamar House, said the entire project, including repainting, would likely cost $35,000 to $40,000. One city official suggested municipal employees using rented equipment could move the structure at less cost than Pryor’s estimates.

Follow-up discussion raised questions of whether the university might use it, whether its visibility and resulting usage near the library would justify its relocation and what other dispositions are available.

“MDAH (Mississippi Department of Archives and History) is not going to let us toss it in a gully. It’s state law,” said Hollis Green, director of the Oxford Conference Center and a member of the Historic Properties Commission.

Alderman Robyn Tannehill said: “To distribute tourist information from that location - I don’t think that’s a place that’s going to have a lot of traffic. I do like the idea of its being used by the library for children’s programming.”

She said, however, that the location across from the library also would put the building proximate to the Oxford Skate Park.

“It would be vandalized,” she said.

The cottage has also been proposed as a visitor center at the site of the former No. 1 Fire Station or in some function on the university’s main campus or at Rowan Oak, the university-owned home of author William Faulkner.

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com

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