- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) - Natchez is nominating a local arts center for landmark status on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center was built in 1927 as Natchez High School. The Gothic Revival style building was designed by architect P.J. Krouse and is already designated as a Mississippi Landmark.

“We have so many historic properties here on the National Register, and that building has some tremendous historical significance,” Community Development Director James Johnston told The Natchez Democrat (https://bit.ly/1wTtUZy ).

The school opened in the fall of 1928, with the first class graduating in 1929. The final high school class graduated in 1963.

“This building probably represents one of the few times Natchez opted to do something for its black citizens first,” Historic Natchez Foundation Executive Director Mimi Miller said. “It and Brumfield (school) were in discussion, and the crowding at the (black) Union school was recognized and so Brumfield was built first.”

After 1963, the building became Margaret Martin Junior High School, named after a longtime teacher and principal. The Natchez-Adams School District closed the center in 1989.

The building currently houses the Natchez Festival of Music, Natchez Ballet Academy, the Natchez Gymnastic Association and was featured in the recently released movie about James Brown, “Get on Up.”

The national register has three levels of significance, federal, state and local, Miller said.

“There is no doubt it will be approved because the integrity of the building is good and it has local significance,” she said.

Miller said getting the nod for state significance might hinge on how many buildings Rouse designed or how many Gothic Revival-style high schools exist in the state.

The National Register of Historic Places was established by Congress in 1966 to help identify and protect historically significant properties.

The Department of Archives and History is the official State Historic Preservation Office in Mississippi and handles all requests for National Register information and assistance.

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