ABERDEEN – Through back-to-back ceremonies Oct. 3, work provided by Mississippi Department of Archives and History Community Heritage Grants was spotlighted at the M&O Depot and the Monroe County Courthouse Annex.
“We need to look at one building at a time. If we can get more people making positive steps like this, we can make a difference,” said county administrator Bob Prisock.
Since 2016, the county’s buildings and grounds department has worked towards revitalizing the former Monroe County Health Department, which is commonly known now as the annex.
The building was constructed in 1950 and has been vacant since the new health department was built nearly a decade ago across Chestnut Street. The county has saved approximately $80,000 in costs thanks to labor provided by the Monroe County Work Center.
“I’ve been amazed by the talent of the work center,” Prisock said. “Buildings and grounds knocked it out of the park.”
He added due to project specs, special plaster work was required, and the county couldn’t find a contractor to meet the requirements. Conveniently, one of the work center representatives had that background.
Building and grounds director Phil Herndon thanked Dwight Tate and Don Stegall of the work center for allowing the labor to be provided.
“It’s nice to see with as much history here that it’s been revitalized and brought back to life and being utilized,” said District 1 Supervisor Joseph Richardson.
During the M&O Depot’s dedication, Aberdeen Historic Preservation Commission Chairperson Kathy Seymour explained the history of the building and the project in itself.
“Dwight Stevens and Rufus Schrock started this project in 2004,” she said. “I thought when we started with this in 2004, we’d nail up some things and be done. No. Once we got involved with Belinda Stewart Architects, we saw what we had [with the building’s potential].”
The M&O Railroad started before the Civil War, and the depot was constructed in 1857 before tracks were laid.
“The Union soldiers had no idea what this building was, and it was the only one that didn’t get burned,” she said.
The first trains started from the depot in 1869, and it was abandoned in 1940 after the railroad went bankrupt. In 1945, the City of Aberdeen bought the building and leased it to a John Deere dealership.
It has been a designated Mississippi landmark since 1886.
New additions include a handicap ramp, new paint and entranceway improvements.
The annex will be used to store county voting machines and court documents, while the depot will eventually be used as a rentable venue, with space for a potential business incubator.
The depot project is ongoing, and an application was submitted two weeks ago for another Community Heritage Grant to complete interior work.