Saving the Charnley Norwood House presentation

American Association for State and Local History (AALSH)

In 2013 Heritage Consulting Inc. created and managed a day and a half long symposium for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History about the Charnley Norwood House in Ocean Springs MS.  This architectural masterpiece designed by Louis Sullivan and his young apprentice Frank Lloyd Wight (who was all of 23 at the time) is the star in an eight-year saga of the always-interesting effort to enlist partners, collaborators, and funders to buy, stabilize, restore, and re-open this Hurricane Katrina ravaged summer cottage. This panel, which we devised for the American Association for State and Local History will be presented at their annual conference to be held in St. Paul in September.  Here is the blurb about the presentation on September 18, 2014

Eight years ago, the Charnley Norwood House in Ocean Spring MS lay in tatters after Hurricane Katrina. This 1890 summer cottage, designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, is now a fully restored architectural masterpiece. The transformation offers a fascinating case study of the long and always interesting effort by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (the MS SHPO) to enlist partners, collaborators, and funders to support the House’s restoration and to open it to the public.

Our panel will discuss the many state and local government collaborators and their individual agendas throughout the long effort to rescue, purchase, stabilize, and restore it as a heritage tourism destination.This story is significant because the house has no original furniture, and its empty rooms and geometry show very early lessons to young Wright from his “lieber meister” about the importance of climate and orientation in architectural design. However, showing a nearly empty house poses a variety of interpretive challenges.

As the restoration neared completion in May 2013, the state agency owner began discussions with another entity to take over as a new owner/manager. To assure that the MDAH’s investment of millions of dollars and years of effort were not diminished, they organized a Strategic Planning Symposium in June 2013 to offer advice from outside experts on recommended ownership, management, and interpretative ideas. Panel members will share their concerns about the new potential partnership, programming issues, and even how day-to-day maintenance and security should be handled. Finally, the panel will discuss more recent developments including board structure, operating agreements, joint budgets, and future plans for the site.

We enjoy developing planning exercises for historic sites, and then helping our clients create compelling presentations at national conference presentations and for scholarly articles. Please contact us to learn more about how we can help your historic site.