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Jackson’s Eudora Welty Library To Be Demolished For Green Space Near Museums

a view inside of a library. Shelves closest have Mississippi tax paperwork on them. Further back are tables with computers, many people sitting at them, with rows of bookshelves to the right
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s board voted on Friday, April 19, 2024, to approve a demolition permit for the Eudora Welty Library. The public library, which fell into serious disrepair in recent years, is named after the acclaimed Mississippi author and photographer of the same name. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A public library that fell into disrepair will be torn down to make way for a new green space near two history museums that have become one of the top tourist attractions in Mississippi’s capital city.

The board of the state Department of Archives and History on Friday, April 19, approved a demolition permit for the Eudora Welty Library, which is named after the acclaimed author but did not house important documents from her.

The library is near the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which opened under the same roof in 2017. The museums are a short distance from the Capitol building.

Part of the Welty library flooded after a storm damaged the roof in 2013. The building faced expensive problems with its air conditioning system in 2022 and 2023, and city officials decided not to spend money on repairs. The Department of Archives and History acquired the structure early this year.

“We have the opportunity to replace an abandoned building with a beautiful public park that will be an asset to our capital city,” Archives and History board president Spence Flatgard said in a news release from the department.

The original layout for downtown Jackson from 1822 included public green spaces on alternating blocks, the department said. The new park by the history museums will be the third such space, along with Smith Park near the Governor’s Mansion and a lawn around the Old Capitol Museum.

The department said demolition could begin by June 1.

The Welty library closed in February and its books, furniture and other materials were put into storage. In March, the Jackson/Hinds Library System announced it would receive a $3.7 million federal grant to open a new Welty library branch in downtown Jackson.

The building that will be demolished originally opened as a Sears department store in the mid-1940s. It became a public library in the late 1980s and was named for Welty, who died in 2001.

Welty lived most of her life in Jackson and was known for the lyrical quality of her short stories. She received the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for her short novel, “The Optimist’s Daughter,” published in 1972.

Jackson’s tax base has eroded as its population decreased the past few decades. The city now has about 146,000 residents, with roughly a quarter living in poverty. Jackson has faced significant problems with its water system, which nearly collapsed in 2022 and is now under control of a federally appointed administrator.

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