Mount Carmel Baptist Church was severely damaged during the 2013 tornado. Though it has tried to make repairs and restore to its damaged facility, neglect and time have taken its toll.
The bricks and mortar that once held together part of Mount Carmel Baptist Church will soon be coming down, but parts of the structure will be salvaged for future use.
M & M Services of Jackson will conduct the demolition, which will cost the city $339,970. The project is expected to begin Oct. 9.
The cost of demolition includes $125,000 for building demolition, $60,000 for disposal of asbestos material and $10,000 for site work.
When the city has to pay for removal or cleanup of damaged property, state law allows the cost to be passed down to the owner of the property.
But city officials haven’t yet determined what costs it will seek from the church.
“The city of Hattiesburg will take steps to recoup expenses for its taxpayers while being sensitive to the financial situation of Mount Carmel Baptist Church,” Hattiesburg spokeswoman Samantha McCain said in an email.
Because the building is not on city-owned property, council members had only two options: to demolish the building or stay out of the matter altogether.
Council members voted 3-0 at a special-called meeting Aug. 31 to approve the bid for demolition. Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado was absent, while Ward 5 Councilman Nicholas Brown abstained from the vote.
Hattiesburg resident Elijah Jones said he hopes some elements of the old building will be used to create a memorial on the site.
“What that historic part of Main Street doesn’t need is another vacant lot,” he said, “especially considering what we are losing. Such a sad day for Hattiesburg.”
Ward 4 Councilwoman Mary Dryden said she hopes the salvaged materials will be put to good use, especially if it involves preserving the church’s history.
“We need to be good stewards of our resources and repurpose them whenever possible,” she said. “I’ve talked with former members who want the materials to still have some presence here.”
Neighbors on Main Street and church members voiced their opinions on the building during a public hearing on Aug. 15 — many hoping the building could be saved, while others felt it was too far gone to save.
Church Pastor Gabriel Bobbett said the damage isn’t as bad as the engineers believe.
“I’m not an architect … but that building is not going to fall as quickly as some of the architects claim because they don’t want to take a chance and lose their license if something did happen,” he said at the public hearing.
Marty Martin, who was a member of the church for more than 20 years, hopes she will be able to get a memento from the building.
“Since that’s the church where I grew up, I would love to own just a small token,” she said. “I still have dreams of being in there at times.”
Doug Wimberly, senior project manager at Neel-Schaffer, which is overseeing the demolition, said the part of Mount Carmel that is being torn down is the original sanctuary of the former Main Street Baptist Church, so some of the building materials will be salvaged.
“There aren’t any remarkable stained-glass windows to speak of, although the architecture of them is kind of neat,” he said. “We are also going to set aside maybe a palette of bricks.”
However, what becomes of the materials will be left up to the church, Wimberly said.
Officials with Mount Carmel Baptist Church did not respond to multiple requests for comment, so the church’s plans are unknown.
Mount Carmel, located at 1101 Main St., sustained heavy damage to its buildings — the worst damage was to the education wing — when a tornado struck Hattiesburg in February 2013.
Church leaders had hoped last year to begin repairs on the building that once housed the church’s Alpha Christian School and the church offices, but those efforts were delayed.
Services are still being held in the church’s sanctuary, although the steeple atop the sanctuary also suffered major damage.
Main Street between Fifth and Seventh streets has been closed since August because of the possibility the structure could fall.
“There’s an imminent threat of that building collapsing,” Code Enforcement Manager Mark Jordan said in an earlier story. “The city’s responsibility is to secure and eliminate (the threat), and that’s the process that we’re in right now.”
The church — which was built around 1912-13 by Main Street Baptist Church — has been wrapped up in litigation, first with the insurance company that tried to cancel the building’s insurance policy and now with mortgage lender State Bank of Texas. The bank and the church’s attorneys are now seeking part of the $1.7 million judgment the insurance company was ordered to pay.
Mount Carmel, which had been located on Mobile Street, purchased the Main Street compound in 1999 after Main Street moved to west Hattiesburg.