National Historic Landmarks
Among the nearly 76,000 entries in the National Register of Historic Places are more than 2,300 National Historic Landmarks, sites so significant they are meaningful to all Americans. National Historic Landmarks illustrate and interpret the shared heritage of the United States. There are thirty-eight National Historic Landmarks in Mississippi, six of which are administered by the Department of Archives and History: the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians in Adams County, the Champion Hill Battlefield, Eudora Welty House, and Old Capitol in Hinds County, the Jaketown Site in Humphreys County, and Winterville Mounds in Washington County.
The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians is a Native American mound site that was the main ceremonial center for the Natchez Indians during the French Colonial period. The Natchez Indians were active in south Mississippi AD 700–1730. The 128-acre site features three mounds—the Temple Mound, Great Sun's Mound, and Abandoned Mound—a reconstructed Natchez Indian house, museum, gift shop, and nature trail.
The Champion Hill Battlefield is the site of a turning point of the Civil War. The battle at Champion Hill was the most crucial engagement of the Vicksburg Campaign. On May 16, 1863, near the town of Edwards, Union forces under Major General Ulysses S. Grant forced John C. Pemberton's Confederate army back toward Vicksburg and into the prepared trenches, after which the Siege of Vicksburg began in earnest on May 22, 1863. Had Grant been defeated at Champion Hill, his army would have been trapped between two Confederate armies without the possibility of reinforcements. Instead, surrounded by Grant's victorious army, Vicksburg was surrendered on the Fourth of July, along with the 29,500-man Confederate garrison.
Almost one thousand acres of the Champion Hill battlefield have been preserved through the combined efforts of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Conservation Fund, Civil War Preservation Trust, and American Battlefield Protection Program. Additional battlefield preservation efforts continue in the face of mounting development pressures.
The Coker House, a circa-1852 Greek Revival house located on the southern portion of the battlefield, is the only surviving structure from the battle. The house was used as a hospital by Union forces after the battle. Architects and historians are preparing a plan for the longterm preservation of the structure. The Champion Hill Battlefield site is to be included in a planned Vicksburg Campaign Civil War Trail.
The Eudora Welty House, the longtime home of the Pulitzer Prize–winning author, was completed in 1925 in Jackson's first suburb—Belhaven. Welty lived in the house from the age of sixteen until her death in 2001 and wrote all of her prize-winning works there. Welty left her house and collection of thousands of books to the state, and the family donated the furniture, making the Eudora Welty House one of the nation's most intact literary house museums.
The Old Capitol is Mississippi's most historic building. The grand Greek Revival structure served as Mississippi's seat of government from 1839 to 1903, then as office space for state agencies, and finally as home to the state history museum 1961–2005. Severe damage from Hurricane Katrina forced the building to close to the public, and it is now undergoing a $13.2 million restoration. It is scheduled to reopen in January 2009. The museum's new focus will be on the history of the building, with exhibits on government in action, the history of Jackson as the state capital, and the importance of historic preservation.
The Jaketown Site is the remains of a large Native American complex and mound site dating 2000 BC–1500 AD. The initial settlement, known today as the Poverty Point culture, traded in raw materials and manufactured finished items that were distributed throughout the eastern United States. Jaketown features two flat-topped rectangular mounds; the larger is twenty-three feet high by nearly two hundred feet long at its base. Still visible on its eastern side is a ramp once used as a stairway. The smaller mound is about fifteen feet high. Both probably had temples or elite residences on their summits. Neither mound has been excavated but pottery fragments from nearby date them to 1100–1500 AD. Numerous smaller mounds, the oldest dating to 1500–1000 BC, were destroyed in the twentieth century by farming operations and highway construction.
The State of Mississippi purchased 7.61 acres that included the two remaining mounds in 1984. In 2002 the Archaeological Conservancy purchased roughly seventy acres surrounding the mounds. MDAH, in partnership with the Archaeological Conservancy, continues to preserve the Jaketown site and encourage proposals for archaeological research projects.
The Jaketown Site is located about four miles north of Belzoni on the west side of Hwy. 7. There are no on-site visitor accommodations, and the mounds are covered with dense underbrush.
Winterville Mounds, located in the Mississippi Delta near Greenville, is the site of a prehistoric ceremonial center built by a Native American civilization that thrived AD 1000–1450. The mounds were the site of sacred structures and ceremonies. Ten smaller mounds surround the 55-foot-tall Temple Mound, the highest mound between Cahokia, Ill., and Emerald Mound, near Natchez.
Both the National Historic Landmark and the National Register of Historic Places programs are administered by the National Park Service under the Secretary of the Interior. All National Historic Landmark nominations are evaluated by the National Park Service's National Historic Landmark Survey, reviewed by the National Park System Advisory Board, and recommended to the Secretary of the Interior.
For more information on the National Historic Landmark program, see the National Park Service's Web site.
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