NATCHEZ — Work is wrapping up later this week on replacing the roof of the Shelter House building at Natchez City Cemetery.
Funds for the $25,000 project were raised at the recent Under the Oaks Gala, which celebrated the cemetery’s 200th anniversary.
“The cemetery board began considering replacing the roof about seven years ago,” said Liz Dantone, a retired architect and cemetery board member. “It’s kind of a unique roof to the age of the structure and we found a roofing company recommended by the Natchez Historical Foundation – Cribbs of Baton Rouge, Louisiana – that specializes in historic tile roofs. They do lots of work on the LSU campus and other religious buildings with tile roofs in this area.
She said work was put on hold because the cemetery board needed to raise more money to pay for the project.
“We dedicated the funds from the gala to replace the roof. Prior to the gala, I contacted the roofing company and we were able to do the groundwork we needed to get the project off the ground,” Dantone said.
The building has a French tile style roof, which is a terracotta tile with glazing on all exterior surfaces. Over the years, when needed on the roof of the building, the glazed green tiles were replaced by unglazed red tiles.
“So it looked like missing teeth on the roof,” she said.
Some of the building’s original green French tiles were reusable.
“What we could reuse has been cleaned up and set aside and is being reused. We knew we needed to get extra tiles, but they weren’t being made anymore. The roofer had to find matching salvage tiles all over the country,” Dantone said. “They’ll all be glazed green, and they won’t leak!”
The cemetery board plans to make a number of other improvements to the building, “but we want to do them in biting pieces,” she said.
“The building needs to have electrical and plumbing upgrades. There is no central air or heating and temperature control in a historic building is important for the preservation of the building,” she said. “It’s our office. There is also a lack of hot water. We need to transform the building into a modern and functional building, but do so in a way that contributes to its long-term preservation with the least possible impact on its interior.
“Our philosophy in staging these improvements was that we first had to stop the water intrusion. Then we would work on the building systems and finally the things that are more about finishing off the aesthetics. These three phases would result in a house-shelter restored and preserved as a historic building,” Dantone said.
For more information about the cemetery and its current projects, and how you can help, please visit natchez.ms.us/150/Cemetery.