Jackson looking to buy Batte Furniture building to house new Tisdale Library

The homeless have ransacked the Charles Tisdale Library on East Northside Drive. The building...
The homeless have ransacked the Charles Tisdale Library on East Northside Drive. The building is owned by the city.
Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 11:35 AM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - More than four years after it closed, the Charles Tisdale Library could soon have a new home in the old Batte Furniture building on Northside Drive.

Tuesday, library officials and council members discussed the state of the Jackson/Hinds Library System.

The meeting comes weeks after WLBT reported that the homeless had ransacked the Charles Tisdale Library, located at 807 E. Northside Drive. It also comes years after the Eudora Welty Library, the system’s flagship location, has been reduced to one floor on a mandate by the state fire marshal.

“We are very much engaged in the acquisition of the old Batte Furniture building,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. “Our public works department, along with myself and the executive team, did a walk-through of the facility, met with the ownership, and our legal and finance team and CAO are all aggressively looking at that.”

Batte Furniture and Interiors announced it was closing in 2019 after 136 years in business.

Batte Furniture and Interiors announces closing after 136 years
Batte Furniture and Interiors announces closing after 136 years(Source: WLBT)

Tisdale closed in April 2017 as a result of flooding and black mold. Jackson/Hinds abandoned the facility in late 2019. The building is owned by the city and was being leased by the library system.

Since then, the facility has become a haven for vagrants.

A recent visit to the once-popular library showed that vagrants had smashed out the building’s large picture windows after city crews secured its front and back doors.

On a visit prior to that, WLBT spoke to a man who was taking shelves out of the facility to sell.

Lumumba said the Batte building would not only replace Tisdale but would be used for other city needs as well.

“It is a three-story building, and each floor is about 14,000 square feet, so it’s a very large facility,” he said. “The acquisition also provides for the Joker Cafe behind it, which would be necessary for parking.”

The mayor didn’t say when the purchase would be complete but was adamant that it would go through. “That is taking place.”

Meanwhile, he said efforts to relocate the Eudora Welty Library have been less successful.

“We attempted to engage a process of acquiring the old library that the Baptist Convention owns,” he said. “This is our second or third effort to get it, but they have a vision for what they want to do (with it), so we have to find another downtown location.”

Welty was temporarily closed by the State Fire Marshal in 2017, due to numerous fire code violations. The facility reopened weeks later but was reduced to first-floor use only.

To date, three of the city’s library branches are closed due to structural issues. The Richard Wright Library is closed as a result of plumbing issues there. The Willie Morris Library also was temporarily closed due to air conditioning issues there but has since reopened.

Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote decried situations at the libraries and said the city should dedicate more money to making building improvements.

“We’ve got seven libraries, of which three are closed right now,” he said. “That’s not a good sign.”

Jackson/Hinds has 14 branches, of which seven are located in the capital city. All branch buildings located in Jackson are owned and maintained by the city and leased by the system.

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