"Buildings of Mississippi,” a guide to architecture in the Magnolia State, is a new publication of the University of Virginia Press, completing a decade-long project of now-deceased MSU Emeritus Professor of Architecture Michael W. Fazio and his co-author.
Fazio, who died in early 2020 before the book’s printing, partnered with Mississippi Department of Archives and History Chief Architectural Historian Jennifer V. O. Baughn on production of the work which she said Fazio “would be proud of.”
“He was such a cheerleader for the book. He said it was really a landmark publication and wanted to make sure it was done right, even if that meant it took a little longer,” she said.
The pair began working on the volume—part of the Society of Architectural Historians’ “Buildings of the United States” series—in 2010.
Baughn said they knew each other prior to working on the book through their membership in the Southeastern Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, and Fazio was a longtime member of MDAH’s Historic Preservation Professional Review Board served by a staff that includes Baughn. The process of writing the book, however, brought them together as friends.
“He was such a great man, friend and mentor not just to me, but to every architect around the state. Anyone who studied architecture at Mississippi State or knew him has a Fazio story.”
To produce the manuscript, the two divided the state geographically, with Fazio working from MSU on the Northeast and Eastern areas of the state. Baughn, located in Jackson, focused on the West and Piney Woods areas. The two collaborated on the Gulf Coast, and Baughn said,
“we each did a few buildings in the other person’s territory.”
“We spent a lot of time on the phone and emailing,” she said, but they also met in person for portions of the research. “We’d look at buildings, learn from each other and laugh too. He was so knowledgeable and so generous with that knowledge.”
The two also recruited Mary “Mimi” Warren Miller of Natchez, executive director emeritus of the Historic Natchez Foundation and co-author of the “The Great Houses of Natchez,” to share her knowledge on the buildings in and around that city and author the portion on Adams County.
Deciding which buildings to include in the publication proved difficult.
“We started with a list of buildings and individually scoped out which to include because we couldn’t include every one on the National Register,” said Baughn. “Fazio gave me some good advice and told me that if you start writing, and it doesn’t have a hook you can grab, that’s a clue it won’t be in the book.”
The first manuscript—sent for peer-review in 2014—exceeded the appropriate word count, so they then had to narrow the building list further. The final document, which Fazio was able to review before his death, included the history of almost 600 sites illustrated by 250 photographs taken by the authors and 29 maps.
With MDAH since 1996, Baughn serves on the MSU School of Architecture advisory board. She has surveyed over 800 historic Mississippi schools, conducted building-by-building damage assessments in 14 historic districts of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, and more recently documented scores of antebellum outbuildings in and around Natchez. In 2016, she authored the National Historic Landmark nomination for the Medgar and Myrlie Evers House in Jackson. At MDAH, she oversees the National Register of Historic Places and the Survey and Inventory programs, and serves on the Review Committee for the MDAH board of trustees.
Fazio was an MSU professor from 1974 to 2005. During his career, he was responsible for establishing both the Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center and the Digital Design Master of Science graduate program. He accumulated a distinctive list of professional lectures—with invitations to speak across Europe and throughout the U.S. He practiced architecture in the Southeast region, most often as a preservation and restoration consultant preparing historic structure reports. He was an active publishing scholar whose articles appeared in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians; Arris, the journal of the Southeast chapter of SAH; Journal of Architectural Education; Journal of the White House Historical Society; and Alabama Heritage magazine, among others. His books include “Buildings Across Time: An Introduction to World Architecture,” and “Landscape of Transformations: Architecture and Birmingham, Alabama.” His co-authored, seminal research book “The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe” received the national Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award for the most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of architecture by a North American scholar.