Jones family descendents tracking library controversy

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Two Gulfport women are closely following the controversy over the old downtown library. They're descendents of Captain Joseph Jones, one Gulfport's founding fathers, whose family donated the land where the library was built. And they are deeply concerned about the future of the historic landmark.

"We're great, great nieces of Captain Jones," said Rosemary Finley.

Finley and Margaret Moran can't understand why city and county leaders are intent on tearing down the storm damaged historic structure.

Grace Jones-Stewart, the daughter of Captain Joseph Jones, donated the land for both the library and Jones Park to the south.

"Captain Jones always looked out for the good of the people and he wanted this land to be used for the good of all citizens of Gulfport or even Harrison County, not just for a certain few," said Finley.

"Just heartbroken that the city would be so blase about a tremendous gift to the city. I don't know anybody else that has given so much as the Jones-Stewart family has given to the city," said Moran.

The women are involved with the citizens group "We the People," which collected petition signatures to save the historic structure. They say their ongoing battle cannot be blamed for postponing the building of new libraries.

"Because if the two are tied together, people say, 'Oh, no we need the new library.' Yes, we need the new library. But the two are not tied in together," Finley said.

"The people connected with this property are still vitally interested in what is being done to it," said Moran.

There is a reversionary clause in the deed which transferred ownership of the land to the city. It said if the property is not used for the public good for which it was intended, the ownership of the property reverts back to the Jones family.

"There's no way to get around the restrictions that Grace Jones-Stewart put on the property for the citizens of Gulfport," said Moran.

Harrison County wants to build a new headquarters library in Orange Grove and a new branch facility at a different location downtown.

FEMA is hosting a series of meetings to discuss the fate of the old library building, which is eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.