In Memoriam: Robert K. Overstreet (1924-2009)

Those of you who don’t read the obituaries every day might have missed the notice of the death of Robert K. Overstreet last week. Overstreet was the son of our famous Jackson architect N.W. Overstreet and he was also a well-known architect in his own right. Here’s a bit from the obituary that appears in full at the Clarion Ledger website :

Robert Overstreet graduated from Jackson Central High School in 1942. He served his country as an officer in the U.S. Navy in World War II and in the Korean War conflict. He studied architecture at Tulane University, University of Texas, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma under Bruce Goff who was a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. He made an outstandingly notable career as an architect in San Francisco, CA with both national and international recognition. His file drawings have been donated to Mississippi State University along with his father’s in the Architectural Department reference files. He was [featured] with his father in “Overstreet and Overstreet, A Legacy in Architecture”, March 6 -April 15, 1993 by The Mississippi Museum of Art. He excelled in unusual areas of architecture, including steep slope structures, mausoleums, libraries and houseboats.

Robert Overstreet moved away from Mississippi very early in his career, pretty much right after he graduated (finally) from architecture school in 1954. It’s too bad for Mississippi that we lost this talented designer. If you can get a copy of the Overstreet and Overstreet: Legacy in Architecture museum catalog (which I think I have seen still available at the Mississippi Museum of Art bookstore), you should pick it up–it contains photographs of some of the younger Overstreet’s designs both in Mississippi and in California. I’m glad to see from the obituary that his drawings are at MSU–the MSU architectural collections are a real treasure, and I’d love to see researchers doing more work with them.

I know of two buildings in Jackson designed by Robert Overstreet when he was working with his father’s firm in the early 1950s, I guess when he was home from school for the summers, Kolb’s Cleaners in Fondren–my own personal laundry–and the old Rexall drugstore on North State Street, just north of the McDonalds at the corner of Fortification. If anyone knows of others, please let me know. Just from these two relatively small buildings, you can see he had an eye for massing and volume and really loved wide overhangs that seem to go on forever.

Kolb's Cleaners, Fondren neighborhood, Jackson

Kolb's Cleaners, Fondren neighborhood, Jackson

Kolbs' Cleaners, Fondren neighborhood, Jackson
In going through some clippings I had pulled together about the Rexall drugstore I came across a 3-page article about the building in the October 1952 Architectural Record. There are some really good photographs that unfortunately didn’t copy very well and looked even worse when I tried to scan the copy, but I thought the text really caught the spirit and function of the building:

A circular glass-enclosed stair, angled show windows, and a wire trellis over the parking area give this store and office building in Mississippi a look of light openness very welcome in the South.

The building, designed by Robert K. Overstreet, an associate in his father’s firm, is in a suburban business section of Jackson. The main floor is an unbroken sales area: glass walls along the north (parking) side and across the front permit customers to see the whole store as they enter, whether they arrive by car or by foot. The druggist, too, has a clear view of the entire floor from his office a balcony at the rear, beneath which is tucked a florist’s shop opening to the parking area. Storage space is in the basement.

The second floor of the building (plan next page) consists of several suites of doctors’ offices, complete with laboratories, X-ray and fluoroscopy rooms. An elevator is provided for the use of patients who do not wish to or cannot use the circular stairs at the front. Those stairs, of course, are not merely an attractive feature of the building, but a sound merchandising feature as well: from them the second-floor visitors get a full view of the store’s displays.

The exterior of the building has a flair about it which again indicates the merchandising sense of the architect. Over the parking area is a trellis of aluminum wire and stock steel shapes trimmed to a delicate profile: vines eventually will cover the wires, cutting down show-window reflections and providing a cool greenness. Across the front is a reinforced concrete canopy, roughly triangular, from which protrude decorative aluminum rods.

Patterson-Bradford Rexall Drugs

Patterson-Bradford Rexall Drugs

This is the best view I could get of the staircase--it's more impressive in person.

This is the best view I could get of the staircase–it’s more impressive in person.



Categories: Architectural Research, Cool Old Places, Jackson, Preservation People/Events, Recent Past

7 replies

  1. Many years ago, I was researching a home in Jackson that was rumored to have been designed by Robert Overstreet. I wrote him to ask about his designs in Jackson (and Mississippi) and he was kind enough to reply with a letter and a list of building he had designed in our state. The home I had asked about was not his, but there were a few residential structures including some that were never built.

  2. Could you list the rest of the buildings for us, please? One other one I know of was at the intersection of Hwys 51 and 80 which would be Terry Rd. and 80. It was called the Glasshouse Restaurant and was part of a small chain or bunch that was at least owned by the same people. I can’t figure out which corner it would have been, though; one corner had the Alamo Plaza, one is Battlefield Park where the old fire station is, one is a mid-century Trustmark Bank. The other where the Tarrymore Motel is seems the most likely. There is a 1980s-built Chinese restaurant in front of the Tarrymore that may have replace the Glasshouse.

    • Here’s the list, from that letter from Robert Overstreet to MDAH dated May 15, 1999. Found the letter at the Historic Preservation Division’s offices in their Robert Overstreet file:

      The following buildings were designed by me while in Jackson in a period from 1948 thru 1953 before establishing a practice in San Francisco, California.:

      Mississippi Title Insurance Company building (Jackson) … No longer standing
      Roy Champion Lodge. . . (Madison, MS) . . . Still there/
      Sharp’s Cottage (Jackson, Ms) . . . Still there.
      Princess Shoe Store . . . (Jackson, Ms) . . . No longer existing.
      Lady La Roy Shoe Store . . . (Jackson Ms.) Never built
      REA Building . . . (Columbia, Ms) . . . Not known if still there.
      Super D Drug Store . . . (Jackson, Ms) . . . Altered from the original.
      Kolb’s Cleaners . . . (Jackson, Ms.) . . . Some alterations from the original
      Drive-In Restaurant (Jackson, Ms.) . . . No longer existing.
      Rowan Taylor Residence . . . . . . Probably still standing.
      Cruise Residence . . .(Jackson, Ms.) . . . Never built.

      Presumably, the “Drive-In Restaurant” he mentions it the same as the “Glasshouse Restaurant” you refer to. If so, you may be right about the location–the 1962 Sanborn map shows a restaurant on that spot that looks like it has glass almost all the way around–would love to see a picture of that building!

  3. Thank you for the list! Yes, that was probably it. I hope they didn’t tear down the Glasshouse to build Tai Hong (I vaguely remember when it was built); it was my mother’s favorite Chinese restaurant, but I liked it better when it was in the Tarrymore itself. I would love to have seen it when it stood, too! I do remember when they tore down the Alamo Plaza and it still makes me want to cry!

  4. Reblogged this on wotkimf and commented:
    I am Robert D. Overstreet, the son of Walter Lee Overstreet born, as far as I can research in Virginia or Kentucky. I am looking for anyone who can tell me who the parents of Walter Lee Overstreet are. I never knew my grandparents on his side of the family. Walter served in WW1 and I was born at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. in 1933 where he worked as a Tech Sargeant. My brother Gerald Lee Overstreet served as a colonel in the Army and was in the 82nd Airborne Please communicate any information you may have to : wotkimf@gmail.com.

Trackbacks

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