It’s totally normal (I’m sure you would agree) to collect books like American School and University, and as I was flipping through the 1950-51 (22nd annual) edition, I came across a chapter called “America’s Outstanding School Buildings (built since 1945).” In that chapter was a series of school photos and a longer listing of “best” schools in each state.
This is a period of school building that’s very important in Mississippi’s history, as it was around the time of Brown v. Board of Education and there was an attempt to “equalize” the schools for black and white students in order to preserve segregation. As you may recall from the News Roundup a week ago, the equalization period was the same one in which the Liberty Elementary School was built.
Anyway, the list for Mississippi really gives us a perspective on what the “experts” of the time thought about individual schools. The buildings were chosen based on such criteria as number of stories (one story was the ideal), acoustics, lighting, sturdy materials (i.e. not Dryvet), and special facilities such as health clinics or multi-use areas. There’s no mention of “modern style” or anything like that, and in fact, look at the difference below between the two pictured schools–one very modern, one trying to look like an old Natchez mansion.
Be prepared to not know what these buildings look like–they’re not the familiar landmark schools we’ve all come to know and preserve. But maybe we ought to give the buildings on this list (the ones that are still standing and intact, that is) a second look–not only for their architectural merit but also considering their important historic context.
Here’s the list, from page 202, with my notes in brackets and those non-extant in red:
- Benton Elem. School, Benton, E.B. Golding, Supt. [Yazoo County--more about this school maybe later this week]
- Clarksdale Negro Elem. School, Clarksdale, H.B. Heidelberg, Supt. [I'm not sure that this one is still standing--I'll have to do a little research]
- Greenville Elem. School, Greenville, R.J. Koonce, Supt. [I think this would be the old Susie Trigg School, now called McBride--maybe one of our Greenville readers can verify. If so, the building was built 1949 and designed by N.W. Overstreet & Associates]
- West End Elem. School, Hattiesburg, S.H. Blair, Supt. [this is the school now known as Woodley Elementary that's in the Parkhaven neighborhood, which I mentioned in the last News Roundup, built c.1949 and also designed by N.W. Overstreet & Assoc.]
- Nora Davis Elem. School, Laurel, J.M. Caughman, Supt. [built 1948 and designed by Meridian architect Chris Risher]
- Wm. H. Braden Elem. School, Natchez, W.H. Braden, Supt.[this building is now the school district offices and is almost completely intact inside]
- Picayune High School, Picayune, J.E. Bond, Supt. [I only vaguely recall this school and don't remember the architect]
- Prentiss High School, Prentiss, W.K. McKay, Supt.[ditto above]
- Grove Street Elem. School, Vicksburg, H.V. Cooper, Supt. [very cool school built 1949 and designed by Jackson firm Gates & Birchett. Listed on the National Register as part of the Grove St.-Jackson St. Historic District in 2007]
- Winona High School, Winona, Robert Taylor, Supt. [this is one of those schools it took me a while to love because it's attached to a 1920s school so you're looking at classic old school on one side and modern school on the other, but once I got inside a few years ago and looked around, I liked it, and I like the quirkiness of the combination. Could the fact that the modern addition was designed by E.L. Malvaney have anything to do with my acceptance? Maybe :-)]