Architect Pics: Claude H. Lindsley

Threefoot Building, Meridian (1930), C.H. Lindsley, principal architect

I admit to being especially fascinated by Mississippi architect C.H. Lindsley: he came up apparently without any formal architectural training, designed two of the state’s most prominent skyscrapers when barely 30–the Tower Building (Standard Life) in Jackson and the Threefoot Building in Meridian–left the state during the Depression, moved to the Mississippi Coast in the 1940s, and died in complete obscurity in the 1960s.  He was born in rural Lincoln County, spent his career in Jackson, Houston, Washington DC, and finally Ocean Springs, where only the briefest of death notices marked his passing. Buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Jackson, the most information about his life that I’ve been able to find comes from an obituary back in his hometown newspaper, the Brookhaven Daily-Leader. How could someone who rose from nothing and ascended to the heights of his profession become so completely forgotten by those who still look on his buildings with admiration? It’s a question I ask often, and I still look for clues to the man that was C.H. Lindsley.

Claude H. Lindsley, 1922      (age 28)

So far, the only picture I know of is found in a Belzoni newspaper of the 1920s hailing the construction of their new courthouse, designed by the firm of Kramer & Lindsley. Lindsley apparently studied architecture as an apprentice with X.A. Kramer, who himself rose up through the trades to become a noted engineer and architect in Magnolia, near Lindsley’s home. Kramer was the state highway engineer in the early 1920s, and became mayor of McComb in 1928, considered at that time to be nearly a millionaire. So I guess Lindsley had a good role model in the art of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

The real E.L. Malvaney learned something about architecture while working for Lindsley in the 1920s, after Lindsley had established his own practice.

In addition to his skyscrapers, Lindsley designed a number of architectural landmarks that contribute to the beauty of their communities: in Jackson, the old Central High School (1923), Duling School (1927), the two historic buildings at Belhaven College (1927), the Robert E. Lee Hotel (1930), and Hinds County Courthouse (1930), among others; in Canton, the Sacred Heart Catholic Church (1928); the Crystal Springs High School (1928); the Hugh White House in Columbia (1925); numerous buildings at Alcorn State, Delta State, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi State, and Fulton Chapel at Ole Miss; and then down on the Coast several modernist schools, including parts of Pascagoula High School (in partnership with Ft. Worth architect Wyatt C. Hedrick).

Clearly, this is a man who had a firm grasp on all manner of architectural styles and construction methods, but maybe he didn’t have the outgoing personality that Overstreet is said to have had. He doesn’t deserve to have died in obscurity, but such are the whims of time. Maybe if he had stayed in Jackson and remained active here, his life would have been celebrated–who knows?

My dream is that some day, ol’ Claude’s drawings, letters, and office records will emerge intact from some dusty attic or forgotten room. But then again, that would take away the mystery–sometimes questions are more fun when they have no easy answers.

Central High School (1923), Jackson

Humphreys County Courthouse, Belzoni

Humphreys County Courthouse (1921-22), Kramer & Lindsley, archts.



Categories: Architectural Research, Brookhaven, Canton, Columbia, Jackson, McComb

22 replies

  1. Well, thanks E.! That’s more than I’ve been able to find out.

    Makes one (well, me, anyway) wonder if he wasn’t an opium addict or an alcoholic or some such? I mean, I don’t wish to besmirch his reputation, but why on earth else would he disappear like that?

    Perhaps someone out there has some information?

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    • Well, he was married and had a few kids, and he continued practicing architecture during the Depression, just not in MS. He worked for the federal govt. part of that time, and also partnered with Wyatt Hedrick on at least a few projects (not sure if it was a formal partnership or just ad hoc for specific projects). I haven’t ever had the addiction vibe from him, but it is a thought.

      Claude? Claude? We need you to come back and defend yourself!

      The architectural profession was really devastated by the Depression. I went through the Biloxi/Gulfport city directories for the 1920s, and there were something like 10 architects listed, and by 1934, I think it was down to one or two. Similar in Jackson (not quite to the same extent and still surprising that someone as busy as he had been just a year or two before would just dry up so bad that he had to leave the state).

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  2. Bowen Hall at Mississippi State constructed 1928-29 according to the various plaques.

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  3. Interesting. I didn’t know Lindsley did Fulton Chapel, although I have to say, I think I still prefer the Threefoot Building, Standard Life, and some of the courthouses, all which are some of the coolest buildings in Mississippi. Also, I wonder if he could have had any involvement with Hedrick’s monumental Sterick Building in Downtown Memphis.

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    • I think Fulton was also Bem Price from Birmingham–maybe an association between the two just on that project, not sure why. That’s an interesting thought about the Memphis building–I haven’t heard of the building, and I’m not sure of the relationship between Lindsley and Hedrick, so can’t speculate.

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    • I see the Sterick Building was built in 1930, so Lindsley would have still been in Jackson. Presumably, Lindsley met Hedrick when Hedrick was architect for the Lamar Life Building in Jackson earlier in the 1920s, so I guess it’s not inconceivable that the association between the two began before Lindsley moved to Texas, but on the other hand, Hedrick did a number of skyscraper buildings around the region, usually associating with a local architect, like he did with N. W. Overstreet on Lamar Life.

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  4. Add Bolivar County Courthouse in Rosedale to the list – according to its plaque.

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  5. My memory is that MSU Special Collections has drawings for a few of Lindsley’s buildings.

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  6. As part of my searching on Lindsley in the MSU Special Collections, I discovered that he also did the St. Paul United Methodist Church in Ocean Springs in 1962 and the Science Building at Pascagoula High School (White) in 1963. I also found out something that might be of interest to you Malvaney. It turns out that you (or some other architect with the initials E. L. M.) did much of the actual drawings for the Governor Hugh L. White House in Columbia.

    I now have an incomplete list of his projects in Mississippi along with a short biography. While most of this information is probably not news to an expert like you Malvaney, I discovered that Lindsley joined the Louisiana Chapter of the AIA before the Mississippi Chapter was created. From 1923 to 1926, E. L. Malvaney was Lindsley’s Head Draftsman. Robert Cook Jones, Robert B. McKnight, and R. W. Naef also all worked for Lindsley during the 1920s. In 1924, Lindsley’s office was located in the Kress Building. By 1928, he had moved to the Lamar Life Building and in 1931, he was in the Tower Building (Standard Life Building). In 1927/28, Lindsley was listed as living with his wife and two children at the corner of S. Prentiss and N. Robinson. By 1934, he had relocated to Houston, Texas.

    There is one building designed by Lindsley that is not on the list of projects provided to me at the MSU Special Collections. Constructed in 1929-30, 524 Greensboro St. in Starkville was not only designed by Lindsley but the current owners actually have the original architectural plans. These plans will be invaluable if anyone decides to restore this house as the current owners have “altered” its design. Unfortunately, the owners have not allowed the plans to be copied and made available to the public.

    I would like to thank Mattie Sink at the MSU Special Collections for her efforts in gathering this material.

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  7. Great information, W., especially that “discovery” of the house on Greensboro–always fun to attach a building to an architect! And having the original plans? Priceless. I personally don’t remember designing the Hugh White House, but I’m sure the real E.L.M. would–didn’t know Malvaney had a hand in that house.

    I was trying to picture St. Paul and then remembered we’re living in the internet age, so I googled it and found a little picture at their home page (http://stpaulos.org/) and a history at http://stpaulos.org/History.htm. Looks like they’ve got two campuses now, so I wonder if the plan is to move completely to the new campus at some point.

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Trackbacks

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