Leakesville? Leakesville, you say? What’s in Leakesville and why would you go there? Well, for one thing, Leakesville boasts a fine courthouse and a nice school complex. Plus, there’s interesting stuff on the way there from Jackson, and it’s on my way to see family and friend in the Florida Panhandle, so why not?
On the way, I check in on one of my favorite Art Deco gymnasiums in the state at the rural crossroads of Runnelstown, which you almost pass on the highway before screeching to a halt and turning off the road. The campus has at least two older buildings, including a 1929 classroom building with a plaque giving credit to T.D. Mixon as architect–I have never heard of T.D. Mixon before–and L.E. and W.E. Breland as contractors. The Brelands also built the Lamar County Courthouse in Purvis–poor abused building that it is. As for the gymnasium, which is designated as a Mississippi Landmark, there’s no plaque, at least on the outside to tell us about its architect. Probably it was designed by one of the Hattiesburg architects in the late 1930s.
Continuing east on Highway 42 through the lovely Piney Woods region, you come to Richton, a little former railroad town, now perhaps having seen better days. But the little downtown strip has a few interesting buildings, including a former 50-car garage built in the 1920s (why? who knows?) and a sweet red Modern storefront that shows you can be sophisticated in a low key way in small town Mississippi.
Moving along into Greene County, one of my favorite counties for really old country schools (see the Indian Hill School, Bexley School, etc.), we come to Leakesville, which boasts a nice 1920s and 30s school campus of its own, along with an Art Moderne courthouse designed by the Hattiesburg/Biloxi firm of Landry & Matthes in 1939 and built under the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works. As I was taking a picture of the plaques at the front entrance, a man came out the door and said “Taking pictures?” and I said, “Oh, yes, what a great building!” and he looked at me funny as he walked away. I get that alot, don’t you?