History of Art in Mississippi: Modern Office Structures

Today, we continue our Book Quotes series on the 1929 book, History of Art in Mississippi, which devotes a surprising amount of space to architecture. Like the author of the WPA Guide’s chapter on architecture, the ladies who compiled HoAiM found it convenient to skip from the antebellum period into the 1900s. Their analysis is not as deep as the WPA Guide’s, but on the other hand, they tell some good stories that demonstrate the supremacy of Art.

I thought we’d start in Chapter 3:”Architecture in Public Buildings.” This follows the chapter on Historic Homes and is a long chapter, so it will last the rest of the week. We’ll pick up on the homes another time.

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Besides the fine architecture of the historic colonial homes of Mississippi, with their traces of French and Spanish influence, there are many public buildings both new and old of splendid and enduring design. And recently in Jackson, the capital of the state, office buildings have been erected in a new type of architecture that view with the finest in the big cities of the North. The beautiful architecture of the new American skyscraper is far removed from the large square box-like structure of ten years ago. Tall, often slender, yet gracefully symmetrical and tapering upwards in large beautiful towered lines–America has at last accomplished that which Europe, from its vantage point of established Gothic, Tudor and other beautiful old architecture, believed impossible. And there has come into being a beautiful, new, and truly American style.

The Modern Office Structure

Plaza Building, Jackson

Of those graceful buildings, Jackson, the Capital city, has, during the years 1928-29, built four. The Lampton Building, twelve stories, with a Moorish influence shown in its interior decoration, was planned by C.H. Lindsley, Jackson architect, and built at a cost of $600,000. The beautiful Plaza Building, N.W. Overstreet architect, dominating the corner at Amite and Congress, has twelve stories also, and was completed in the fall of 1929. The Jackson Tower cuts into the skyline like a needle, with its graceful twenty-one slender stories. And the Merchant Bank and Trust Company has a new building of seventeen floors at an important corner on Jackson’s main street. The architect for this building was Wyatt H. Hedrick of Fort Worth, Texas, and Jackson. C.H. Lindsley planned the structure of the beautiful new Hinds County Court House, that is to be erected in 1929-30.

King Edward postcard, c.1960, uploaded by tombarnes20008

The Walthall Hotelis also a very fine new building. And Jackson’s principal hotel, The Edwards House, is a substantial twelve story building of steel-cage construction and brick exterior with stone trim. It was the first building of modern skyscraper type to be erected in Mississippi, thus marking the beginning of a new era in the architecture of the state, and is admirably built to meet the requirements of an up-to-date hotel. Mr. Frank A. Parsons, upon his visit to Jackson just after completion of this hotel in 1924, was generous in his praise of it. William T. Nolan of New Orleans was the architect.

The Lamar Life Building, a ten story office building, is of reinforced concrete construction and its facing of white terra cotta with Gothic ornamentation, present a pleasing contrast to the customary, plain exterior of the office building. An interesting fact is, that as first planned, the structure was not Gothic, but upon visiting the location the chief architect thought it fitting to harmonize this office building with the neighboring St. Andrews Church, and so altered his plans–Art thus winning. This structure is surmounted by a clock tower, the face of the clock showing on each of the four sides of the tower and illuminated at night. The tower is now being used for a radio broadcasting station and is called “The Singing Tower.”

St. Andrew's Cathedral (foreground) and Lamar Life Building (background)

In the same block with The Lamar Life Building and St. Andrews Episcopal Church is a handsome three story building occupied by The First National Bank of Jackson. It is situated on a corner, and the front and exposed side are adorned with a colonnade. The massive columns, eighteen in number, are of plain stone with modified Ionic capitals.

The two story building occupied by the Mississippi Fire Insurance Company is an example of the best in modern office buildings in construction, and in the classic beauty of its exterior. It was designed by N.W. Overstreet of Jackson, and was built in 1925.

postcard via MDAH

Meridian, a comparatively new town itself, but a progressive one, is also putting up a modern new seventeen story office building, architect, C.H. Lindsley. And Meridian also has some fine new examples of a modern adaptation of architecture; the Union Station is on the California Mission style, city hall pure Grecian, the Scottish Rite Cathedral is an unusually good example of Egyptian, the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches cling to the established Gothic lines, and the Northwood Country Club is colonial, being modeled after Mount Vernon.

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This is the second in a series of excerpts from the 1929 book The History of Art in Mississippi. Where are the others in the series?



Categories: Architectural Research, Books, Cool Old Places, Jackson, Meridian

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