Going Inside: War Memorial Building

Perhaps the only good thing that might come out of the Feds recent abandonment of the amazing and sophisticated Eastland Federal Building (1933) in downtown Jackson for their clumsy and overbearing new courthouse is that in the future the public might once again get to spend time inside Eastland’s Art Deco lobby. For too many years, security concerns kept those of us who just wanted to peak literally on the outside looking in at stoic guards who refused entry. Someday I hope to post pictures of that space, and maybe even the main courtroom and its forbidden mural.

I’m ending this week though with pictures from inside another Art Deco public building in downtown Jackson, the sometimes overlooked but still quite publicly accessible War Memorial Building (1939-40). Designed by E.L. Malvaney (the real one)–who was also a partner in the firm that designed the federal building–the War Memorial exudes austere serenity on the outside, but the inside is more warm and intimate. In fact, it features so many sweet details that I had to focus on just one aspect for this post, the intricate aluminum decoration in the lobby. If you’ve ever stopped to admire the sculptural reliefs on the three pairs of aluminum doors in the front courtyard you should take a few extra steps to come inside and see all the other wonders there.

We know that Albert Reiker was the sculptor of the concrete figures outside the courtyard, but I don’t know anything about the aluminum, where it was cast or who designed the details.

To set the stage, here’s the blurb from the War Memorial brochure:

Interior aluminum plaques represent the agriculture and industry of Mississippi. Two of Mississippi’s historic shrines, Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis, and the old capitol building in Jackson, are portrayed on plaques in the foyer. The motif of decoration within the building is the magnolia, Mississippi’s state flower.

The attractive elevator doors are of aluminum and depict the Normandy invasion of 1945 in Europe, and the raising of the Flag of this nation on Iwo Jima, in the Pacific in 1945, and bear the inscription: “THEY Brought VICTORY to Europe in 1945, and to the Pacific in 1945.”

I especially love that all capital “THEY” and “VICTORY” and the quiet joy and pride the words convey.

E.L. Malvaney served in Europe in World War I, the original “Great War” the Memorial Building was meant to commemorate. At least one of his sons served in the Pacific during World War II, so this was a personal building for him. With several close relatives and friends now veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, I can only hope that some day our generation will be willing to honor its veterans in similar simple but powerful ways.

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Categories: Architectural Research, Cool Old Places, Jackson

5 replies

  1. Mississippians do have some outstandingly beautiful art deco buildings. Two others in downtown Jackson: The Standard Life Building located in same block as recently renovated King Edward Hotel and The Plaza Building (East side of the Governor’s Mansion) have magnificent art deco lobbies and exterior features. Wonderful examples of what the Meridian Hotel could be if someone had the wherewithal to make it happen.

  2. What years were Eastman & War Memorial designed and built?

    Thanks for your interesting posts.

  3. Well, that’s a piece of information I should have included, right? :-) Eastland was completed in 1933 and War Memorial completed in 1940. Sorry about that, and I’ve gone ahead and added the information into the post itself for clarity.

  4. I hope something will come of the plans to convert the building into a conservatory of music. Ambitious, yes, but certainly interesting. One wonders when there will be an announcement regarding its future use.

  5. i enjoy this building very much . an exemplary piece of pwa architecture
    i am writng a book to be published next year on the subject and would love to include this building as it is a gem
    does anyone there have a few high definition 350 dsi 3×6 format or tiff file i can use
    of course there would be full credit
    the building deserves to be seen
    thank you
    joseph maresca

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