First Ever MissPres Architectural Word of the Week: Abacus

How many times have you looked at a building and said “What is that thing called? The one thingy above the dew-dad, next to the whats it.” Well if you’re me the answer is a lot! So after reading Malvaney’s post on architectural dictionaries, I thought it would be fun to have a bi-weekly post that features a different architectural word that relates to a building here in Mississippi. I hope to have the definition along with a photograph of a Mississippi structure as a visual example. This is our inaugural word of the week! Keep your eyes out for future MissPres Architectural Words of the Week!

This week’s word is brought to you by the letter A as defined by Cyril M Harris’s Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture

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Abacus: (ˈa-bə-kəs) The uppermost member of the capital of a column; often a plain square slab, but sometimes molded or otherwise enriched.

Keep your eyes open for an Abacus (or plural Abaci) this week and stay tuned for the next MissPres Architectural Word of the Week!



Categories: Books, Courthouses, Hazlehurst, Historic Preservation, Washington

8 replies

  1. This is a fun thing to add to the site. Thanks for reminding me to start looking at this “small” detail. I’m so busy looking at the big picture and the landscaping, and because it is so high up, I would have overlooked this beautiful egg and dart abacus that complements the larger egg and dart molding between the curls of the “volute.” Now, I have used both of this week’s vocabulary words in a sentence :-)

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  2. Yes, nice catch on the volutes, GStone! You win a gold star!

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  3. What a fun idea! Especially great for Friday posts :D

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  4. Terrific pictures! Brandon Hall is one of the least mentioned or appreciated of the great houses of Natchez, so it was nice to see it included here.

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  5. This is fun. It’s amazing what you see when you have a word for something.

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  6. I hate to rain on everybody’s parade, since everyone is so pleased that they learned a new word (actually, that’s a lie, I love raining on parades; I keep an umbrella close by). However, I feel I must point out that this post and the planned “MissPres Architectural Word of the Week” series have very little to do with the mission and title of this website, “Preservation in Mississippi”. The website is not “Architecture in Mississippi”. That is not to say that architectural research has no place on this website; it has a very important place alongside advocating the preservation of Mississippi’s architectural, cultural, and historic heritage, specifically the built environment of Mississippi. I simply believe that Preservation in Mississippi should be proactive in at least advocating preserving Mississippi architecture. The post on First Christian in Jackson and the accompanying comments bringing to light more potential demolitions of historic houses in Tupelo, that is what we should put a stronger emphasis on. This post does not fit into that category; it is not architectural research, just some pretty pictures of buildings that happen to have classically proportioned columns.

    Rain…Parade…

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  7. Well, Mr. Curmudgeon, I could see your point if every day’s post was a word from the architectural dictionary, but it’s just twice a month. I believe that an articulate public educated in the entire gamut of architecture and history is a major component of a preservation movement in the state. If we don’t have that solid foundation, we won’t have people passionate about their local historic landmarks, or if they are passionate they won’t have a basis to discuss why these buildings need to be preserved. Knowing that the top of the column is called an abacus can only help them formulate their own thoughts and arguments. And the pictures here aren’t just pretty buildings, but two important Mississippi historic places that got highlighted here and maybe noticed for the first time by some new readers. Who knows? “Cast your bread upon the waters . . .”

    Not every post will fit into the category of direct advocacy, but frankly, I don’t want a blog where every post fits into one category, especially that one. That’s why I started MissPres, so it could go off in a bunch of directions, while keeping its hard-core (sometimes a little quirky) preservation-to-the-bone attitude. We’ll keep working on that, but we’ll also keep having Word of the Week.

    To your core argument: I do see your point about being proactive, and I know we both want to keep the “preservation” in Preservation in Mississippi. The News Roundups were the earliest attempt to keep preservation-related news on the forefront every week, and the less regular posts such as today’s are an attempt to keep a finger on on-going issues that don’t make the mainstream news. We do need input from people outside of Jackson because even though I have an aura of omniscience, I don’t actually know all that we need to cover in all corners of the state. As our audience of readers grows, hopefully we can continue to fill in those gaps.

    Thinking of starting your own anti-WOTW series?

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    • I am in an extra-“Curmudgeonly” mood with the poor news coming out of Tupelo and Jackson.

      The Architectural Word of the Week series should be evened out by the new project I have talked with you about, which will hopefully get started sometime at the beginning of February (after some more private correspondence between the two of us about it).

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