Mississippi Architect: First Federal Savings & Loan, Jackson

Still in the inaugural issue of Mississippi Architect, March 1963, which we introduced with Bob Henry’s first editorial, about the architectural profession, yesterday. Today we’ll pass along the first building profile, which I love for many reasons: it’s an R.W. Naef building (now called BancorpSouth) that I have grown to admire over the last several years; second, the article focuses on the site of the building, right across from the new state history museum in the Old Capitol building (the words “historical significance” are actually used–enough to make an old preservationist beam with pure joy!); and third, the mystery of those live oak trees is finally solved–these are now sitting out in front of Hal and Mals, always struggling to pop out of their planters, but we see them in the picture below as newborn babes, still content and happy.

You can read, print, and download the full March 1963 Mississippi Architect in what I hope will be a useful and easy format brought to you by WordPress and Scribd.com

First Federal Savings and Loan Association

Capitol and State Streets
Jackson, Mississippi
Winner of an American Institute of Architects Gulf States Regional Honor Award, 1962

R.W. Naef and Associates

M.T. Reed Construction Co.
General Contractor
Frank Lotz Miller, Photos

Savings and Loan Building

TO DESIGN a modern savings and loan association office building that would not compete visually with an old state capitol of historical significance.

This, in summary, is how architects for the award-winning First Federal structure describe a planning problem faced in early project study.

The architects encountered other problems. Most pressing was the value of site location, at the city’s main traffic corner and diagonally across from Mississippi’s Old Capitol, recently restored as a state historical museum.

The site’s proximity to the Old Capitol posed serious design obligations. It was decided early in the design studies that no effort would be made to compete with the beautiful old soft-red brick building, despite the fact that the program demanded at least eight stories.

It was felt any strong color for the new structure would dominate, thus conflict. Therefore, Georgia white marble and blue-black granite were chosen as the principal materials for the exterior. Textural effect was considered. The classic cornices and mouldings of the Old Capitol called for a simple, somewhat smooth, contrasting treatment for the new building.

Area requirements of the rental office floors above the first floor permitted a set-back at the second floor level to avoid the effect of blocking the end of the street. The set-back was softened by the use of the maximum amount of glass on the second floor and with small live oak trees in redwood planters on the first floor roof.

The function of a savings and loan association, though similar to a bank’s operation, is different in one respect. Like a bank it has a banking floor, but unlike a bank, the banking floor is busy only around the first of the month when mortgage payments come due. To make the floor open to the public would exhibit too frequently an almost empty space. Therefore, it was decided that the banking floor should have a minimum of exposure.

To avoid the formidable barrier effect, typical of the first floor, the architects chose a polished blue-black granite exterior finish. The mirror finish of this material reflects the streets scenes, the Old Capitol and the night lights in subdued tones.

Building Use

Lower Floor: Offices, employees’ lounges, printing, vault, mechanical equipment room.
Main Floor: Main lobby and banking area, IBM room, vault, tenant elevator, lobby.
Second Floor: Attorneys’ offices, board room, library, executive offices.
Third through Eighth Floors: Tenant area.

Obviously not a picture from the article, but it shows the “textural effect” mentioned in the article

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Categories: Architectural Research, Banks, Jackson, Modernism, Recent Past

5 replies

  1. I have a love/hate relationship with this building; I get it and it has some very neat aspects like the textural effect. The materials are lovely and I was quite surprised to find that that’s what they were; shouldn’t a very modern building be built of concrete instead of such traditional stones? Anyway, there’s something wound up in my psyche about the way I felt about being in this city in the eighties with this building. That was made worse when I found advertisements for First Federal that featured their former building on the same site.

    That Scribd thingie is wonderful! Hopefully, this will be good research material for folks.


  2. The building is one which deserves careful study. I might not have liked this building at all until very recently. It is interesting to see the materials which were used- they certainly built this to last. One wonders what happened to the Danish looking furniture in the picture…


  3. I know it’s hard to overlook that this building replaced a late 19th-century “high-rise” bank that was really wonderful (thought there would be a picture I could link to on MDAH’s Cooper Postcard Collection, but it doesn’t look like any Jackson cards have been scanned). I don’t think it’s necessary to love this building, especially given your bitterness toward it all these years :-) But I kind of like it more and more, and since I wasn’t around here in the 1980s, I don’t have the emotional baggage. The thing I like about this article is that it shows a lot of thought went into it to avoid overwhelming the Old Capitol–from the setback to the materials, it was all designed to compliment rather than detract, and for the 1960s, that’s a pretty amazing perspective for an architect. I wonder who in the firm was the designer? I suspect Naef himself had a lot of say in it, given that he was of that older generation that wasn’t so completely sold on Modernism that everything had to bend the knee to it.


    • I’ll have to find something for you in the subject files. And you should come see this very interesting view we have of the Old Capitol and this building from our office window; it almost makes me like it, sometimes!


    • The primary designer was probably B A Brady. I think the building is an expression of a modern classic. The rhythm, repetitive units, the ratio of the elements and the exquisite & expensive choice of materials are why I feel that it is pure class. Bob Naef was an engineer, and was involved with many of the major structures, here & gone, in Jackson. He was old school yes & predicted my fathers house(flat roof, slab) would fall down before it was paid for. The mortgage burning party was around ’74. The residence still stands at 222 Ashcot Cr, as does the First Federal Bldg. My grandfather was quite a character.


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