Now-angry buildings were once carefree mid-century moderns

Yesterday’s picture of the former Petroleum Building in Jackson brought out the inner-Modernists in all of us, a fun jaunt back to a time when colorful buildings were considered not only fashionable but suitable for the headquarters of an oil and gas company. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you hate color), those of you who live in Jackson know that the Petroleum Building lost its zest for life probably around 1980 when it was re-skinned in a brooding dark glass. At the same time, its somewhat more staid contemporary and neighbor, the Milner Building, was also made over in the same “Darth Vader” (thank you, Tom Howorth) image so that those of us who came along later had to stop and think to realize they started out as two separate high-rise office towers.

Wasn’t there a song in the 1980s called “I Hate You!” or something like that? These poor buildings kind of seem to fit that theme.

I’d love to know more about the Petroleum Building–who designed it? What business(es) occupied it? It was clearly a major building in downtown Jackson and at the center of a hub of mid-century landmarks, most of which have been so remodeled as to be unrecognizable except for Thalia Mara Hall and that AT&T Building on Pearl Street around the corner.

Here’s a Sanborn map of the block, showing both the Petroleum Building and the Milner. Look at that cool concrete porte cochere on the opposite side of where yesterday’s postcard view was taken–I would love to see a picture of that!

The Milner Building, built a few years before the Petroleum Building, in 1953-54, was designed by Jackson architect E.L. Malvaney (the real one) and built by the Flint Brothers Construction Co., who we’ve recently become more familiar with from Jimmy Flint’s pictures of his grandfather’s work. I had never seen a “pre-Vader” picture of the Milner Building until Jimmy’s album popped up, so it was really exciting to see one in Jimmy’s album.

Milner Building, c.1955, uploaded by Jimmy Flint (Facebook)

And the same view from roughly the same spot today:

Can't you just hear Darth Vader breathing?


Categories: Architectural Research, Cool Old Places, Jackson, Modernism, Recent Past

6 replies

  1. Need a saucer of milk EL?


  2. My apologies EL. You weren’t nearly as snarky as I thought you were being when I read yesterdays post and comments.


  3. Humph! I’m never snarky–how could you even think I was being snarky? :-)


  4. From an article found by famous MissPres researcher Carunzel, “Renovation under way on buildings” (Clarion-Ledger, August 17, 1985, p. B8):

    “The walls of the Milner Building are tumbling down, much to the pleasure of the building’s owner.

    “The H.C. Bailey Real Estate and Trust Co. is in the middle of a noisy $17.5 million renovation of the office building and its neighbor, the Petroleum Building, both located on Lamar Street in downtown Jackson. The renovations will combine the pair of 1950s-style buildings into a modern complex called Security Centre.

    . . . .

    “‘Nothing is being retained. It’s going to be a total new building, new bathrooms and new everything,’ said Edward L. Giidwin, president of H.C. Bailey Real Estate.

    “Work on the 10-story Petroleum Building, notable for its multicolored aluminum panels, is expected to start next summer and should be finished in 1987, Goodwin said. It has about 130,000 square feet.

    “Designed by Dean, Dale and Dean Architects of Jackson, the two renovated buildings will be connected by an atrium on Lamar Street. The exterior will be dark gray. The interior will include touches such as marble floors in the common areas.

    . . . . .

    “The Milner and Petroleum buildings, more recently called City Center Plaza North and South, respectively, were developed by Jackson entrepeneur Dumas Milner, now retired. Milner used the top floor of the Milner building as his headquarters. The Petroleum Building got its name from the large number of oil and gas companies that once inhabited it.”

    Thank you Clarion-Ledger for answering almost all of my questions 25 years before I asked them!


  5. Hmmm; the early photograph of the Petroleum Building reminds me of a set of plastic construction blocks I used to play with at my grandmothers when I was a boy. I just can’t get over the asymmetry of the panels; all that color is very distracting to me. Of course I’m not a huge fan of the Vadar look either. Isn’t there a middle ground?



  1. Mississippi Architect, Oct 1963: Lyle Cashion Company | Preservation in Mississippi

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