Hey, haven’t I seen you before?

A while back, in the middle of our frigid winter, I posted about two architectural twins I had run across in travels around the state, schools based on plans published in the early 1920s by the state department of education as “Rural School Houses and Grounds.” Today we’ll look at another school from that same plan book, this one a three-room building (Plan 3 N.S.), and coincidentally, I have three examples (or perhaps I should say two-and-two-thirds), giving us a group of triplets.

As I mentioned in the January post, the plans were originally published in 1921, and were drawn by Memphis architect Raymond B. Spencer, who had been in architectural practice in Jackson with N.W. Overstreet in the 1910s. Here’s what the booklet has to say about this particular plan, 3 N.S.:

This is a very desirable plan for a community having about one hundred pupils, and it would do very well for one hundred and fifteen pupils.

Between two of the rooms is a partition with hinges at the top of the black board, so that this section may be raised, thus making a very good auditorium. . . . [to see pictures of how this worked, click here and here]

Please observe the following features: windows grouped at left of students seated at their desks; jacketed stoves in the corner out of the way and so constructed as to provide for an even temperature throughout the room; a cloak room for each class room; an industrial room; also built-in book cases and lockers.

These plans had clearly already been used in actual construction when “Rural School Houses and Grounds” came out because the booklet includes photos of finished buildings like this one of the Carpenter School down near Utica (between Jackson and Port Gibson).

Carpenter was the first of plan 3 N.S. I ever saw, back before I even knew it was a standard plan. When I first saw it, probably ten years ago, the building was in pretty good shape, although vacant, and it seemed like it was at least used as a polling station. Today, however, it’s worse for the wear, with one of its large window groups blown out on the side, and a whole section of wall that you can’t see in this picture completely fallen out at the rear. As with many of our rural place, the community around it is disappearing, leaving no one left to take care of this once important place.

Carpenter School, photo 2009

In better shape, but still clearly wishing for better days is the Indian Hill School down in Greene County, in the middle of the Piney Woods in the southeastern corner of the state. This school also has one of those nice pressed-metal shingle roofs, which doesn’t actually look like it’s in bad condition.

The 3 N.S. plan has a distinctively asymmetrical facade

Just a few clicks from Indian Hill is the most maintained of the bunch, the old Howell School, now used as a community center. While the roof is a too-bright-red-for-me metal one, at least it’s keeping the building dry and safe. This one also has the distinction of being one of the few frame school buildings left in the state that have kept their original stain rather than being painted. Most of these 1920s schools, including Rosenwalds, were stained either brown or dark green, with white trim, just like Howell.

Howell School, George County

Categories: Architectural Research, Schools, Urban/Rural Issues, Vernacular Architecture

2 replies

  1. I think one of these is still in the Blackjack Community in Panola County, very near the dam of Sardis Lake on the road that cuts through to State Highway 6. The school building is now some sort of community center. I’m not absolutely certain, and the building (if I’m remembering right) may show some modification since original built, but it looks very much likes the pictures and plans above.


  2. I seem to recall I stopped in at that school . . . wow, probably ten years ago now. At the time I didn’t know about this plan, so I’m trying to recall exactly what it looks like. If you beat me out there, take pictures and let me know–that would be cool to find another one!


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