The Rebirth of the Old Pascagoula High School

Today I’m happy to announce another new author to the MissPres universe. T.J. Rosell will bring his coastal perspective to bear on the discussion, and has a special interest in the construction trades and materials. Thomas, as he is also known, already has several posts in the works, and I’ve been learning alot just reading the drafts, so I’m excited for y’all to get to know him as well. With a twenty-year love of preservation and old places, and ten years working in the field, he might sound like an old-timer, but I have it on good authority that he is still young at heart and mostly young of mind.

Today, T.J. relates his experience of the recent tour of Pascagoula High School and shares his pictures with us. Stay tuned for more posts on all sorts of interesting topics!

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In a June News Roundup, E.L. had mentioned a walk through of the Old High School complex in Pascagoula.  I was  lucky enough to get in on the tour and see these great buildings during the restoration process.  I’ll give you a brief history and then talk a little about the project.

The oldest building on site was a WPA project, designed by the Gulfport firm Smith and Olschner Architects.  Built in 1938-39 the high school was one of the largest and most advanced school in the state.  During the Second World War Pascagoula expanded rapidly creating a need for expansion of the new high school.  In 1942 the architectural firm of Hedrick & Lindsley made several changes  and additions to the building.  Two wings were added to the north and west.  In the post war years the needs of the community continued to expand and the campus continued to grow.  Architect C. H. Lindsley was practicing independently by the time he designed: two vocational buildings in 1952 and 1954,  a gymnasium in 1958, and a science building in 1963.  I have yet to learn of the architect for the shop class building built in 1964 but it’s a strong possibility it was designed by Lindsley.

The campus is being turned into senior citizens housing containing fifty plus units and will be completed in two phases.  The first phase is for the original high school and the two vocational buildings.  The next phase will include the science building and shop class building.  The gymnasium is still owned by the city and used by the Parks and Recreation department.  The ’38 building contains a large 700 seat auditorium that is being put back into public use.  The auditorium has very cool Art Deco seating, which considering they were abused by students for almost 60 years then submerged during Katrina,  in amazing condition.  One modern-for-its-time feature that will be retained are the lockers.  Originally each student received their very own built-in locker.  Another great part of the project is that the original windows will be restored and placed back in the building.  Great care was also taken to match any new bricks and mortar with the original.

While the original building is in relatively sound shape, it had been in need of a roof replacement since the late 1980’s.  This took its toll on interior walls that had down spouts running through them.  Most of the deconstruction appeared completed and the developers seemed very sensitive to retaining as much  historic fabric as possible.  The project is scheduled to be completed very soon.  Funding sources require that the project have a certificate of occupancy by the end of 2010. The funding is coming from many different grant sources including stimulus funding, a hurricane relief grant and tax credits from MDAH and private investment.

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I wish the best of luck to the project and hope to be invited back when it is finished!



Categories: Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Hurricane Katrina, Pascagoula, Renovation Projects, Schools

7 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing the information and the great pictures as well! The seats in the auditorium are simply amazing! I look forward to seeing more articles from you! Tom

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    • Thank you for the kind comment. The auditorium seats are really cool. The off-centered bolt really bugs me though! It seems to be a case where the design was cast, and then they figured out how to make it work as an auditorium seat.

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  2. That’s the first I have heard of it too–horrible! How could that have been stolen without anybody noticing? It’s right there at a major intersection and it would have taken a ladder at least, wouldn’t it? Is there a plan to try to replicate it?

    That reminds me of in the old municipal library here in Jackson, there are these semi-circular openings at the windows between the first and second floor, and protecting those openings from people accidentally stepping through were aluminum rails, very sophisticated. They were cut out of the building for salvage apparently when the city still owned it and wasn’t taking care of it like they should have–so frustrating because they’re so hard to replace and yet they were so integral to the design.

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    • That’s horrible, EL! I didn’t know that about the library. Do you know about the old letters that were on the front that said “Municipal library?”

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  3. It was mentioned that the sign will be reproduced. Since they are lucky enough to have the original plans it will be easy to reproduce. I always like the authentic article rather than a reproduction though. Now I’m glad I stopped to take that photo of the aduitorium in 2007.

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  4. i was in the public library earlier this week and seen several pictures of some of the old buildings of pascagoula, including the old high school. wanted to find out where you could buy the prints.

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  1. MissPres News Roundup 1-13-2014 « Preservation in Mississippi

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