While concrete block has been around for thousands of years it did not become widely accepted as a quality building material in North America until the turn of the 20th century. This general acceptance came about as the manufacturing process became standardized throughout the industry. I would like to take a couple of posts to share the extant early 20th-century concrete block structures of Biloxi.
According to the city of Biloxi plaque on the front porch this house on Benachi was built c.1905. This two-story cottage has one type of block, a pinch rock face with narrow margins, but the raised-bead mortar beds add visual interest to the masonry. These rock face block are described as pinch face because the blocks come to a peak in the center, giving the face the appearance of being pinched. There are also three different lengths of block in use here: a 16-inch, a 12-inch and a 4-inch. Cast window sills, lintels and a water table cap are the other concrete features on this structure.
West End Fire Company No. 3 A.K.A. The Biloxi Firehouse Museum
All three structures on this site utilize a faced concrete block of a different type. Two of these structures are historic. The Firehouse Museum just finished a $70,000.00 dollar restoration funded by FEMA and MEMA.
Designed by Biloxi architect John T. Collins A.I.A., the West End Fire House was built in 1937 as a WPA project. While the south and west facades of the building are faced in brick, to save cost the elevations that do not face the street were built from a 8″x16″ pinch-rock face block. The concrete used for this block contains a large aggregate. With the use of the larger aggregate, the definition of the block mold is some what lost and the lines are not as crisp.
Built between 1925 and 1948 the small gas house is very utilitarian. The 8″ X 16″ rock face block and cast lintels along with the asbestos roof and corrugated steel gable end are possibly all original fire resistant materials.
Modern Storage Building
The newer building to the rear of the property carried on the rock faced theme using an attractive modern 8″ x 16″split face block.
I’ll cover other Gulf Coast examples of this versatile building material over the coming weeks.