Carnegie Building at MS Industrial College

Several posts in the last few months have focused on the terrible shape and continuing decline of the incredible little campus of the Mississippi Industrial College in Holly Springs. Hopefully, we’ll be hearing more about the true condition of the buildings from Ben Ledbetter who recently visited the campus, 25 years after serving as architect on a project at the college. And as W. White noted in his News Roundup earlier this week, there is a sliver of movement recently, as Rust College, the newish owner of MIC, is seeking an $800,000 for assessment and planning (and hopefully some serious shoring *hint hint*) to get the campus rehab going.

But let’s go back in time a little bit when the college was in its prime as one of very few places where African Americans could gain a quality higher education in the state of Mississippi. I found this postcard recently and decided I must get it because it shows the Carnegie Building at the beginning, when its auditorium seats held a thousand or more college students and speakers held forth on scholarly and maybe not so scholarly topics, plays brought in the crowds, the library held books for the perusing soul.  This was before the building was abandoned and stood vacant, before the windows were broken out, before the roof got holes in it, before its sister buildings began to sink into the ground.

The postcard is a little unusual because it appears to be based on an architectural rendering rather than a photograph–it’s very two-dimensional with a stylized background. As we know, the Carnegie Building was designed by one of the first African American architectural firms, McKissack & McKissack of Nashville and built in 1923.

Maybe this little blast from better times will send good vibes up Holly Springs way and help lead in a small way to a better future and a new life for this once beautiful and always historic building.



Categories: African American History, Holly Springs, Universities/Colleges

16 replies

  1. My father and I were there last Saturday and the entire back roof had caved in. I hate giving such bad news and I hope the Mr. Ledbetter found that it looks worse than it really is. On a bright note, it looked like the home next to the campus (perhaps the Dean’s home?) had new windows and had recently been painted green. Could this be the start of a renovation by Rust College?

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    • Do you mean the back roof of this building (Carnegie) had caved in, or was it Cathrine (the first building from the south, next to the President’s office)? Carnegie’s roof looked relatively sound when I was there three months ago. In the attached aerial Carnegie is building #3.

      The building you saw with the collapsed roof is building #1, correct?

      The Mississippi Industrial College Campus

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  2. Do we know the source for the hoped-for $800,000 grant? The NPS has bricks-and-mortar funds targeted for HBCU’s, but the assessment and planning usually has to come first. That’s why Rust missed out on the NPS HBCU stimulus money – the project wasn’t “shovel ready.”

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  3. I’m going to begin a few posts at my web/flickr site. Perhaps only mournful reflections, but maybe some traction . . .

    Cathrine

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  4. Thanks, Ben–I’ll be looking forward to your thoughts.

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    • I’m still doing more brooding than bailing out the water that is slowly filling the boat. I’ve posted a few more photos, but neither a plan of action nor perhaps even a real theme is emerging. Well, here’s a map of sorts:

      Mississippi Industrial College seen from the campus of Rust College (click photo > Actions > View All Sizes > Original for a closer look at the buildings)

      We need to chart a course. Should we try to arrange a meeting with Rust?

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      • I like your panorama.

        Would I be correct in saying that Hammond Hall (Building 4) is in the best condition of the five buildings? Also, it looks like the middle three buildings are in good enough condition to feasibly save unless there is considerable damage to the rear of those buildings. I also would not write-off Catherine Hall (Building 1), if the money and will can be found, it can still be restored.

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        • Hammond Hall had been re-roofed as one of the first steps in our renovation/addition c 1980. Its windows and doors are also pretty well sealed (I couldn’t get in or even see in), so I suspect we could almost pick up where we left off thirty years ago. Our started addition/connector, and Davis Hall itself had very little material interior then, but for steel and concrete, so it may be that this entire assembly of buildings is in (relatively) good condition.

          Cathrine (by the way, there is no middle e) Hall could be restored, but it would need to be an act of historical redemption grounded in economic heroism (which is not to say that such an act is beyond the pale). There is probably almost no salvageable structure left. An engineering plan to hold up the remaining walls while rebuilding everything else is in order. I won’t kid anyone – this would be very, very expensive.

          Washington Hall’s roof is partially collapsed near mid-center, and it is going to VERY quickly go the way of Cathrine if a hat is not put on it soon: this means SOON.

          After Davis/Hammond, Carnegie appears to be in the best condition. I didn’t go inside because the vultures (the literal vultures, the metaphorical ones being somewhere else the day I was there) sitting in the windows seemed aggressive, and hungry. Who knows what insidious mischief Mother Nature has been reeking there until we can get inside to see.

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          • P.S. – “Reeking” was not a typo. She wreaks, and she reeks.

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          • Luckily for you, vultures are actually very skittish creatures and would have likely flown off with a forceful move towards them. They could be part of the reason the building reeks. I went into an abandoned house one time that vultures had used as a roost: reeks might not be a strong enough word for that stench.

            Would you say that if Washington Hall receives a new roof within the next year, it could be feasibly saved without a great deal of other immediate expenditure needed to save it (not restore it)?

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            • My very superficial analysis would be that that is the case, W. White. But I didn’t go inside. Do you have something in mind for funding?

              There are ways to put “hats” (or umbrellas) on the buildings to put them in a safer holding pattern without the much greater expense of rebuilding lost structure to support more permanent roofs. But more in-depth analyses are of course needed.

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            • No, I am simply thinking that it would be easier to save Washington Hall if the “powers that be” are convinced that a (comparatively inexpensive) re-roof would “save” (for the time being) this building rather than a full restoration, which many would balk at the cost of.

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        • Hi W. White. I wanted to know if you are in a position to discuss a project related to Carnegie Hall on Mississippi Industrial College’s campus. I am working on putting together a plan for the site. Could you contact me when you receive this at themba_nelson@yahoo.com.

          Thank you

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  5. I have a request, hoping to at least better ground myself in this conversation and its possibilities. If those of you who are commenting here would like to more formally offer yourselves to this project (I’m going to be an optimist and call the redemption of MIC a “project”), would you identify yourselves and your interests in MIC, and also your expertises that we might enlist to the cause? I have no idea who most of you are because you do not link your names to web sites, addresses, whatever. Thanks!

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    • Ben, I am at the University of Mississippi. You can find me through the Social Work Department, or my personal blog at http://www.suzassippi.blogspot.com. I am interested in this for its historical importance to Mississippi, the role it and Rust College played in the Civil Rights Movement, and the emotional appeal the buildings have had for me since moving to Mississippi and driving past them on my first trip to Memphis from Oxford 7 years ago. I have had much experience in community organizing and while I am no expert, I will lend my hand and my resources, and enlist the support of others at the UM.

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  6. Hi Ben. My friend and I have put together a redevelopment plan for Carnegie Hall on MIC campus and have presented it to a few people we are connected with at the Historic Preservation foundation and with the Federal department that distributes grants to HBCU’s. We have also spoken with Rust College and they are willing to entertain the idea. To date we are lacking some key aspects in the budgeting requirements. I would like to talk with you because you have the most knowledge about the project. Could you please contact me at themba_nelson@yahoo.com.

    Thank you

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