Giving Credit Where Credit May or May Not Be Due (see relevant regulation[s])

Last week, Tom Freeland posted a picture of the cornerstone of Jackson’s new federal courthouse on his blog, NMissCommentor, in a post title “It’s 2010. Do you know who your president is?” In a detail I failed to catch when I was taking pictures of the building for my rant about the building’s bigger-is-better architecture, the cornerstone, in addition to the completion date of 2010, reads “George W. Bush, President.” Tom, in his lawyerly way, shares the federal regulation that brought about this seemingly anachronistic cornerstone, a regulation that essentially says that whoever was president

during project development prior to construction, if construction is completed during a subsequent President’s term of office

gets his name on the plaque or cornerstone.

Now I’ve seen a lot of cornerstones in my day, but I don’t recollect ever seeing one two years into a president’s term with the last president’s name on it. Rest assured I will keep my eyes peeled for any other examples of this practice. No doubt as design development turns into a decade or longer process, this kind of thing will happen more frequently.

As Tom also noted, the year of completion on the cornerstone reads “2010,” which seems like a little more hopeful thinking than reality, but this is not uncommon, since theoretically, the cornerstone is laid closer to the beginning of construction than the completion.

Anyway, with that on my mind, but completely by coincidence, I was wandering through Walker Engineering Building at Mississippi State this week, and I came across this oddity:

While I have possibly seen examples of cornerstones like the errant federal courthouse cornerstone–and just missed the fact that the president’s name didn’t match the year–I know for a fact I’ve never seen an example like this, with two different plaques, one for when the project started and the other for two years later when it was finished. It almost makes me think of two little boys each trying to outdo the other to get a girl’s attention. “Oh yeah, but look what I did!”

It seems like Ross Barnett would have had other things on his mind than whether the plaque in Walker Hall had his name on it, but apparently not. I don’t know the full story though–maybe Coleman had the bottom plaque cast his last week in office for a building that wasn’t even in the design stages yet just to put a finger in Barnett’s eye? I’ll bet somebody out there knows.

Usually, I admit, I skip over all those boring political names and head for the bottom where the names of the people who actually had something to do with this building are listed (or not, as the case sometimes frustratingly is). I’ll be paying more attention to all those other government officials’ names from now on, guaranteed!

While pondering this little end-of-week story, remember that today is the last day for the Northeast poll, which has made a comeback of sorts, with total votes at least in the four figures now, mostly, it seems through a surge in Tupelo voting. The poll closes tonight at midnight or whenever I go to bed, so if you haven’t voted, do it now!

Categories: Architectural Research, Courthouses, Jackson, Starkville, Universities/Colleges

7 replies

  1. This is a fun post,… In my early career designing rural schools, this was always an issue. The brass plaque would have the school board members’ names, as well as the Superintendent…. If there was an election over the course of the project there was always some grousing by the current Board about getting their names on the plaque….Yes, there is a world of interesting political posturing concerning every name on those plaques. Good stuff.


  2. I’m never going to look at cornerstones / plaques the same way again . . .


  3. I appreciate the link. Oddly enough, I read cornerstones. A favorite pair are bronze plaques in the City Hall in Oxford.

    It was built as a classic late 19th C post office, and was turned over to the city in the 1970s when the post office moved to what is now the federal courthouse (in the building of which a WPA-modernist city hall was demolished, in which there wasa WPA painting of Oxford by McCrady, still in our current city hall, about which I have a great story if folks are interested). The brass plaques do not reflect either the original 1870ish construction or a turn of the century addition, but reflect two things: On one side, the turn over of the city hall to the city in the 70s, and the other side, the 1940s filming of the movie Intruder in the Dust, a plaque given as a tribute by crew and cast to the city. No hint about the building’s history, though.


  4. Priorities, priorities! Which is more important, the history of the building, or a plaque given as a tribute by a film company? :-)

    The ones that are most frustrating to me are the church cornerstones that list the pastor, building committee, their mothers and wives, friends, etc. but NO DATE and no architect or builder. I know it’s possible the building was actually built by the building cmte, but NO DATE?? On a cornerstone?


  5. ElMal:

    Might I suggest that the two plaques on the Miss. State building were because of a new president of the University. It would not surprise me if the completion plaque was ordered by the new president, Dr. D.W. Colvard. He became president in 1960 and probably felt he had a right to have his name on the building since he presided over the university for the majority of its construction.


  6. Well, that’s probably right, come to think of it. Makes a lot of sense.

    And thanks for my new nickname!

    el Mal



  1. MSU’s Love Affair With Building Plaques « Preservation in Mississippi

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