Architects of Mississippi: Penn Jeffries Krouse

The July 2011 issue of  the newsletter of the Pearl River County Historical SocietyThe Historical Reporter of Pearl River County, featured a long article about the life and career of yet another once-prominent but now mostly unrecognized Mississippi architect, P.J. Krouse.  We’ve looked at some of Krouse’s buildings here on MissPres, (see An Alabama-Mississippi Architectural Partnership) but this article brings him to life in a new way.

Mark Davis, the editor of the Reporter and author of the articlekindly sent it to me, and when I begged to let it be reprinted on MissPres, the Society graciously allowed it. So that you can digest all the new information about Krouse, I’m running what was one article in two parts. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

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On September 7, 2003,  Emily Bonner Krouse Smith died in Atlanta.  Her body was brought to Mississippi so that services could be held in the church of her devotion:  First Presbyterian in Meridian. [1]  As the last living child of Penn Jeffries Krouse, she had a unique relationship to that particular place of worship.  Her father had designed it.

Penn Krouse was born on September 23,  1877,  the son of Adrian Zick Krouse and Ann Ruben (Ruby) Jeffries.  The family was well-off and emphasized education.  Coming from a family of dentists,  Krouse was the first of his line to choose a profession in the arts.  Early in his career as an architect,  Krouse married Martha Rebecca (Mattie) Dillehay,  a gifted musician and music teacher from Shubuta,  Mississippi.  She bore him three children: Adrian Alonzo, Charles Dabbs and Emily Bonner.  By the time Emily was born on August 29, 1909,  the family was living in one of four houses Krouse designed on Meridian’s fashionable 18th Street.

Penn Jeffries Krouse is seated on the left. His first cousin and senior by seven years, Dr. Theodore Krouse Barefield, is seated next to him and the man standing on the right is Barefield’s father-in-law Alonzo Appelles Dillehay. Dillehay (7 Feb 1846–9 Jan 1929) was a Civil War veteran who had served as a cavalry sergeant for the Confederacy. He would become Krouse’s father-in-law as well. None of the others are identified. (Photo courtesy of Sylvia Smith Griffin)

Penn Jeffries Krouse (Courtesy of Sylvia Smith Griffin)

It was a large two-story house with many stained glass windows.   The height of the ceilings allowed for transoms.  Both the height and the transoms helped cool the house in the hot Meridian summer.  Its front porch was set with tiles and its library painted with scenes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha.”  An active sportsman with three growing children,  Krouse installed a gymnasium on the second floor. He was especially fond of hunting and fishing and late in life Emily Krouse remembered her school years saying “often a quail was in my lunchbox.” [2]

After their children were grown, Krouse and Martha Dillehay divorced and later he entered into a second marriage with Katherine Barham.  As is common with divorce in a reserved family in an era that frowned on separations,  little is known of the dissolution of their marriage.   But with Penn Krouse’s list of clients and roster of civic duties,  it is easy to surmise that an element of neglected wife syndrome was involved as Krouse was clearly a workaholic.

He was a prolific architect working in a range of styles that included Greek,  Gothic,  Georgian  and Egyptian Revival,  Beaux Arts and even Art Deco.  Between 1900 and 1940 his oeuvre encompassed a number of large scale projects: public buildings for Meridian and Laurel,  schools and  religious structures as well as the courthouses of Clarke,  Jones,  Yalobusha, Lauderdale and Pearl River counties.

Egyptian Revival architecture dates from Napolean’s conquest of Egypt which created a resurgence of interest in all things Egyptian. The style has enjoyed several periods of heightened popularity usually as a reaction to other cultural phenomena such as the discovery of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb or to the exotic appeal of films like “The Garden of Allah” or “The Ten Commandments.” Meridian’s Scottish Rite Cathedral, completed to the designs of P. J. Krouse and Hyman Witcover in 1915, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Following a disastrous fire on March 20, 1985 its remains were demolished; though to many it had been the finest example of Egyptian Revival architecture in Mississippi. (Postcard courtesy of Wyna Lee Mitchell Davis)

In his Beaux Arts buildings he often dispensed with the arch characteristic of that style,  preferring squared recesses for windows divided by large pilasters.  This sometimes gave the structures a feeling of unsoftened monumentality.  His preference is visible in the frontal elevation of the Meridian City Hall as well as the exteriors of several of the courthouses including the Poplarville one.

Meridian City Hall (1915) Krouse, working with Clarence L. Hutchisson Sr., created a Beaux Arts public building that also pays homage to the neo-classicism of Inigo Jones. The building is similar in scale, proportion and coloring to Jones’ Queen’s House at Greenwich built for Queen Henrietta Maria and Charles I. The Meridian City Hall is undergoing scrupulously attentive restoration to guidelines set forth by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

One of his most elegant buildings, the Stewart M. Jones Junior High School in Laurel,  does employ the arch in its central entrance.  The ends of the arch rest on pilasters framing doors recessed under an articulated pediment.  Krouse enhanced the facade further with decorative medallions and a pattern of exceedingly refined brickwork of subtle geometries.

A detail of the Stewart M. Jones School in Laurel showing the upper portion of the frontal elevation with arched central entrance, decorative medallions and cupola with urn shaped finials. A fire destroyed a wing of this building in May of 2009. It is slowly being restored.

**To Be Continued Tomorrow . . .

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1 Obituary of Emily Bonner Krouse Smith.  “The Franklin County Times.  September 10, 2003.  n. p. Back to post
2 Personal papers of Emily Bonner Krouse Smith, courtesy of Sylvia Smith Griffin. Back to post

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Clinton Davis grew up in Picayune and received a Master’s in English Literature with an emphasis on Renaissance and Restoration prose and poetry from San Francisco State University. He also studied art history and printmaking at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. For two years, he worked with Margaret Kilgallen on “Untitled,” a public arts project designed by artists Ann Chamberlain and Ann Hamilton for San Francisco’s New Main Library. He is currently in his fourth year as editor of the PRCHS newsletter, The Historical Reporter.

This article reprinted with permission from Mark Clinton Davis and the Pearl River County Historical Society



Categories: Architectural Research, Cool Old Places, Historic Preservation, Laurel, Meridian, Poplarville

6 replies

  1. Good read–waiting for tomorrow!

    Like

  2. With so many impressive buildings under Krouse belt, its interesting that so little is known of him. It seems like he was several years older than his contemporaries. Thank you to Mr. Davis for sharing this Article with the MissPres universe!

    Like

  3. Thank you for your kind comments.

    Like

  4. Thank you for posting the article and pictures. Penn Jeffries Krouse and my grandmother were first cousins on the Jeffries side. It was a pleasure to read!

    Like

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