Today’s post is the second of a two-part series about the life and work of Meridian architect P.J. Krouse by guest author Mark Clinton Davis, reprinted from July 2011 issue of The Reporter of Pearl River County. If you’d like to start from the beginning, see yesterday’s post.
Attention to detail is characteristic of Krouse’s work throughout the state and is evident in the courthouse at Poplarvile completed in 1918. There, decorative marble interiors, specially designed light fixtures and banisters of polished wood and metal recall an era in which public buildings were meant to reflect civic pride.
On March 7, 2011, Pearl River County’s supervisors revealed an ambitious project in which the courthouse would be framed with buildings of a similar scale on either side. Behind the old courthouse, a shaded public garden would provide citizens a place for relaxation. The proposed buildings by Landry and Lewis of Hattiesburg would create a grand civic space and ameliorate years of overcrowding in which many public records were lost in misguided and piecemeal efforts to gain space in the old courthouse. The project is also meant to insure the preservation and continued use of the historic building and to feature it as the centerpiece of complementary structures.
Krouse’s design for the First Baptist Church in Poplarville, completed in 1931 by contractors L. E. and W. F. Breland, has windows and a central entrance that recall Gothic architecture as it was executed in England; however the detailed brickwork is more reminiscent of northern German and Polish religious buildings. The building faces the courthouse across South Main Street.
A third Krouse building in Poplarville, Huff Hall, is an historic dormitory built to house male students. Wetmore and Priester of Meridian served as its contractors. Though much of it is utilitarian; it has enough Greek Revival elements to lend an overall effect of grandeur and charm. It has become one of the most loved buildings on the campus. James Andrew Huff was an administrator who oversaw the transition of the school from an agricultural high school to a two year community college. He is remembered as the first president of the first community college in Mississippi. Huff Hall, completed in 1919, is one of the oldest buildings extant in the state’s community college system.
Throughout Krouse’s career he formed partnerships with other architects. His son Charles Dabbs Krouse worked as a draughtsman in Penn’s office before becoming an architect himself. Krouse’s brother-in-law Luther Lee Brasfield, husband of Adrian Ruby Krouse, also partnered with him later in life. Penn’s schedule was also crowded with civic duties, the last of which involved his appointment as Chairman of the War Price and Rationing Administration in the early years of World War II. He had to resign this post as his health deteriorated. He died in the Spring of 1944 in the most dire and grim days of the war effort a month before the Normandy Invasion.
Although a score of Penn Krouse’s buildings have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places; none of the Poplarville buildings are included, even though they clearly merit listing. Perhaps this will change as the public becomes more aware of his importance and the quality of his work.
Two snapshots of P. J. Krouse taken on a hunting trip. The dog is thought to be a favorite named Jip. (Courtesy of Rev. Dr. Timothy and Emily Clark Smith)
3. Farrell, David A. “Supervisors Unveil Courthouse Plans.” Picayune Item. Vol 106, No. 201, March 8, 2011. p.1. Back to post
4. Hague, Ronn ed. “The PRCC Story.” n. p. Back to post
5. Ibid. Back to post
6. “County has New Chairman of Rationing Board.” Meridian Star, December 22, 1942. p.1. Back to post
7. Among the Krouse buildings on the National Register of Historic Places are the Alex Loeb Building, Meridian (1926); Bobo Senior High School, Clarksdale; Clark County Courthouse and Confederate Monument, Quitman (1917); First Presbyterian Church of Meridian (1912-1914); Jones County Courthouse and Confederate Monument, Ellisville; Masonic Temple, Meridian (1903); Meridian City Hall (1915); Stevenson Primary School, Meridian (1911); and the U. S. Post Office and Courthouse, Meridian (1933) as well as a number of smaller scale buildings in the Laurel Central and Meridian Downtown Historic Districts. Back to post
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.
To learn more about the history of PRCC, see Ronn Hague’s essay and much more at http//www.prcc.edu
This article reprinted with permission from Mark Clinton Davis and the Pearl River County Historical Society.