History of Art in Mississippi: Churches (II)

Finally at long last we are at the end of the Architecture chapter in History of Art in Mississippi, published in 1929. In addition to this chapter, several other chapters concentrate on the state’s historic buildings, including two chapters on Historic Homes. As the authors note, “The Art of Mississippi before the Civil War was preeminently that of Architecture, and the kindred arts which sprung up around house building.”

While there is some misinformation in the book, as far as I know it represents the first systematic attempt to document and explain the state’s buildings, and is the only source of information for some buildings that were lost afterward. Maybe someday we’ll pick this back up–until then, enjoy the chapter on Architecture. (And as always, be warned of political incorrectness ahead.)

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First Baptist Church (1924-27, Gabriel Ferrand, principal archt., N.W. Overstreet, associate archt.)

There have been two fine new-style church buildings put up in Jackson by the Baptist denomination, recently–the beautiful First Baptist church overlooking the New Capitol, designed by Overstreet of Jackson and Ferand of St. Louis, in Gothic style of architecture, and the very large new Calvary church, with a seating capacity at present of over 1,500, and with room for double the amount should the need arise–planned by R.H.Hunt of Chattanooga. This building, put up at a cost of $25,000, is of Southern colonial architecture [see WPA response to this phrase], and is very efficient in its construction for use in its double capacity of church auditorium and Sunday School department. The main auditorium is in the center, with large galleries and choir loft; and the remainder of the building is three floors high and is divided into a Sunday School auditorium class rooms, and social service rooms.

St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Jackson (1903, P.H. Weathers, archt.)

St. Andrews Church, Episcopal, of Jackson is of most attractive Gothic architecture, and is situated beside tall office buildings in the heart of the business district, much as is Trinity Church, New York City, and adds dignity and a touch of spirituality to the very material side of the daily business world. It was built in 1903, with T.H. [actually P.H.] Weathers, architect, and has a very fine arrangement of church and parish house, with connecting gallery. There is quite a history connected with the congregation of St. Andrews, their many moves, and final establishment and completion of the present splendid edifice. As so often, in a beautiful creation of Art, there has been a struggle before the final triumphant achievement, so it was with the Parish of St. Andrews–worshipping first seventy-nine years ago in a building on the corner of Amite and North President street, they saw their church burned by Gen. Sherman’s army in 1862. After this loss they received permission and worshipped in the Senate chamber of the Old Capitol for years, until in 1869 they obtained the corner lot on Capitol Street where Kennington’s store now stands. There they built a church, which did them splendid service until the growth of Jackson and needs of the parish obliged them to put up the present churchly structure with its chapel, and well-equipped parish house that adds so much to the community life of Jackson.

Before leaving Mississippi and her churches a description should be given of a little country church, the Chapel of the Cross, at Annandale, that typifies the spirit of the pioneer settlers of the South. That spirit of gratitude for safe deliverance into a bounteous and fair land, that so permeated the soul of the plantation owner, that he built his chapel in which to worship the Almighty Lord, before ever turning his thoughts toward the founding of his own home. There are still many such churches left in Mississippi.

Chapel of the Cross by joseph a (Flickr)

This beautiful little Gothic Chapel of the Cross, hidden away in a dense grove of ancient moss-draped oaks, looks as if it should belong in some Wayfarers Tale of Olde England. A chance tourist passing by, is impelled by the glimpse of it seen through the trees, and drawn–as by a magnet–to explore its quaint and eerie old grave-yard, and if lucky, get a glimpse of the cool cloistered interior of the chapel, with its haunting ghosts of the past. It seems ages older then the scant century it has seen roll past, and it hallows with its presence a ground that once was devoted to the redskins. One can almost picture them, ere they vanished quite away from Mississippi soil, peering in, with a strange wonder, through the windows at the rituals of the palefaces.

Located on ten acres of land, seven miles west of Madison township, a county well over a hundred years old, it was erected with slave labor and brick from her own place, by Mrs. Johnstone–she who was to be mistress of the Annandale yet to be built. So first the little chapel went up, its altar, bishop’s chair and furnishings were brought from Europe, and the font was hewn from solid stone in France, and brought over. On Sept. 10, 1852, by Right Rev. William Mercer Green, first bishop of Mississippi and grandfather of the present bishop coadjutor William Mercer Green, it was consecrated.

From thence forward this chapel was dear to the Johnstone family and to the people of Madison county. Under its arched roof took place baptisms, marriages and funerals of generations; and in the shade, surrounded by a delicate iron network of railings, are the tombs of Madison county children, who so peacefully lie there sleeping.

They suffered, struggled, loved and finally came there to rest, one even a young lover in his prime, shot in a duel on the eve of his wedding, was there laid to rest on the very night in which he was to have been wed. And there, on a stone bench at the grave’s foot, for years sat the young mistress, Helen of Annandale, weeping for her lost happiness.

At the chapel, built by the slaves from her own plantation; thus worshipped and prayed the mother and daughters, mistresses of Annandale and Ingleside, during the happy first years; the long hard years of the War; then the trying years following, that gradually brought decay to the wonderful plantation home and near destruction to the little chapel. It finally stood closed and empty, its furnishings borne off, none knew whither.

Then in 1914 a young minister was newly appointed to the Bolton district, Rev. Val Sessions, who made a real effort to find and restore to the chapel its original altar and furnishing, brought with so much labor from abroad. Most of them he found in a negro cabin–where so much fine old colonial furniture often found its way in those trying days following the war, when service was necessarily paid for in such rare coin. And now, after the restoration of its fine simple furnishings, it is possible once more to hold occasional services in this quaint and beautiful old chapel, sanctified by the loving dead.



Categories: Architectural Research, Churches, Historic Preservation, Jackson

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