Suzassippi’s Mississippi: Senatobia High School

Senatobia High School was constructed in 1938, apparently as a project of the Works Progress Administration (National Register of Historic Places nomination form, John L. Hopkins, 1993).  The Art Moderne auditorium is located on the approximate original site of the Senatobia Female College (Hopkins).  Hopkins reported

…stylized bas-relief sculptures, facade sun dial, lighting fixtures, and other detailings all reveal the hand of an extremely talented designer, whose identity unfortunately is unknown.  Taken as a whole, this structure is among the finest Art Moderne designs surviving in the region.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory identified the architect as Hull and Drummond, of Jackson, and the builder/construction company as Wessell Construction.  Additions, also in the Art Moderne style, were completed in 1959 and 1965 (MDAH, HRI).

The auditorium is 1.5-story with 1-story, three bay side wings, and constructed of reinforced concrete with brick and stone veneer (Hopkins).…flat roofs behind parapet walls topped with metal coping… bays…separated by engaged pier-like pilasters…decorated with allegorical bas-relief sculptures and sun dial above glass block lights…See the shadow line for the time?  I took the photograph at 1:10:43 p.m.  Pretty cool, huh?

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Categories: Schools, Senatobia

16 replies

  1. Reminds me of many of the older schools built here in Chicago. Thanks for sharing these photos.

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  2. And I have to wonder how many people who live there have ever noticed this amazingly beautiful work? Yes, it is wonderful that it is still standing and looks good. Interesting sun dial. I’m thinking most students would disagree with Times Flies (while you’re in high school).

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  3. Wow…this is just stunning. It’s interesting that schools of this time…first half of 20th c…put the auditorium and/or gym, the place where the entire student body comes together, front and center. It also presents a central, formal entry to the public.
    Is there any database of WPA projects in the state?

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  4. Oh, that is AWESOME!

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  5. I think the school’s yearbook used to be named ROCKETEER. I don’t know if it’s still that or not.

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  6. This school was actually a Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works project, a predecessor of the Public Works Administration (PWA). We at the Historic Preservation Division, MDAH, have been keeping a list of Depression-era projects, but we didn’t start that list until the late 1990s, well after John Hopkins had written this nomination. At that time, we realized that calling everything a “WPA” project neglected the long list of agencies that were funding and constructing buildings in the 1930s, most importantly the Public Works Administration, which produced many of our finest public buildings around the state.

    Senatobia was FEAPWA Project #Miss. 1260. We got our initial list from scholar Robert Leighninger, Jr, who generously shared his research that he had compiled for his book Building Louisiana: The Legacy of the Public Works Administration, published in 2007. Unfortunately, we haven’t had an opportunity to publish our working list in any accessible format, but there are hundreds of buildings still standing around the state built under one federal program or another. It would be fun to do a New Deal Trail, and Senatobia school would certainly be on it!

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    • Thank you for the clarification and the additional information. A New Deal Trail is a brilliant idea. It would be a good way to interest students in policy issues and how public policy can serve communities to meet their needs.

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  7. Senatobia School has been a designated Mississippi Landmark since 1994, which means that MDAH approves any changes and upgrades to the building, and also that the school district can apply for grants to renovate and repair the building.

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  8. Thanks for the great article – reminds me of Church Street School in Tupelo, another gorgeous old building built about the same time. We’re fortunate they were left standing long enough to be appreciated.

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  9. Those of us in Senatobia do recognize the beauty in this building. It’s a town landmark and a thriving school that the majority of the area attended at some point in their life. Former students come back and become faculty members. It’s a strong institution in our little town. A rock solid role in the building of the Senatobia and Tate County community. Thank you so much for featuring it on this site.

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  10. Please contact me concerning this article.

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  11. How can i tell if a certain building is listed as a landmark and requires MDAH approval of changes?

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  12. You can go to the MDAH database: https://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/Public/search.aspx. From there you can either search by individual property (“Properties”) or get a list of all designated Mississippi Landmarks in a given city or county (“MS Landmarks”).

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