Mississippi Architect, September 1964: Moss Point Municipal Building

The new Moss Point Municipal Building, designed by H.F. Fountain of Biloxi was the subject of the September 1964 issue of Mississippi Architect magazine. Unfortunately, this building’s life was cut short by Hurricane Katrina, as I believe it flooded like many buildings in downtown Moss Point. According to this Gulf Live blog post from November 2011, the new City Hall, finished earlier this year, returns to a colonial, maybe neo-Louisiana Colonial Revival (?) style, eschewing the hard-edged modernism of the 1960s city hall.

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MOSS POINT MUNICIPAL BUILDING
Moss Point

H. F. FOUNTAIN JR., AlA
Biloxi
Architect

A. W. HEAD
Moss Point
Engineer

RALPH MARION
Biloxi
General Contractor

DESIGNING this municipal building for Moss Point, Mississippi, was a unique problem in as much as the facility had to accommodate a city hall, jail, court room, fire station, tax collection department, and waterworks department. The mayor’s secretary was also the secretary of the local Chamber of Commerce. There was also a limited budget of $ 100,000.

Brick with structural tile back-up for load bearing walls with pre-cast concrete roof and sprayed acoustic plaster ceilings were chosen.

This is perhaps the first window wall job on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The structure is completely air conditioned.

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This article is reprinted from the September 1964 issue of the Mississippi Architect, with permission from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. View the full September 1964 issue of Mississippi Architect in a digitized format, or for other articles in this ongoing series, including the pdf version of each full issue, click on the MSArcht tab at the top of this page.



Categories: Architectural Research, Gulf Coast, Modernism, Moss Point, Recent Past

5 replies

  1. This building may not have been immediately lovable to the beholder, but it is far preferable to its replacement. They would have been better off with a new approach altogether.

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  2. So in these days of climate change (aka “global warming”) and a new emphasis on energy conservation – how are we to marry our mid-20th-century, air-conditioned minimalist modernist aesthetic with our traditional forms for battling the environment (large operable windows on and doors axis, porches, operable shutters, etc.)? Instead of preserving our bodies and all our “stuff” in chilled air, will we return to an acceptance of sweating and more minimalist living?

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    • I don’t like to take sides in the “Traditional” vs. “Modernist” debate because I think both have merit. There were modernist buildings that incorporated what we would think of as “green” measures today: bris soleil to shade windows from the sun, deeply recessed windows, even porches. In fact, a friend of mine was talking a while back about doing a book of Gulf Coast Modern, surveying modernist design from Houston to Sarasota and points in between. He believed there was a distinctive Gulf Coast school of modernism that included many of these features, tying them to Caribbean and South American modernists rather than New England or Midwestern modernists. I wish he would go ahead and write that book because it’s an intriguing concept and might give us a different perspective on our own Coast.

      Nevertheless, this building in Moss Point clearly didn’t really incorporate those aspects, but I suspect it was done away with more because it was “old” and “flooded” than for its lack of green features. On the other hand, the “traditional” building that replaced it, like many large “traditional” style buildings nowadays, looks ill-proportioned and steroidal. Residential blown up for public purpose.

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      • I would definitely buy that book. I think there is big difference between Gulf Coast modernism and Northern modernism. Looking just at Paul Rudolph’s work in New England it is quintessential Brutalism, while his albeit earlier work in Florida has a much lighter feel to it and uses many “green” design techniques. After seeing some of his Gulf Coast work I was convinced that maybe he wasn’t the evil genius that i had previously thought.

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  3. Long Beach did the same thing, tearing down their modern city hall after Katrina and rebuilding in the neo-Louisiana Colonial Revival style. I couldn’t find any credit given to who wrote the Mississippi Architect article but the claim that “This is perhaps the first window wall job on the Mississippi Gulf Coast” is interesting. 1964 seems a little late for the first window wall building on the coast. The Long Beach City hall constructed in 1957 had a window wall that was tucked behind a nice masonry screen. And with all the beautiful views along the coast I am sure there was probably a window wall along the water some where before the Long Beach City hall

    I think the cover of this issue of Mississippi Architect has an interior photo of the Moss Point Municipal Building.

    Great Post! Thanks for bringing us this article.

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