Village Apartments: Mid-century surviving on Ole Miss campus

Whether you call it a masonry screen or a concrete block screen, I sort of fell in love with them first when Malvaney (not the original) wrote In Praise of Masonry Screens.  Then, Thomas Rosell whetted my appetite with a little Screen Block Bingo.  Although I had driven by the Village Apartments any number of times in the last 10 years, not until TR’s bingo challenge did these screens leap out at me, beckoning closer inspection.  So, every day since February, as I have gone to work I said to myself that I needed to take a picture of those and check them against the bingo screen.  Once I set my mind to it, I will eventually get around to doing it–it may have taken me 3 months, but that’s pretty quick for me these days.

hidden circle concrete block screen

There are two remaining sections of the Village Apartments housing on campus–what was once no doubt called “married housing.”  Many were demolished to make way for the new law school building.  Still standing is the 1961 unit designed by Thomas Henry Johnston, Jr., who was apparently quite prolific in the state between 1935-1965 (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database).  He was particularly active in the Starkville area, and also designed other Village housing and faculty housing on the UM campus.  The builder was Forcum and Lannom.

hidden circle screen 2

The design–while not making it to TR’s screen block bingo game, is known as the hidden circle.

double y screen 2

Even more exciting, when one considers I have been passing by history for quite some while now without even knowing it, is this double y design, by none other than the real Edgar L. Malvaney & Associates.  Malvaney designed this section of the Village Apartments in 1963, and builder was Fred P. Simmons Construction (MDAH, HRI).

double y concrete block screen

Concrete block screens, or masonry screens, were used for privacy, decoration, and shade, while still allowing air flow.  This would have been important in Mississippi summers in the 1960s to allow some ventilation to reach the interior hallways of these buildings.  While the buildings are now equipped with window units, no doubt the screens continue to help circulate air while giving a modicum of privacy to the families who live there while students at the university.  Though one just never knows what will happen in the decisions to save or demolish a campus building, here’s hoping these mid-century moderns stick around.  On pleasant days, I love the picture of the clothes drying on the clothesline out back, often little baby clothes, and enjoy the thought of families having the opportunity to better the life chances of those babies through parents’ education.  Sometimes I wonder how much longer families will call this place home.  Clothes on a clothesline?  Next to the law school?

 



Categories: Historic Preservation, Modernism, Oxford, Universities/Colleges

12 replies

  1. Great post! Wonderful photos too. Hope UM takes good care of the building to preserve it.

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  2. Mid-century (20th) moderns look a lot better that later-century (is that a legit term?) also known as mid-1970s designs, e.g., the Ole Miss student union building.

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  3. True Beauregard – the Ole Miss Student Union was/is an unworkable abomination. In the Ole Miss archives is the original architects brochure – laughable at what uses they envisioned for it – it was obvious that whoever designed it only had a rudimentary knowledge of what a campus was like. I recall the “conversation blocks”, large plywood blocks covered in dirty fabric, the uneven tile on the floor and odd details – such as a room with glass on four sides and lots of odd angles. Later when I was getting my degree in Urban and Regional Planning and my design instructor told us to design an unworkable public space – I used the Ole Miss Student Union as my inspiration.

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  4. It was formally named Married Student Housing, but referred to colloquially as “Vet Village”.

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  5. They are enchanting! I also hope they stick around. They wouldn’t tear down the Lyceum, so why would they want to demolish these just because they are old? I would never have noticed the concrete block screens; I’ve got to go on a local hunting expedition for some of these!

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  6. Answer: the Lyceum has big ol’ white columns, these don’t. :-)

    Warning: Once you begin to notice masonry screens, you can’t stop! Highly addictive!

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  7. Great post, thanks for sharing these beauties with us. I think that concrete block screens are a subset of masonry screens. Did you note the size of the blocks, perhaps 16x4x4?

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  8. I live in these apartments now. They are not doing upkeep really and as far as I’ve been told plan to tear them down within the next 5-10 years. There are no plans to rebuild any sort of family housing. We are now considered the “eye-sore” of campus by those in charge and they have resorted to planting Magnolia trees around the perimeter in an effort to hide us. :(

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  9. Sadly, yes. I would love to see those building house other families in the future. We are almost done with school, and if it wasn’t for The Village, no way that my husband and I could have gotten our degrees. Now they put staff in those apartments… I don’t know what their deal is. Upkeep isn’t all that great, we don’t have washers, dryers, or dishwashers because “buildings are too old”, as we were told. It isn’t really about age of the buildings, it is just that Ole miss wants married housing completely out, it seems. Hopefully, I am wrong, but who knows.

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  10. My dad was getting his masters their , I lived their from 3rd grade to 5th grade. I had many good memories and can still remember the way the buildings were. Was thinking about taking a trip back their, but seems it’s all gone. So sad that some things don’t last forever. But progress has to come, along with change. Love Ole Miss and the great memories I had.

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