Lewis Hall: The New Deal on the UM Campus

Lewis Hall

Ya’ll all know I’ve been fascinated the past few months with the New Deal architecture.  I was recently lunching with a history professor and telling her about this new passion and she exclaimed, “I was shaped by the New Deal!” and launched into how it had affected her life and her life work.

Lewis Hall (Physics Building) remains as one of several projects of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works that benefitted the University of Mississippi community during the years of the depression and recovery.  R. W. Naef was the architect for this 1939 building, constructed by the Walter L. Perry Construction Company out of Philadelphia, Mississippi (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database).

It was originally known just as “Physics Building” and in 1977, was named for Dr. Arthur Beverly Lewis, a physics professor from 1939-1969 (olemiss.edu/depts/physics_and_astronomy/history/). Classes are still held in the building–which resembles several other campus buildings constructed during that time.  A research wing was added in 1995 on the rear of the southwest corner.  The building is currently undergoing renovation.

Categories: Historic Preservation, New Deal, Oxford, Universities/Colleges

10 replies

  1. What a dog. These bland buildings infest every state college campus in the country, and their like continue to do so. Not an idea in sight, which is such a missed opportunity for an academic setting.


  2. I disagree with “Ordinary Person.” The physics building is rather plain, but has large windows so that the classrooms will be airy and cheerful. The brick exterior has a campus look. Many schools around the country from the approx. 1900 to 1950 era feature buildings like this. Many 1960s buildings built on campuses are much more severe and grim, some resembling grey concrete blockhouses.


    • I agree Kodachrome. Buildings of this typology are good examples of where the profession was at this point. Like houses, Classical elements had been relegated to only the most important features: the entry surround, maybe a light fixture or two or a railing.But these elements are so dry and devoid of spark they might have been copied straight out of Architectural Standards. I kind of find this last gasp of Classicism, before the war and the acceptance of Modernism, rather poignant.


    • The classicism here is more than just ornament–it’s in the form and massing, the symmetry, the pediment. On the other hand, I think Naef was capable of much better Modern Classicism/Stripped Classicism/Classical Modernism, whatever term is used for this stylistic family. For instance, his nearby Kennon Observatory is a lovely adaptation of classicism, using many of the same pieces he uses here but put together in a more interesting way, at least in my opinion. The building uses the typology of hyphen and wing, but in a fresh and asymmetrical way to the point of almost seeming Post-Modern (in a good way, not the normal way).

      Nevertheless, I don’t think the Physics Building is a dog. Stolid perhaps, but not a dog.


  3. The building may look plain, but I think its simplicity makes it very classic and somewhat stately (or quietly dignified). Maybe like a strand of pearls with a simple black dress? And, I like the idea of the large windows to let in light and the fact that they are not shuttered or ornamented, just plain and simple.


  4. Well, y’all, I would jump into the discussion, but I am laid up with a 50 pound leg brace and typing with one finger flat on the back is just too much work for tonight!


  5. That sounds painful! Now that the semester is over I hope you can rest and recuperate?



  1. New Deal on UM Campus: Kennon Observatory « Preservation in Mississippi
  2. Leavell Hall: Another “Dog” of a Building? « Preservation in Mississippi

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