I love a story with a happy ending, and this one might not have if not for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The building is the old Philadelphia Library constructed in 1935 as part of the New Deal Administration, and reconstructed in 2013 by Luke, Peterson, and Kaye of Meridian. The building was almost totally destroyed by a tornado in April 2011 (The Neshoba Democrat, retrieved September 14, 2013), with only the flooring, foundation, and chimney remaining.
When I first looked up the site and saw the pictures on the MDAH database, I assumed the building was simply falling down from neglect–not so!
The Twentieth Century Club and the Works Progress Administration and a community effort built the log cabin library (History of Public Library Service in Neshoba County). The first paid librarians were also provided by the WPA program–another investment in the citizens and communities of the nation during those years.
It was no easy feat to locate this building, and in fact, it was sheer luck that I stumbled onto it, but I won’t bemoan my series of bad GPS incidents on the recent trip. Suffice it to say I was driving back toward town from Hwy. 15, and took the wrong turn, chancing upon Northside Park. I drove through the park on the off chance I could locate what I assumed would be only crumbling remains of the building, and spotted the cabin. The workers were doing their “punch list” when I walked up. I asked the young man if he knew if this was the old library. He said no.
No, as in it is not the old library, or no as in you don’t know?
No, ma’am, I don’t know.
While I was pretty sure it was, seeing as how it looked just like the photos of the destroyed cabin, the other worker who came around the corner confirmed it for me. She graciously took me inside to see what had been completed following reconstruction, and filled in the gaps for me. The mantel piece was located, and parts of the wagon wheel lights. Other than the chimney, flooring, and fireplace, the building was reconstructed.
Like I said, I love a story with a happy ending.
Categories: Historic Preservation, Libraries, Mississippi Landmarks, MS Dept. of Archives and History, New Deal, Philadelphia
A very similar structure from the same era still exists in Carrollton. It serves unchanged (as is most of Carrollton!) as their Community House. A portion has functioned as a library as well. It was restored in 2001 using one of the original loggers as advisor and project superintendent.
That’s really cool that one of the original loggers was able to be e-involved! Another happy ending.