New Deal: Ecru Vocational Building

Vocational buildingThe Ecru building, clad in “native stone,” retains its exterior features, including pent awnings over the doors and 9/9 double hung sash windows. (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory)

While I have seen these before, I don’t recall hearing the term “pent awning.”  The term “pent roof”  was more common in explaining the function of the overhang to shed water away from the foundation, for example:

PENT ROOF    A narrow shed style roof placed above the first floor of a building to protect the doors, windows and lower walls, often covering all four sides of the building. (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/architectural_field_guide/2370/dictionary_of_architectural_terms/445407)

In early designs, the awning covered the entire front of the house, and in some cases, completely covered the house on all sides.  It fell out of fashion, but the use as awnings continued.  For example, the Ripley Historic District survey describes 29 buildings with pent awnings, and one with pent roof.

The National Youth Administration (NYA) was a division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  President Roosevelt created the NYA with executive order following intense lobbying, primarily by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, to provide vocational skills training to 16-25 year olds, as well as provision of stipends to enable them to continue their education.  Mississippi Department of Archives and History identified 64 NYA school projects in Mississippi!  Road Trip!!! Anyone want to come along?  You can also see photographs of NYA projects in Mississippi at this link–take the time to check them out!



Categories: Historic Preservation, New Deal, Schools

8 replies

  1. Sorry if this is a dumb question, but where is this Ecru Vocational Building?

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  2. I might have initially referred to the awnings as shed awnings, but I think that pent awnings is a perfectly apt definition. This did cause me to fetch my dictionary of architecture and construction, and found a word that is fairly specific to this instance. I never would have found it if were not the entry directly prior to Pent Roof. The word is Pentice.

    Pentice: a small pent roof, on a side of a building, often restricted to the area over a door.

    I imagine that we all would have to look up Pentice, but pent awning is perfectly clear and understandable explanation of what the structure sports. It is interesting that the definition restricts a Pentice to pent roofs on the sides of buildings, which would make these awnings not fit the definition.

    The root of the word Pentice is Old French “apentiz” which is defined as “to hang against”, which sounds applicable to the element.

    Thank you for my new word for the day!

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  3. I know I am out of my field of expertise here, but I would interpret on “a” side of a building as any side, in this case, the front side, as differentiated from “the” side. I did have to look up pent awning, in order to understand what made it different from a shed awning or any other kind of awning. I prefer the pent roof (which is kind of like a loooonnnnggg awning covering the side) as depicted in the Ripley example. I believe I will put one on my next house.

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    • ha ha you are not out of your field if you can see the forest for the trees like you did and I could not! I think you are right about it being “a side” as opposed to “a top” or “a roof” or “a foundation” etc.

      Ive seen pent roofs used in situations like the Ripley example to keep water away from areas where wood and masonry meet. This aids in keeping the areas as dry as possible, minimizing the potential for water intrusion or absorption of water by masonry that could cause an adjacent wood header or ceiling joist to experience fungal deterioration.

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      • I think that would be especially important on houses or buildings that did not have eaves, or at least, not much of an overhang. “Fungal deterioration” sounds like something a building does not want to have!

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        • Yes they have all been on commercial buildings like the Ripley example or on a gable end of a building. Like this one in Pascagoula…http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ms0175.photos.093304p/resource/

          haha yes “fungal deterioration” is not good. My use of the phrase comes from a discussion with a friend that “rot” was not a legal term. The proper description would be ‘decay”. While I believe that to be correct it is difficult to stop using the term “rot” to describe deterioration caused by fungal growth. Its a slow learning curve but this old dog is learning.

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  4. I think it is a beautiful building and I like these pent awnings. Being totally ignorant on this subject, I certainly learn a lot. So you can teach old dogs new tricks. Thank all of you for all the interesting enlightenment for me.

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