Sardis Home Economics Building: Could it be a New Deal Building?

home economics buildingThe former home economics building in Sardis–our last visit to the Sardis School Complex–was constructed in 1935 (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database).  Unfortunately, there is no other information about the building that I can locate digitally, and I just don’t have the opportunity to make a run down to MDAH and look in the physical archives right now to see if I can dig up anything else.  I throw myself on the mercy of the MissPres community for assistance, because I thought it would be in really poor taste to go hunting for a possible cornerstone in a building that seems to be a private residence now.  I am speculating on the possibility that this could have been funded by one of the New Deal programs:

Bond Home Economics Building front

Bond School Home Economics building, Winston County. Retrieved from http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/series/2018/detail/3647

The Bond Home Economics building was constructed by the National Youth Administration in 1937, in the same design.  There were, of course, any number of home economics buildings constructed in Mississippi during the decade 1930-1940 and after.  The NYA was active in Mississippi from 1937-1942, but other school buildings (including home economics buildings) were constructed beginning in 1935 by the WPA.  Home ec buildings were also constructed prior to the New Deal, but I don’t locate any photographs of those for comparison and the HRI generally identifies only the school and the year of construction.  There were, of course, limited forays into federal financing of schools, post offices, and courthouses under the Hoover administration, but there is no documentation of that regarding the Sardis building either.

Bond Home Economics Building

Bond Home Economics building side view of windows, retrieved from http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/series/2018/detail/3646

Let’s look at those similarities again:

  • both buildings have 5 windows on the side
  • both buildings have 3 windows at the front of the room on the side of the building
  • both buildings have two front entrances, at right angles to each other
  • both buildings have 3 windows across the front large room, with 1 single window at the end of the front room

Home economics buildings were intended to instruct young women–those future homemakers–in the art of not only cooking, but sanitation and hygiene in the kitchen and home, so they were often built like a cottage, with a kitchen, living room, and dining room area, and some had a bathroom.



Categories: Historic Preservation, Schools

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12 replies

  1. Good eye drawing the connection between this building and the Bond NYA Home Ec structure.

    This post has jogged my memory about some pavilions near the Keesler AFB marina that were built c1937 by the NYA at what was then the naval reserve park. I have some pictures somewhere. If I find them I’d be happy to share them with you.

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  2. Thanks, TR. Are they recent, and the buildings still in existence? There are photos of the pavilions and the picnic area in the NYA Photo Album (located at the above link), from during the building stage in 1937! The album is quite interesting.

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    • They were still there last time I was over at the marina this past summer. I took the photos I mentioned in 2008.

      The MDAH NYA photos do depict the project. I think some of the pavilions have been demolished but some are still standing including one with a very nice fireplace and chimney. In the chimney breast is the NYA plaque with the date of construction.

      I think the pavilions are the only structures on Keesler AFB to predate the base. Everything else was demolished in 1940 when the base was established, including the Washington Senators spring training facility.

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  3. BTW, my junior high campus in Laurel had a similar progeam/structure, and the boys had to take a home ec class to graduate. We were told we needed to learn how to sew a button back on a dress shirt because, some day, we would all become businesmen and might be at work when a button popped off, and that would be bad.

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    • You are clearly a lot younger than I am then, as during the time I was in school, boys could not take Home Ec–it was Katy bar the door the first time a male student wanted to take it. Of course, that challenge, and a lot of others opened doors.

      I might add that if you were living in my household (for whom “home ec” never really “took”) you might have to sew your own button back on at home if you ever wanted it on. I have been known to throw away a shirt missing a button. I figure after 5 years of hanging in the mending rack, it is not going to get the button.

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  4. While I’m intrigued about the mystery of this cottage I’m entertained more by the comments! When my youngest (now in her 30’s) was in middle school all students were required to take a semester of “home & family living”. The class included cooking, sewing and taking care of a baby made from a bag of flour! It was a lot of fun for the kids, but the sewing never “took” with her either. So now she just brings me the mending!

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  5. :) No problem, just be sure to bring along one of those good looking apple skillet things you make!

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  6. This is interesting because I had never seen the picture of the Bond School Home Ec building to compare with the Sardis building. Their identical plans were probably from the state department of education, through its School Building Service, not through the NYA, but they might very well have both been built by the NYA. I have a record that the School Building Service (which kept great records that are preserved at MDAH) sent the Sardis School its home economics building plan #HE-5 in 1935, but since we unfortunately don’t have the SBS’s set of plans, I didn’t know what HE-5 looked like. Now, with this photographic information, I can search for others that match, check those with the SBS records, and hopefully nail this down as an HE-5. Very exciting!

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    • And another exciting piece of news this morning! Thanks for all this great news. Based on what I had learned from you about the standard floor plans for the post offices during 1930-40, I did think it was probably a standard floor plan. Although I found it in only two buildings–so far–the vocational buildings during that time period were essentially identical, and now that I know where they came from, it probably explains school buildings that were constructed during that era that are not documented as being a New Deal project.

      I have actually come up with an organized approach to photograph the entire state of Mississippi, and while it may take me until I retire or die, one always needs a long term goal. Please update us on what you find about this building, and especially if you can link it to NYA or another agency of the New Deal Administration!

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