More Mid-Century Medical

The previous Mid-Century Medical post was about the little building that Is.  It is not a big bold building with a prominent location.  It is not a building that will likely ever have a plaque in front that reads “On this spot…”.  It is a background building give a sense of what life was like for regular Americans during a time period in history, just like many other normal buildings all across Mississippi, America, and the world.  This post’s featured building is likely a victim of its more prominent location.  Again it is a medical building designed in 1955 by Jackson architect J.T. Liddle, just a few blocks south of the Johnson/Wiener Office of the last post.  This feature comes from the October 1956 edition of Architectural South [AS-1956-10 JTLIDDLE].  Sadly this building was completely obscured c.1986 by the Darth Vader helmet-esque structure of the Mississippi Home Corporation Building that currently occupies the front parcel of  735 Riverside Drive.  The MDAH HRI database lists that the address is included as non-contributing in the Belhaven National Register district and there is no mention of the 1955 building in the NR nomination.

Mississippi State Medical Association. Jackson, Hinds Co. from Architectural South Oct. 1956

Exterior(North Facade), Mississippi State Medical Association. Jackson, Hinds Co. from Architectural South Oct. 1956

A wide variety of problems were presented to the architect Jay T. Liddle, Jr., of Jackson, Miss., in developing a design for the central office headquarters building for the Mississippi State Medical Association in Jackson, Miss.

Beginning with the peculiarity of the owner’s organizational structure, it was quickly apparent that the building need posed unusual problems not normally encountered in conventional office design.  In addition, the need for flexibility in facility adaption and expansion was undefined in the owner’s experience.  Activity compartmentalization was essential since the owner on occasion conducts simultaneous but highly unrelated activities which demand noise and traffic isolation.  Office privacy without remoteness or loss of communication was a requirement.

Reception Area, Mississippi State Medical Association office building. Jackson, Hinds Co. from Architectural South Oct. 1956

Reception Area, Mississippi State Medical Association office building. Jackson, Hinds Co. from Architectural South Oct. 1956

The owner also desired maximum decentralization of office service facilities such as supply, small storage, and maximum flexibility in heating and air conditioning. 

It was also necessary to relate basic structural essentials to the desired appearance and decorating schemes.

Since the problems were unique, a member of the architect’s staff spent some time in the old offices of the owner to observe the normal conduct of day-to-day and routine business.  The architect made no effort to learn the business, but confined his efforts to motion studies, primary activity areas, traffic flow for personnel and business activity, storage requirements of all sorts, filing problems with special attention to cubage needs, communication problems as related to person-to-person communication and exterior data research motions, and executive and conference activity.

Preliminary design incorporated a combination of these basic management analyses and the overall desires of the owner.  Progressing thought a series of preliminary plans, consultations were held with consultants in business systems and machine adaptation since the latter tend to resist arbitrary change and lend readily to maximum design utilization.

The building has a structural steel frame, with steel roof joists and gypsum roof deck.  Masonry exterior walls are face brick and granite with tile back-up.  Interior walls are plaster and wood paneling on wood stud partitions.  Ceilings are acoustical plaster, while the floors are terrazzo and vinyl tile.  Aluminum horizontal sliding windows were used.

Charles P. McMullan was Mr. Liddle’s associate in charge of design, while Sidney E. Patton was associate in charge of construction.  Robert Kelly of Raleigh, Miss., was the general contractor.  Robert E. Briggs was the consulting electrical engineer, while Hamilton-Shultz-Lake were engineers.

Floor plan, Mississippi State Medical Association office building. Jackson, Hinds Co. from Architectural South Oct. 1956

Floor plan, Mississippi State Medical Association office building. Jackson, Hinds Co. from Architectural South Oct. 1956

I am glad to see the article give credit to the associate architects in Mr. Liddle’s office.  I admit to sometimes forgetting the fact that  many of those who work planning and constructing a building never get credit or attribution, let alone their name on a plaque.

One neat feature that helped me locate the building is the cool modernist sign on the front lawn.  I can’t make it all out but I think it reads “735 Riverside Dr. Mississippi State Medical Association.”  I’m not sure if my rendition is accurate but it incorporates the major elements, a low brick wall with an asymmetrical brick planter, a metal square tube frame with cut out letters.  The square in the upper left corner is a bit of the mystery.  Since I couldn’t get any higher resolution to tell if it was a solid or a screen panel, I took a guess that it looks very similar to the panel that is above the tall window at the end of the board room.  Ill wager the panel’s color was possibly one of four colors: blue, red, green or brown.

Incidentally the October 1956 edition of AS features a brief news blurb that Architect Ralph[sic] Birchett spoke to the Vicksburg Lions Club about then under constructions  Mercy Hospital in Vicksburg.  Along with hospitals came the construction of support buildings such as the Johnson/Wiener Office and the Mississippi State Medical Association office.  The other states with featured structures in AS run the gammut from offices, schools, churches and museums, but Mississippi’s buildings are medically centered.   Such extensive focus of medical facilities illustrates Mississippi’s mid-century healthcare modernization and its effect on the built environment in many rural and urban places through out our state.



Categories: Architectural Research, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Modernism

Tags: , , , ,

3 replies

  1. Carefull…today’s Darth Vader could be tommorow’s Early Post Modern!

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  2. Mid -century medical buildings are a significant resource, many still in original or more recent use. In Corinth, the Davis office still uses their gem of a building, the older Davis (I think) building was larger, functioning as a more general clinic, near the old Community Hospital; it is now used by a funeral home, as is the old Health Department building. Both are superb.As Rosell notes, TH ere are lots of others. A state-wide directory might be a nice project (for architecture students, or Mississippi School of Science and Math, or whoever). Could make a very nice digital exhibit, with crowd sourced photos/videos. Could be medical buildings throughout Mississippi history about as easily, paying attention to newer (like Ledbetter’s work for Perry orthodontics and the Health Department buildings in Corinth), as well as older, buildings. And as Mississippi expands healthcare, there will be more.

    One intriguing aspect of this is the evolution of community hospital buildings, as they were expanded, or taken over and expanded or replaced by larger groups. It is still possible to do graphic histories of most, and Mississippi needs to get the (scanned) digital goods on these while we still can.

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