New Deal in Mississippi: Greenwood Underpass, AKA Main Street Railway Bridge Crossing

Greenwood Underpass

Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, and a Mississippi Landmark in 2010, the Main Street Railway Bridge hails from 1938, and a combined effort of the Mississippi State Highway Department and funding from the Works Progress Administration.  The Art Deco style underpass, designed by Eli Abbott, was impressive to Marion Howard, who wrote the NRHP nomination form (MDAH Historic Resources Inventory).

The Yazoo and Mississippi Valley train tracks crossed Main Street, and constructing the underpass allowed traffic to pass under the tracks (Preservation Press, 2011).  Abbott, a civil engineer, was assisted on the project by his two sons, Charles G. Abbott and Fred Abbott (Darden, 2008-2009).  The project also included an Art Deco style pump house, to help remove water from the underpass.

Art Deco pump house 2

The project was begun in September 1938 and completed in 1940, at a cost of $400,000 (Darden).  The Greenwood Commonwealth documented the construction of the project in daily journal entries.

According to Howard, gravel roads that led to Greenwood were re-routed with US 49 and 82, and constructed of concrete and brick, also using WPA funds. (Note: the article is on page 31-32 of the linked magazine.  It is an interesting read of how Howard discovered the significance of the underpass and the research she conducted to unearth answers to her questions).

Underpass and pedestrian walkways

In addition to enabling traffic to cross under the trains rather than be halted, the underpass included protected pass-throughs for pedestrians on each side of the 4-lane highway.  I did note, however, while seeking points from which to photograph parts of the crossing, that the 3 tracks of railroad crossed directly in front of housing and businesses, across a road, just a few feet past this crossing, and that no protection for pedestrians who had to cross at that spot was present–pedestrians would have to walk directly across the 3 tracks, as in fact, one man was doing as I was stopped at the crossing.

Several construction companies were involved in building the underpass, including Guthrie and Company of St. Paul, MN, Service Construction of Arkansas, Sandy Hites Company of Kansas City, MO, and Massman Construction Company, also of Kansas City (Darden).  These changes were necessitated by two of the companies defaulting on the contract.

Sources: Darden, J. A. (2008-2009). Underpass brought the world to Greenwood. Leflore Illustrated, Fall & Winter.

Preservation Press: A Newsletter of the Historic Preservation Division of MDAH. Vol. 20/Issue 20.  2011.


Categories: Greenwood, Mississippi Landmarks, New Deal


4 replies

  1. Marion Howard is a community treasure, extremely generous with both her preservation enthusiasm and her landscaping talents. “The Underpass” (like “The Boulevard,” it requires no adjective for Greenwood folks to know what you’re talking about) is an architectural marvel, best appreciated by walking the sidewalks from one end to another. Mary Rose Carter photographed it with an infrared lens in 2010 and those photos are spectacular. My fondest memories are of my parents honking the car horn as we sailed through the underpass, creating the most wonderful echoes. Not sure the neighbors were as thrilled with that as I was. There are numerous pictures of the construction in Volume II of Greenwood: Mississippi Memories, all taken by Commonwealth photographer Calvin Cox.

    Thanks so much for including Greenwood in this blog.


    • Marion Howard is an outstanding citizen of the city of Greenwood. While a big supporter of our city today giving her time in volunteer service, she also carefully researches and documents Greenwood’s past.
      What a rare and valuable combination of talents!
      Aden Coleman Pryor
      Greenwood, Ms.


  2. The underpass doesn’t hold fond memories for me.


  3. So many memories of this underpass..where a lot of us hung at on weekends and after the dances on the weekends..


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