Here is another one of those intriguing mysteries that I cannot solve, and I have been trying since August 4th. The building pictured is currently being used as the Administration Building for the Madison County School system, and is located on NW 4th Street in Flora. Based on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database, this building is the 1937 Art Deco elementary school constructed by architect N. W. Overstreet.
Look at the high school photographed in 1937. That building was constructed in 1922-23 with “steel sash windows and fireproof halls” and was still standing as late as the 1940s, according to photographs in the Madison County digital library. It would appear that the decorative images and possibly some part of the core of the earlier building were retained in a renovation/remodel of the building at some point in time, and the Historic section of the Town of Flora website indicates the building above was the Flora High School in 2010. I could not locate a cornerstone.
What is clearly the same is the design and decorative detail, featured in the photographs below. In comparing the current building with the photographs of the 1922-23 building, the center of the building above appears to me to be the center core of the old two story building, reducing to one story, with wings added to either side. Either that, or the front center facade is a replica. The evidence of the “double sidewalk” referenced in the photograph of the building in 1937 is present. A 1932 photograph of the womens basketball team shows them in front of a brick building with the same square tile on the corner of the window, and brick pattern, as present in the detail of the current building.
In 1969, the Flora, Mississippi school was ordered to desegregate. In 1970, the Tricounty Academy, a private school currently serving 280 students, was established. The Madison County desegregation plan called for Flora High School to be closed and students reassigned to East Flora (“Panel modifies ‘mixing’ plan”, Laurel Leader Call, October 1, 1970, p. 14). The nearest public high school for Flora students now is located 15 miles away, which translates into a 2 1/2 hour bus ride one-way from Flora to Madison or Ridgeland. (Author Update 10/06/2014: The 2 1/2 hour figure was alleged in information related to US vs. Madison County, in 2000, during the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing, retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/app/briefs/madison1.htm. Part of the settlement agreement reached included reducing transportation times for African American students living in rural Flora area to less than 45 minutes by increasing the number of busses serving the route, and this was allegedly achieved. However, this is a complex issue in Mississippi, and extends beyond the scope of the initial article, which was related to history of the building. Segregated architecture is the subject of scholarly study outside the intention of this article.)
In 1972, the main building of the old Flora High School was destroyed by fire, as were six portable classrooms on two other campuses in Flora (“Arson alleged in Flora”, Delta Democrat Times, June 14, 1972, p. 8). Other articles regarding the fire describe the 2-story school and indicate the “upper story of the 40 year old main building” ablaze, and that it contained 25 classrooms serving grades 1-8 (“Separate fires destroy Flora school”, Hattiesburg American, June 2, 1972). That would indicate the building was constructed in 1932, so that is inaccurate, assuming the Madison County library information is accurate. I can find no reference following that regarding the high school or the building, or any possible remodels/renovations after the fire. The school was described as a “total loss” and as “burned school ruins.” I cannot find reference to Overstreet’s Art Deco school, although there appear to me to be Art Deco details present in the existing building. What happened to the 1922-23 two-story Flora High School building with these distinctive decorative details? What happened to the 1937 Art Deco elementary school?