Suzassippi’s Mississippi: Zama Consolidated School

Zama Consolidated School BuildingThe community of Zama, in Attala County, was named for the daughter of one of the town’s founders (Brief History of Communities of Attala County,” Attala Historical Society).  The first school building was constructed in 1907, and the building pictured above replaced the old school in 1949.  The building was designed by Edgar Lucian Malvaney–without the fake arched windows (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database).  Other than some of the school complex buildings, nothing remains but the Zama Baptist Church building a bit further down the road, which they seem to have vacated in favor of the school building, and the cemetery.  The town grew following the establishment of a lumber mill, and “boomed” for 12 years, when both the Depression and using up most of the timber hit at the same time.  At one time, Zama held two hotels (one for whites and one for blacks), a depot, jail, bank, post office, school, and later on, stores, cafes, barbershop, laundry, garages, and of course, churches (Attala Historical Society).  The lumber mill moved out, taking with it employment opportunity.

Zama Vocational Agricultural and Home Economics Building, retrieved from mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/series/2018/detail/3678

Zama Vocational Agricultural and Home Economics Building, retrieved from mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/series/2018/detail/3678

When an increase in federal funds from the New Deal Administration was awarded to Mississippi in 1937, more than 40 new vocational units were added to schools (“Vocational Education expanded,” Hattiesburg American, August 19, 1937, p. 2).  One of those new buildings, constructed by the National Youth Administration, was in Zama, and was completed in 1938.  The vocational building is no longer extant. Zama gymnasium front and sideAlso completed in 1938 was the new Zama gymnasium.  The 1.5 story building bears similarity to other rural community gymnasiums constructed during that time period, such as the one in Thyatira, the only extant building remaining from the Thyatira school complex.  There is no documentation as to the construction of the gymnasium, but its 1938 construction date at the same time as the vocational building might make it a candidate for having been built with New Deal funds.  A number of rural school gymnasiums in Mississippi were constructed with NYA labor or WPA funds, such as the ones in Shaw and in Shelby.

Zama school with teacher's houseBarely visible in the upper left corner of this photograph is the teacher’s house, c. 1930 (MDAH, HRI).

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Categories: Historic Preservation, New Deal, Schools

8 replies

  1. The 1x 3 ceiling tiles, in one of the interior hallway photos of the MDAH hri db are interesting.

    Am I the only one to find period ceiling tiles interesting? :)

    Excellent post. Thanks!

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  2. How interesting! And how sad that this little community faded with the loss of the lumber mill. The gym must have been insufferably hot with just those small windows for ventilation.

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  3. This is one of my all-time favorite consolidated school campuses, with its wood-frame gym and U-plan school building, and the teacher’s house, all located on a red-dirt road that once brought the busloads of kids from that part of the county.

    I started noticing the ceiling tiles about halfway through my school survey, but it seemed to me that rectangular tile was most common around 1950. Of course, hardly any schools other than a few in Pascagoula were built during WWII, so your observation, TR, shows that that dimension was being produced by 1942 and so the transition might have occurred around 1940. Perhaps you can do a post on the history of ceiling tiles :-)

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    • It sounds like you know a lot about school ceiling tiles and are volunteering to do a guest post? :-)

      What is the size of the c.1950 rectangular tile? I think the c.1950 tiles are smaller (about 1×1) than the c.1930 tiles which are almost 3ft sq.

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  4. Actually I was volunteering you! The dimensions I wrote down in my notes for rectangular tiles was 1×2 feet, but I don’t believe I actually took a tape to them, just eyeballed them from the floor. I am a short person, so I felt it was the best I could do under the circumstances. They might be closer to 1×3. I’ll go back through some of my pictures and see if I can tell.

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  5. The gym looks like the Lawhon School (formerly East Tupelo High School) gym in East Tupelo. The gym was there when my dad went to school there in the late 1930s.

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