Recently I acquired Morris Lapidus: The Architecture of Joy, a beautiful book with lots of pictures, interesting introductory text, and high-quality heavy paper. I got it because it was on Hamilton’s Books at a ridiculous cut-rate sale price and I couldn’t pass it up. I had no inkling of any Mississippi connection with Lapidus, best known for his over-the-top curvy Modern seaside hotels in places like Miami. But then I flipped to the back and found a comprehensive index of his projects, arranged by year and taken from his intact collection. As my eyes scanned the pages, the name “Alex Loeb, Meridian, MI” under the year 1946 popped out at me. “Meridian, Michigan?” I thought. That’s a weird coincidence, and I googled it and found that in fact there is a Meridian, Michigan. But did they also have an Alex Loeb store? Hmmm . . .
I continued scanning. Under 1949, I saw “Holly Dept. Store, Hattiesburg, MS”–Wow, there’s a for-sure thing! Then a few entries down, “Holly Dept. Store, Greenwood, MI”–Hmm, did whoever entered these city names think that Mississippi’s postal designation is “MI” rather than “MS”? It’s a common mistake. There is a Greenwood, Michigan, but it’s an unincorporated community, so I think this should be Greenwood, MS.
More scanning . . . 1950 . . . “Holly Dept. Store, Natchez, MI”–well, I know that’s our one-of-a-kind Natchez. Further down in 1950, “Schwobilt Dept. Store, Gulfport, MI”–also clearly a typo.
My next step was to do a little city directory research to see if I could find these stores. Here’s what I found:
- Alex Loeb, Meridian, MS–2111-2115 5th Street (now located in the Meridian Downtown Historic District)
- Holly Dept. Store, Hattiesburg, MS–600 Main
- Holly Dept. Store, Greenwood, MS–can’t find
- Holly Dept. Store, Natchez, MS–600 Franklin (in the Natchez-On-Top-of-the-Hill district)
- Schwobilt Dept. Store, Gulfport, MS–2509 13th Street (this address is now a vacant lot)
What did Lapidus do for these stores? Were these projects interior remodels only or did they also involve new storefronts? Do we even know that they were all built?
Here’s a Holly Little Miss Store in Albany, NY:
Searching my own photo collection I have no images for any of these addresses. The MDAH HRI database has this intriguing image for 600 Main in Hattiesburg, a storefront that could be 1949–is it a remnant of the Holly Dept. Store? It seems a little small for a department store, but not if it’s really a “Little Miss Shop” like the narrow store above:
Do any of Lapidus’ store designs still exist? Those of you who live in these cities need to go find out!