Smokestacks: The nitty gritty or work of art?

Clarksdale school maintenance

Maintenance building, former Bobo high school, Clarksdale

Once soaring symbols of the Industrial Revolution and material progress, smokestacks later became the poster kids of environmental degradation.  Today, legions of artists, urban planners and preservationists are seeking to change those carbon chugging chimneys from sooty to beauty. (Smokin’ stacks: 10 ways to upcycle industrial chimneys)

While most of us would agree that the burning of waste, or fuel to provide power, has had its consequences, the vision of smokestacks rising above industrial sites and school incinerators and heating units has been a familiar site for many of us.  They are still common in the rural areas across the US, in older structures.  You can check out some of the smokestack art and imagery at the link to

Do you have a favorite Mississippi smokestack?  I have always had a soft spot for smokestacks, especially the big ones that were part of the major industries, but the coolest one I may have ever seen is the Art Deco stack at the Ruston, Louisiana high school.  It’s not in Mississippi, but in the vernacular of “neighbors” it is pretty close.

Categories: Cool Old Places, Industrial


11 replies

  1. One would think that smoke stacks would be relatively easy to preserve. I was surprised and saddened to learn that the smoke stack at the old Gibson Guitar plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan will probably fall soon.


    • I was surprised to see a news article on the smoke stack–demolition was requested because the stack is leaning, and bricks are bulging and it might fall. I suppose it is a lot like anything–delayed maintenance causes problems that are then too costly or difficult to repair. They wanted to replace it with a shorter, steel stack.


    • They are easy to preserve but difficult to maintain. Basic maintenance requires special equipment and the very nature of their purpose leads to their degradation. The problems with the Bobo High stack Suzassippi described seem typical. While I don’t like the appearance cell phone apparatus on smoke stacks they can be a source of funding to repair towers (the equipment will probably obsolete in 10 year and possibly removed)

      I love smoke stacks (chimneys too) and think they are important elements that speak to the might of our industrial past. I don’t know if I have a favorite as so many are gone. I can only think of the smoke stack at the Milk of Magnesia plant on hwy 49 Gulfport.


      • Was it the Bobo High chimney or the Gibson Guitar chimney that is coming down? I hadn’t heard there are any problems with the Bobo stack.


        • Tom Barnes referenced the old Gibson Guitar company smokestack in Kalamazoo, MI as the one in danger of falling. I was commenting on it. It seems to be still in use.

          This, however, raises a whole new question, which would be about the condition of smokestacks (chimneys) in Mississippi that remain in use, and the ones at risk.


          • Ah OK it wasn’t clear. The Gibson Plant looked abandoned in many of the Google images so I figured that they wouldn’t need to replace a stack on an abandoned factory :) Now looking at street view 225 Parsons Kalamazoo shows the plant still in use.


    • Looking a little worse for wear since that postcard shot, isn’t it? But still not as deteriorating as the Borden plan in Macon. I think I like Borden’s smokestack better, though. :)


      • “They” are trying to do something with the building. They are doing something with the former Tupelo Cotton Mills building. It has been in use over the years. The cotton mills smoke stack is about a 1/3 of its original height now since part of it was dismantled (or fell down).


  2. I also realize I forgot to identify the first smokestack image–that is the former maintenance building for Bobo High School in Clarksdale.


  3. I do remember seeing a set of Claude Lindsley plans for a renovation of the Pascagoula High School where he called for removing the chimney down to the parapet and replacing it with a vent hood he designed.


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