New Deal in Mississippi: Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs

MFWC front elevation 2

The headquarters for the Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs, constructed in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration, was designed by architect R. W. Naef in the Georgian-Revival style (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory).  According to the National Register for Historic Places nomination form, the building maintains historic integrity that is “outstanding” and limited to alterations of acoustical ceiling tiles and rear shed-roof porch (Miller & Varnell, 1988).

As Malvaney reported earlier in the spring, the proposed House Bill 828 would have a major impact on the historic building, and the work done by the MFWC.  The March 13, 2015 Clarion-Ledger reported that the state might consider selling the Women’s Club headquarters and quoted Senator Blount as calling the location a “highly valuable piece of land” (J. E. Gates, “State may consider selling Women’s Club headquarters”).  By March 24, 2015, they followed with a story reporting Senator Blount said there were no plans to sell, but that the organization should not get the building free (J. E. Gates, “Senator: No plans to sell Women’s Club building”).  The use of the building has been without cost in exchange for the valuable work and monetary contributions of the club, apparently since its inception and securing of the building, partially funded by WPA.

House Bill 828 passed April 22, 2015, and authorized the lease of the building to the women’s club for 15 years, at a rate not to exceed $500 per month, with option to extend the lease for another 15 years.  The rent can be paid in-kind with improvements to the property or services and monetary contributions to state agencies–the ones that allegedly the club has provided and supported since their beginning.

Interestingly, the bill as amended also stipulates that the building cannot be placed on the National Register of Historic Places without the written consent of the Bureau of Building, Grounds and Real Property Management:

Such lease shall reserve all oil, gas and mineral rights in such land unto the State of Mississippi; prohibit the subleasing of such land unless approved in writing by the Bureau of Building, Grounds and Real Property Management; provide that at the end of the term of such lease or any renewal thereof all improvements on the land shall become the property of the State of Mississippi; provide that upon notice not less than ninety (90) days prior to the expiration of such lease the Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs, Incorporated, shall have the right to renew the lease for an additional fifteen (15) years for a consideration to be renegotiated and set by the Bureau of Building, Grounds and Real Property Management; and provide that the building on such land shall not be placed on the National Register of Historic Places without the written consent of the Bureau of Building, Grounds and Real Property Management.

According to the the National Register of Historic Places and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the building was listed June 30, 1988, and was previously listed as a Mississippi Landmark in 1986.  Does that mean it has to be “unlisted” to meet the standards of the newly passed law?  Regardless of what one thinks about whether the MFWC should remain in the building without paying the state for the use of the building, the situation is significant, due to the location of the building on its “highly valuable piece of land.”



Categories: Jackson, Mississippi Landmarks, National Register, New Deal

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8 replies

  1. Thank goodness the building will not be sold and/or demolished! Have there been photos of the interior on MissPres? Would enjoy seeing the interior. Wondering if it has kept up with the times?

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    • Something I have learned from MIssPres (and after Hurricane Katrina) is that there is always the possibility something valuable and historic will indeed be sold or demolished. However, it would appear that the power behind the MFWC carries some weight, at least for now.

      There is one photograph of the interior in the NRHP nomination form, but the floor plan is included and is very interesting.

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  2. I wonder if the BoB stipulation about the National Register is boilerplate?

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  3. Oh yuck. “calling the location a “highly valuable piece of land”” usually means some developer wants to build something else on the lot, and the party or entity that controls the fate of the property will benefit in some way.

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  4. I hope this doesn’t end up like the recent version of the “Battle of the Alamo” where the DRT that had saved the landmark and operated it faithfully for over 100 years were given the boot. Now the State of Texas is seeking a plan…

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    • Well, that does not bode well, does it? Hmmm….79 years of maintaining a landmark–by both Mississippi’s assessment and the National Register of Historic Places. What could possibly go wrong?

      And, I seem to recall that the Alamo benefitted from the New Deal as well, in terms of restoration. Where along the lines did we forget (or choose to ignore) the part about by the people, for the people…?

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      • Yes, both the DRT Meeting Hall and the grounds received New Deal monies. Sadly, many have gotten so off the track of preservation that they lost the original purpose and vision of the founders. And, they see the property only as a means for financial gain in the current market.

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