New Deal in Mississippi: Former Old Salem High School and Vocational Building

Old Salem High School and Vocational Building were both constructed by the National Youth Administration for African American students, in the Ashland vicinity, Benton County.  Construction was complete by 1941.

Photographs taken in 1956 by J. H. Phay can be seen in the Digital Collections  for the University of Mississippi Archives and Special Collections.

The vocational building was a wooden, pier-and-beam building with double door entrance, brick chimney (most likely to vent a wood-burning stove), and the NYA marker was embedded in the brick outer chimney.  The high school pier-and-beam building was sided with what appears to be faux-brick asbestos siding.  The auditorium was centered in the rear of the building, and classroom wings extended along both sides.   You can link to the Old Salem photographs in the MDAH collection of school photographs to be able to enlarge the images and see interior views.

Old Salem school complex location

The Old Salem school complex was located on the former Old Salem road, 1.4 miles from the MS-5 and Lamar Road intersection in Ashland.  A new elementary school was constructed next to the high school and vocational buildings in 1952.  Though deteriorated, the building still exists.  Old Salem School II was constructed in 1957 by Mahoney, Riggins, and Williams (MDAH Historic Resources Inventory) and was located at the site of the current Ashland Elementary School in the map above.  The Educational Finance Commission approved construction contracts that included $256,924 for the Old Salem high school in 1958, which may have been Old Salem II since the former high school would likely have been inadequate by then (Set bid dates for school projects, Delta Democrat-Times, July 1, 1958, p. 12).  Google image capture 2009 shows a building that appears to be the Salem school constructed in 1957, however, it has either been extensively remodeled or at least a new front facade added based on the appearance at the time of the recent visit.


Categories: African American History, Historic Preservation, New Deal, Schools


3 replies

  1. Very interesting. Thanks!

    Harry Connolly


  2. My mom & dad met@ this school!! They later married. Pearlean Harris & Burlie Brown, 1950.


  3. part of this is on my property


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