New Deal in Mississippi: Hickory Flat Cafeteria

Hickory Flat NYA cafeteria and vocational building

The cafeteria for the Hickory Flat school (located in Benton County, north Mississippi) was constructed by the National Youth Administration in 1939.  If you wonder what the building looked like as constructed, just look below.  Other than the center double doors of the entrance (perhaps to enter the cafeteria?) and the door to the right (possibly one of two exits–my guess boys to one side and girls to the other) and that side and rear windows have been filled in, pretty much the same.

Hickory Flat cafeteria, Series 1513 School Photographs Scrapbooks, retrieved from Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Online Digital Resources.

Hickory Flat cafeteria, Series 1513 School Photographs Scrapbooks, retrieved from Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Online Digital Resources.

Even better, want to see what the inside of a school cafeteria looked like in 1939?  Kind of like today, only smaller and with fewer employees.

Interior, Hickory Flat cafeteria, Series 1513 School Photographs Scrapbooks, retrieved from Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Online Digital Resources.

Interior, Hickory Flat cafeteria, Series 1513 School Photographs Scrapbooks, retrieved from Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Online Digital Resources.

Mississippi laid claim to fame in 1936 as having not one “single through-state paved highway when Governor White took office in January, 1936” but by 1939 just before this school cafeteria was built, boasted “three completed traffic arteries from border to border (“Road progress in state reviewed.” October 7, 1938, p. 6, Biloxi Daily Herald).

Two stretches, one 8.6 miles from Holly Springs to Hickory Flat and 11 miles east of New Albany, are the only unpaved sections on United States 78 from Memphis to Tupelo to Fulton.  The two links are now being paved, with the 15.8 miles from Fulton to Alabama line ready for paving.

By 1939, the big news was:

…agricultural agents from Hickory Flat, Myrtle Grove and Potts Camp, have 62 Future Farmers of America boys in Biloxi for this week…They made the trip of 373 miles by school buses, coming over paved roads all the way. (“FFA Boys Here, July 26, 1939, p. 3, Biloxi Daily Herald)

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The cafeteria building remains in use by the Hickory Flat schools, although most likely as an office space or classroom.  It most certainly is no longer the cafeteria.  Wonder what the inside looks like now?



Categories: Historic Preservation, New Deal, Schools

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11 replies

  1. Enjoyed reading about this. Wonderful that this great building is still in use! Very nice stone construction. Thank you so much for the photos and history.

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  2. Another interesting post! Thanks.

    Harry

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  3. What a beautiful building! I love the stone and the history.

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  4. I see some scrap aluminum…

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  5. Northeast Mississippi, especially Tishomingo County, has a lot of these stone-veneered buildings from the 1930s era, some of which you’ve already highlighted in your New Deal series. I wonder if anyone knows the quarry the stone came from?

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    • The only quarry I have ever specifically seen referenced was one that was located near Longview.

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    • I would speculate that there had to be several small quarries to supply building stone for all the 1930s and 1940s buildings constructed in Northeast Mississippi and Northwest Alabama. Those hilly areas have a particular typology of irregular sandstone-veneered buildings, taking advantage of the fact that those hills are the geologic remains of ancient barrier islands. Similar shaped school buildings with similar stone veneer were constructed going west from Hatton in Lawrence County, Alabama through Colbert and Franklin Counties into Tishomingo and surrounding counties. I have found that, although the standardized floor plan remains the same, school buildings in the same county will have stone veneers only when constructed in a hilly area. Ones of the same vintage in flatter terrain will usually have brick or wood. None of the stone veneered school buildings ever have higher quality limestone that is quarried from below the sandstone strata and which was being used at the same time these schools were constructed in the National Gallery of Art. That might indicate that the stone was gathered either from the surface in the form of exposed outcroppings (like at Tishomingo State Park), road cuts, or plowed up stones or came from small scale quarrying.

      Once you start looking, you will see the same irregular stone veneer used for churches, houses, and even a couple of gas stations. One of my great-grandfathers constructed a house somewhere in rural Tishomingo County using that irregular sandstone veneer during the 1930s. Unfortunately, I was never told where the stone came from or who the masons were who constructed the walls. I only remember that the plasterer was a German man who either spoke no English or spoke English with such a heavy accent as to be unintelligible to nearly everyone around. My grandmother said that he did a great job on the arched alcoves and other plaster details.

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