Let’s follow up our two days of reviewing National Register listings for 2015 with a shorter list of the buildings designated as Mississippi Landmarks by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Often confused with the National Register, which is administered by the National Park Service, the Mississippi Landmark designation is completely under the control of the MDAH Board of Trustees, and it is the stronger designation because it gives MDAH the authority to review any proposed alterations to the landmark, including demolition. (For more information about the Mississippi Landmark program, see the MDAH website. I also recommend this 4-minute podcast with retired MDAH director Elbert Hilliard in the “Mississippi Moments” series of oral history interviews, in which he discusses the passage and importance of the Mississippi Antiquities Law of 1970 in preserving many Mississippi landmarks.)
Five properties were designated as Mississippi Landmarks this year, a low number, at least for the last seven years of this blog, as you can see here:
All of this year’s buildings were designated at the owner’s request, even though the Antiquities Act gives MDAH the authority to designate any publicly owned building without owner consent. As you will see by clicking on the reports from previous years, MDAH has become very queasy about designating anything without owner consent, going back at least to the infamous Mendenhall School and Ceres Plantation cases.
Most photos below and all of the accompanying text came from the Significance Reports prepared by staff in the MDAH Historic Preservation Division for review by the Board of Trustees.
Lena School and Gym, Lena, Leake County. Lena School (1928) and Gym (c.1940) is historically significant as an intact consolidated school campus from the interwar period. Lena Consolidated School anchored the rural community of Lena for a half century after it opened in 1918. The consolidated school took the place of the previous county agricultural high school, a boarding institution, as a more practical, less expensive way to deliver a high school education to rural children, bussing children first in buggies and then in 1925 in trucks from the surrounding farms. The gymnasium, a vanishing breed of frame pre-World War II gyms in the state, is the more architecturally significant building of the two under consideration for Mississippi Landmark designation. The Mississippi Department of Education produced a series of standard plans for a variety of school buildings including gyms, and Lena’s appears to be Plan #GM-7, a popular plan around the state but rare today because of the wood construction. Designation requested by the Town of Lena. Designated by MDAH Board of Trustees on January 16, 2015.
West Masonic Lodge, West, Holmes County. This two-story, asymmetrical, rectangular Craftsman style building was constructed in 1925. The first floor of the building was used as the West Grammar School, while the second floor housed the masonic lodge. The West Civic Club hosts annual reunions for the alumni of the grammar school, which provide funding for the upkeep of the building. The building retains many of its original architectural features including windows, doors, floor plan and some cabinetry. The West Civic Club requests Mississippi Landmark designation. Designated by MDAH Board of Trustees on April 17, 2015.
Marks Rosenwald School, Marks, Quitman County. This one-story brick building was built in 1922 with assistance from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which donated $1,100 towards the total cost of $11,100. Topped by a truncated hip roof, the school contained two classrooms flanking a center hallway and an auditorium with stage that was also used as classroom space. The Julius Rosenwald Fund was begun at the request of Booker T. Washington in 1912 and was the gift of the CEO of Sears, Roebuck Co., Julius Rosenwald. The Rosenwald program was the only philanthropic effort in the early 20th century to concentrate on improving the learning environment of black students in the South. Between 1912 and 1932, when it closed, the Fund contributed to over 5,000 school buildings for African Americans in the South. Owner Quitman County School District requests designation of this building, which has had structural and roof issues since an ice storm in February 2015. MDAH Board of Trustees designated the building on July 31, 2015.
Starkville City Hall, Starkville, Oktibbeha County. Starkville’s Art Moderne-style former armory and City Hall, built 1940-41, has a two-story central mass with one-story wings to each side. The monolithic concrete structure is historically significant because of its association with the military, WPA, and Starkville local government. The building is one of seven armories built in Mississippi built on a Moderne-style prototype design prepared for the Mississippi National Guard by the Jackson firm of Overstreet and Town. Early adopters of th Modern style, Overstreet and Town were also pioneers of poured-in-place concrete construction in the 1930s. In “Design for Concrete Armories-Mississippi,” Overstreet described the advantages of the design: “in many small [Mississippi] towns the armory is the only community center, the only theatre, gymnasium or public place of assembly.” For this reason, the prototype design included a stage with a proscenium in the drill hall. Designation requested by the City of Starkville. MDAH Board of Trustees designated the building on July 31, 2015.
Meridian Police Station, Meridian, Lauderdale County. The Meridian Police Station is a one- and two-story brick-veneer steel structure renovated and expanded from an earlier laundry building in 1977 by the office of Meridian’s pre-eminent Modernist, Chris Risher, Sr. The long north façade faces the Beaux Arts City Hall across the street and helps define this two-block civic space. Risher’s signature black and white brick veneer emphasizes the building’s dramatic horizontal line, reinforced by a long covered walk that acts as a sun-breaker (brise soleil) for the large plate-glass windows. As one of Mississippi’s most outstanding works of Modernism, the police station is of exceptional architectural significance at the statewide level. Recognized at its inception by an Honor Award from the Mississippi AIA, and accepted for decades as the pinnacle of Chris Risher’s career, the building has also influenced many Mississippi architects who studied the building while at Mississippi State University. Designation requested by the City of Meridian. MDAH Board of Trustees designated the building on September 22, 2015.
Categories: MDAH, Meridian, Mississippi Landmarks, Schools, Starkville