Craftsman in Mississippi: Webb School, Bay St. Louis

Webb School (1913, John Henry, archt.)

Webb School (1913, John Henry, archt.)

One of my favorite Craftsman-style school buildings in the state is actually listed on the National Register as a good example of the Colonial Revival style. But that’s ok, because both I and the MDAH Historic Resources Inventory say that it’s actually Craftsman, so that settles it then.

Although it is a substantial building, it had only two classrooms, on the raised first floor, with a center hall running from front to back.

One of the great things about the Webb School is that it has its own website (which adds Mission style to the list), so I’ll let it tell its own history:

There are sixty-four windows in the old Webb School, so even on cloudy days, it’s a building filled with light.

Its architect understood that abundant natural light would make lessons easier on young eyes.  And he knew those same windows would tempt breezes through the school’s two enormous classrooms in the sultry days of early summers.

Celebrating its 100th year in 2013, the mission-style elementary school in Bay St. Louis was designed by architect John Henry.  But while Henry may have been a gifted designer, he couldn’t have imagined the different roles the Webb School would play in Bay St. Louis over the next century.

While the unique building served as a school for grades 1 – 4 for nearly 50 years, it has since been used as a community center, a meeting place for those struggling with substance abuse, and even an impromptu shelter for neighbors after Hurricane Katrina.  If walls could talk, the ones at Webb School would have some fascinating stories to tell.

What makes the building Craftsman? For me, the low-sloped roof, simple boxy form, the square concrete porch columns with short chamfers (how exciting!), the geometry of the front door glass, and of course, the exposed rafters. The National Register nomination, such as it is, mentions the Colonial Revival balustrade and the incised keyhole, which is so elongated that I first interpreted is as maybe Native American imagery. I do like the cool modified welcoming arms stair, but it’s so sturdy and masculine that it still seems more Arts and Crafts than Colonial Revival.

How that y’all are Craftsman experts, what do you think?

Oh, and if you want to see Webb School up-close-and-personal before you make any call on its architectural style, you can stay there overnight in the loft apartment/classroom you can rent for a nice Bay St. Louis getaway:

It’s been renovated as a unique duplex. The rental side is a spacious upstairs apartment, nestled next to three enormous live oak trees.   This New Orleans loft-style retreat features 12 ft. ceilings, clerestory windows, heart pine floors and an art collection by regional artists.

The main living area has an elegant and expansive feel. It contains a living room, dining room, study area and partitioned bedroom. A wall of windows looks out onto oaks, while three windowed front doors open up onto a classic Southern veranda.

The bedroom area has a queen-sized bed and the living room is furnished with a day-bed and pull-out trundle. The apartment sleeps four good friends, and is perfect for a couple.

A large full kitchen (with full-sized appliances) and tiled bathroom complete the package. In the back, the kitchen door onto a deck beneath the oaks, a perfect place for morning coffee.

The building’s grounds cover nearly 3/4 of an acre and are shaded by the live oaks, as well as magnolias, azaleas and bottle brush trees. It’s just a two-block stroll to the beach, with its six-mile walking/biking path.


Categories: Bay St. Louis


1 reply

  1. I think I will go back to school!


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