The Hickory Flat (Benton County) gymnasium was constructed c. 1948 according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory. During the 1930s,
…rural schools grew into small villages composed of several buildings dedicated to specialized purposes, most commonly teachers’ houses, vocational buildings, gymnasiums, and cafeterias (p. 43). (Jennifer V. Opager Baughn, 2012, A Modern School Plant: Rural Consolidated Schools in Mississippi, 1910-1955. Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, 19(1), 43-72)
The state’s practice of providing free standardized plans using ‘best practices’ in regard to lighting, directional orientation, and ventilation helped ensure that the efforts to build better rural schools also resulted in buildings that were designed to enhance educational environments. Some 300 gymnasiums were built between the years of 1920 and 1955. Only 12 of those were built at rural schools for black children, and most of those were constructed after the 1953 Equalization laws.
Hickory Flat’s concrete block building was a later incarnation of the early wood-frame gymnasiums first constructed, with a standardized plan that included windows high on the exterior walls (Baughn, 2012). By the end of the 1940s, the State Department of Education’s School Building Service provided “eleven or more” standardized plans, and
…more ambitious gymnasiums, which became numerous in the post-war era, were brick veneered, often with a steel truss roof system to shelter a large, high space (Baughn, p. 66).
One example of the early wood-frame gymnasiums is the Zama Consolidated School’s 1938 gymnasium in Attala County.
The gymnasium from the Thyatira complex, designed 1940-1941 by Emmett J. Hull and Eugene Drummond for rural Tate County, is the only remaining structure of that school system.
Another late 40s era gymnasium was the 1947 Lynville gymnasium in rural Kemper County.
Does your rural county still have an extant gymnasium from the 1930s and 1940s? They may not be as architecturally appealing as some of the other buildings in your community, but they represent an amazing goal of the Mississippi Department of Education: standardizing consolidated school buildings to improve rural education facilities (Baughn, p. 49).