Mid-Century Mississippi: “This building was moved from the airfield”

Mississippi WWII AirfieldsIt is not an uncommon experience when traveling the back roads of Mississippi and talking with people about the buildings they know about to hear, “This building was moved from the airfield after World War II.” This seems most common in stories about buildings on school campuses, such as gymnasiums, vocational buildings, cafeterias, or even (in the case of African American schools), the classroom building itself. Not that I ever doubt the stories as a true phenomenon, but it’s hard to tell whether it’s true for a particular building. I’m sure if we dug into financial and inventory records of the various bases, presuming those still exist, that we could start to track these usually frame buildings classified by the military as “temporary” but usually made of good solid pine, back when good solid pine was still a thing.

Wikipedia has a whole page dedicated to “Mississippi World War II Army Airfields” in which it addresses the moved buildings and gives us a map and a list of the airfields:

It is still possible to find remnants of these wartime airfields. Many were converted into municipal airports, some were returned to agriculture and several were retained as United States Air Force installations and were front-line bases during the Cold War. Hundreds of the temporary buildings that were used survive today, and are being used for other purposes.

Anyway, these two clippings from the Laurel Leader-Call (both from October 1948) show that contractors Coleman & Co. were really working for their business, even offering some nice little sketches as suggestions for how to use the buildings. I hadn’t ever considered that garages and even the roadside stands of my youth might have been recycled World War II buildings. These also give us a good indication of how far away from a base a building might travel: intact up to 10 miles, but dismantled up to a 100 mile radius. ArmyBarracks_0001--Laurel Leader Call 10-1948 ArmyBarracks_0002--Laurel Leader Call 10-1948

The idea of the dismantled building reminded me of the Baxterville Gymnasium in Lamar County, designated as a Mississippi Landmark in 2011, with this note, “possibly built with re-used materials from an aircraft hangar at nearby Camp Shelby.” You never know!

Baxterville School Gymnasium, Baxterville community, Lamar County (1949), possibly built with re-used materials from an aircraft hangar at nearby Camp Shelby.

Baxterville School Gymnasium, Baxterville community, Lamar County (1949), possibly built with re-used materials from an aircraft hangar at nearby Camp Shelby.


Categories: Architectural Research, Laurel


9 replies

  1. Very good. The world was changing.
    I am told that at the Large camp Van Dorn at Centreville, Missisisppi, they were building on the Eastern Side when they began tearing down and dismantling the Western side, after the Surrender.
    Sam P


  2. I believe I will order a dance hall.


  3. Good post! Love the old ads. Had to laugh at the word “AMAZING” in the first ad on the right. The word is vastly overused today. Back then, though, selling these buildings for future use truly was amazing.


  4. I remember that, when I was a kid in the 70s, you could find quonset huts all over the place, particularly in the city parks in Jackson. My father told me that one such in Sykes Park was from WWII, and it seems that he said it was from the old military hospital on South Dr. in Jackson, but …


  5. I recall reading 1950’s Daily Herald microfilm about houses for sale a whole units or for parts. I’ll have to go back and see if they were military surplus.


  6. I attended Demonstration School from 1945 till 1953 with a two-year stint at Jeff Davis. I think that it was some time around 1949 or 1951 that some of these Camp Shelby barrack buldings appeared on the baseball/parade field at Mississippi Southern College. It must have the been the music department that had occupied the buildings, because I remember the piano sounds of the German masters coming from the open windows during the Summertime when I would ride my bicycle from our home on Pearl street to the swimming pool. I don’t recall screened windows. Our Demonstration School music class teachers, Miss Wamble and Miss Blethen, did their best to instill an appreciation for classical music.
    My aunt, who is now in her 103rd year, purchased two of the Camp Shelby buildings; she rented one out to college students and lived in the other until 1968. The rental unit still stands on North 31st behind what was once the home of my grandparents. The buildings were of heart pine clapboard construction. Some of those WWII era buildings still stand on Camp Shelby, and I understand that there is a cutaway in the Camp Shelby museum. The museum is now closed for renovations. The clapboard on the remaining buildings has been covered with John-Manville asbestos siding. There are still a few remaining Quonset huts dotting the landscape, but the track hoes have taken their toll. The huts are so well engineered that the salvage contractors have told me that it is unprofitable to salvage them for reconstruction. They end up at recycling and ultimately trucked by Alter Materials to shredders which load them on a slow boat to China.


  7. Shivers Gym on the Poplarville Pearl River Community College campus came from Camp Shelby after WW2. When Katrina destroyed White Gym, Shivers was quickly restored and put back into action for basketball games. Now that White Gym has been reconstructed, Shivers now serves as a basektball facility for all students.

    Behind Poplarville First United Methodist Church is another building from Camp Shelby. It was recently renovated and now houses several of the charitable ministry efforts.


  8. One of the last buildings from Camp Shelby that was moved off post in the 1950s, ended up in plain sight from the Mississippi Southern campus. That is my amateur architectural observation, anyway. It was recently sold to Forrest General Hospital by a former president of USM.
    It is located at 102 South 28th avenue.
    I know of one other smaller unit still standing and located on North 31st avenue. My aunt had two units moved there circa 1952, one unit which she rented to students and the other that she lived in until 1965.

    Liked by 1 person

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