Today’s post is brought to you by our inveterate architectural tourist, Neel Reid, who also reported on last year’s Mad Mod Eastover tour.
It’s easy to overlook Modernist commercial architecture. Coming into a world where cars dictate the layout of a city instead of people, so much of it is found in the sprawling suburbs. If you look closely, however, there are gems among the noise. On Saturday, April 2, the Mississippi Heritage Trust led a Mad Mod Affair in the Delta, which featured several of these fine buildings. Now I know what you might be thinking, because I briefly thought it too. “There’s Modern architecture in the Delta? Surely you jest!” Yes, Virginia, and it’s beautiful.
Delta Electric and Museum of the Delta sit next to each other on generous sites off Hwy 82 and feature low, horizontal massing with broad overhangs. A metal screen over the expanse of glass on Delta Electric’s second floor provides shade while letting in natural light. The Museum’s main office has warm, stained woods and a kidney-shaped light in a kidney-shaped cove hanging over a kidney-shaped desk that had one observer declare, “this is the best room ever!” (Okay, that was me.)
Down the road sits Wade and its Googie lollipop sign, emphasizing Modernism’s whimsical side.
Mississippi Valley State University has a fine collection of buildings that date from its founding in the mid-1950s to today, including the Lois Aron Meditation Chapel, James Herbert White Library, and H. G. Carpenter Auditorium. A quick tour of MSVU’s campus reveals many of Modernism’s streamlined characteristics, such as rectangular forms, broad overhangs, simple ornamentation, exposed materials, and open interior spaces.
Two more Delta Electric and Wade buildings on Hwy 82 in Indianola embrace Modernist characteristics. Windows that continue around corners and a simple brick bond are featured on Delta Electric, while the columns on Wade are exposed I-beams. And that delicious lollipop sign!
The futuristic Young-Mauldin Cafeteria, located amid more traditional buildings on the campus of Delta State University, is a great example of Googie architecture in Mississippi. Round and with boomerang-shaped walls at each entrance, Young-Mauldin seems to have dropped down from space, shouting at you to notice it. Exactly what it’s supposed to do.
On our way back to Clarksdale, we stopped to check on the beautifully restored Taborian Hospital, now reopened as . . . wait for it . . . an urgent care center!
Our final stop on the tour was Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett’s glorious Fay Jones-designed residence for some good food and good tunes. Photos really don’t do it justice, but here you go anyway.
Once again, here’s to the Mississippi Heritage Trust leading the way to a better appreciation of the recent past with more great Mad Mod tours!
See you at the next one,
Categories: African American History, Architectural Research, Clarksdale, Cleveland, Cool Old Places, Delta, Greenwood, Heritage Tourism, Historic Preservation, Hospitals/Medical, Indianola, Itta Bena, Mississippi Heritage Trust, Modernism, Preservation People/Events, Recent Past, Renovation Projects, Universities/Colleges