Recently I came across the Hattiesburg Mississippi Industrial Edition for May 1908. It will most certainly be the source of many future blog posts, with lots of photographs, descriptions, and accounts of goings-on in the Hub City. Of all the civic boosting that is done in the volume, one small comment caught my eye. It was this off-handed quote about Hattiesburg’s Ross Building, then recently completed in 1907, in an ad for a watchmaker.
…the magnificent Ross Building, the first reinforced concrete building to be erected in the state of Mississippi…
Was this a case of over zealous civic booster-ism, perhaps misinformation, or is it the gosh-honest truth? Has anyone seen any other references to the Ross Building being the first concrete reinforced structure in Mississippi? Concrete would have been a logical choice over steel for Mississippi’s early skyscrapers as concrete is considerably cheaper. In addition to steel having inferior fireproof qualities to concrete, the significant amount of structural steel would have required long hauls from a steel foundry in another state resulting in a costly freight bill, where concrete was readily availability in Forrest County. Robert E. Lee was the architect and moved his practice into the Ross Building, having an advertisement in the same publication that featured a photo of the then recently completed structure. I haven’t found much information the builder, the Jefferson Construction Company. According to the MDAH HRI database, they were from Birmingham, AL. The firm appears to have been incorporated in early 1905 with capital stock totaling $125,000.00. But I haven’t found if they had any prior experience building concrete reinforced structures.
On a separate but related note, related to reinforced concrete structures, I’ve heard that the Standard Life Building became the largest reinforced concrete building in the world upon its completion in 1929. Has anyone seen any reliable documentation on this cool-if-true fact?