I had expected to get this post up when we were still in the year 2016, and I certainly didn’t think it would end up coming out in the second week of 2017, but this year’s list of new Mississippi Landmarks was so long it’s taken me a while to gather all the information together. You may remember that last year, I complained about the low number of new Landmarks that MDAH had designated. Well, I hesitate to ascribe such power to myself, but this year’s record high number (at least it’s a record since 2009 when we started publishing annual lists) more than makes up for the number. How big is this year’s number? 22 new landmarks (plus Okolona, which snuck past me in December 2015), including two school campuses that contain more than one building, so technically, more like 24. Here’s how that stacks up in recent history:
What distinguishes a Mississippi Landmark from a National Register listing? I’m glad you asked. The National Park Service administers the National Register, and it is mainly an honorary, rather than a regulatory designation (this being a Federal program, it has a regulatory component, but most people only experience the happy honor, not the regulations that occasionally touch upon it). Meanwhile, the Mississippi Landmark designation is primarily meant for publicly owned buildings such as courthouses, city halls, schools, colleges, and the like, and is completely under the control of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Board of Trustees. The Mississippi Landmark designation gives MDAH the authority to review any proposed alterations to the landmark, including demolition. (For more information about the Mississippi Landmark program, see the MDAH website. I also recommend this 4-minute podcast with retired MDAH director Elbert Hilliard in the “Mississippi Moments” series of oral history interviews, in which he discusses the passage and importance of the Mississippi Antiquities Law of 1970 in preserving many Mississippi landmarks.)
So, once a building is designated as a Mississippi Landmark, the odds are pretty good that it will not only be around for another 50 years, but if it’s renovated, it will be renovated in a way that maintains its architectural and historical character.
Whew, ok, enough text, let’s see some pictures! All photos below and the accompanying text came from the Significance Reports prepared by staff in the MDAH Historic Preservation Division for review by the MDAH Board of Trustees.
Okolona School, Chickasaw County
–Designated December 4, 2015
The Okolona School is historically significant for its role in the education of white students from 1924 until integration was implemented around 1970. It would continue to serve as 1st-12th grades for all students until a new high school was constructed in 1980, and this became the elementary school. The 1924 classroom building is a symmetrical three-story brick building with a T-shape floor plan and a parapet flat roof, and has an academic eclectic style with influences of multiple neo-classic styles. A full height frontispiece is topped with a stylized Doric frieze that continues around the building. The school is a contributing element to the Okolona Historic District (NR) and this designation is requested by the Okolona Municipal Separate School District.
Shaw School, Bolivar County
–Designated February 18, 2016
This campus has served as an educational center for the small Delta town of Shaw since the 1920s. It opened as a school for white students, grades 1-12, but continued as Shaw High School after integration. The administration building is an important work of N.W. Overstreet’s early career, demonstrating his personal style that combined the long horizontal lines, wide eaves, and geometric motifs of the Prairie style with classical ornament and symmetrical massing. The gymnasium carries on the scale and materials of the administration building but employs highly abstracted ornament on a stripped-down, early Modernist form.
This designation was at the request of the West Bolivar County School District.
Boswell Regional Center, Sanatorium, Simpson County
–Designated April 29, 2016
The State Sanatorium opened in 1918, with a large administration building (no longer standing) completed in that year. The Sanatorium’s mission, growing out of the earlier Mississippi Anti-Tuberculosis Committee formed in 1913, was to combat the growing problem of tuberculosis, a highly contagious respiratory disease that in the early decades of the 20th century was fatal in about 80% of those who contracted it.
Under the 40-year directorship of Dr. Henry Boswell, the sanatorium experienced two major building phases: 1920-1930 and 1947-1953. The initial phase, by far the most significant, was funded with a $1,000,000 appropriation from the Mississippi Legislature and most of the early buildings were designed by architect Theodore Link, in his capacity as supervising architect for the State Improvement Bond Commission.
Multiple buildings on campus were designated in cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.
University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Forrest County
–Designated April 29, 2016
Southern Miss already had nine Mississippi Landmark buildings on its campus before 2016, including its logo, the Lucas Administration Building at the front of campus. This year’s designations added several other buildings that are within the boundary of the National Register-listed University of Southern Mississippi historic district.
Fannie Lou Hamer Library/Golden Key Center
–Designated April 29, 2016
Constructed in 1976, the Golden Key Community Center served the residents of the Golden Key Apartments, a residential community for senior citizens, owned and operated by the Jackson Housing Authority, as well as the community. The Golden Key Community Center is historically significant for association with Government, Social History, and Ethnic Heritage: Black. As some of the primary goals of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, such as access to the ballot and school desegregation, were slowly achieved in the late 1960s and early 1970s, grassroots activists continued to work with the African American community on voting rights education, redistricting, health care and furthering efforts to move from a segregated society to a more equitable community. Many of these meetings and programs were held in the Golden Key Community Center. The building was one of the first public spaces in the city open to the African American community for such organizing. In addition to the meeting space, the building housed a public library, later dedicated to Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. A free senior citizen’s health clinic operated in the community center, one of the first to serve the African American community.
Ole Homestead, Columbus, Lowndes County
–Designated April 29, 2016
The Ole Homestead is a vernacular raised cottage that was constructed between 1819 and 1829, most likely in 1825 by Charles Abert.
Sherman Line Rosenwald School, Amite County
–Designated September 15, 2016
This one-story, wood-frame, drop-sided building was built in 1928 with assistance from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which donated $700 of the $3,800 cost of the building. This is one of only about a dozen surviving Rosenwald schools in Mississippi. The Julius Rosenwald Fund was begun at the request of Booker T. Washington in 1912 and was the gift of the CEO of Sears, Roebuck Co., Julius Rosenwald. Between 1912 and 1932, when it closed, the Fund contributed to over 5,300 school buildings for African Americans in the 15 Southern states, with its largest number coming in the decade of the 1920s. After 1920, the Rosenwald Fund required their schools to be built to a set of standardized plans that were designed to allow maximum natural light and ventilation through large window grouping that faced east and west. Mississippi had the second-highest number of Rosenwald schools, behind North Carolina, totaling 557 plus 58 teachers’ houses and 18 vocational buildings, but less than 20 are known to survive in the state.
Nichols School, Canton, Madison County
–Designated October 14, 2016
This designation applies to two buildings on the Nichols Middle School campus in Canton: the 1927 T-shaped Rosenwald building facing Cameron Street, and the 1937 two-story elementary school annex behind it.
The Rosenwald Building (formerly the Cameron Street High School) is a one-story, (painted) brick, T-plan school built with Rosenwald funding in 1927. It is a variant of the standard Community School Plan #7, a seven-classroom design with an auditorium in the rear wing. Rosenwald records at Fisk University show that the building cost $25,000, of which the local black community donated $1,500, the Rosenwald Fund donated $1,700, and the public school district paid $21,800.
The Elementary Building is a two-story, (painted) brick building with a hip roof of asphalt shingles and a rectangular footprint. This building was included in the same PWA-funded project as the extension of Canton High School for white children, and both buildings were the design of Jackson architects Overstreet & Town and built by contractor J.R. Flint Construction Co.
THAT’S ALL, FOLKS!