While on old Brandon Road in Pearl, I noted a former school building, reminding me of similar designs I have seen throughout Mississippi. The MDAH Historic Resources database identifies it as the Old Pearl High School, constructed 1930, and Noah Webster Overstreet as the architect.
It turned out to be a little more complicated, as the history of old buildings sometimes is. The Historic Resources database also indicates the elementary building, constructed 1954 by architect Jones & Hass, has been ‘very altered.’ Photographs do not appear in any of the series of school photographs in the digital archives of the MDAH.
Once again, I turned to the newspaper archives to ferret out the history of the building and its additions and alterations over the years.
A new school has also been constructed three miles east of Jackson, to be called the East Jackson School, to take care of kiddies in that section. (Clarion-Ledger)
A Pearlite penned a letter to the editor 4 days later, accusing the paper of repeating an error 3 times:
Patrons of Pearl school wish it to be known to all that it is the common desire that said school shall be known as Pearl Consolidated school. Whatever name shall be given to the school, the fact remains that it has no direct connection with the schools in Jackson, nor can the school, by any stretch of a vivid imagination, be moved down to “East Jackson”–the suburb just across the Pearl river. (Clarion-Ledger, August 29, 1929, p. 5)
The new school opened in September 1929 and served children up to 9th grade. Tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students were sent to Jackson’s Central High School. It was not until 1948 that Pearl created a 4-year high school.
Pine Park Subdivision, a GI homes development, was advertised as in front of Pearl High School, “where your child can finish grades 1 thru 12 without transfer” (Clarion-Ledger, 07 Nov 1954, p. 26). Many of the homes built in the early 1950s in that subdivision are still extant.
The gymnasium and a new elementary school addition were constructed 1950, with architects Jones & Haas. Plans were underway by March for a new elementary building, “…to follow the same modern architectural lines” (Clarion-Ledger, 26 March 1950, p. 11).
Jones & Haas designed a six-room building to be connected to the existing building by a breezeway. While it is difficult to see in the photograph, the breezeway connects across the street to the 1929 building (currently used as the City Hall). I believe, based on the connecting breezeway that the building on the map below is the addition to the elementary school.
Finally, to figure out what was where in the beginning and subsequent years, I turned to former aerial views of the Pearl School complex, from yearbook photographs, and compared with an aerial map view from today.
A 1958 aerial photograph from the Pearl School District website shows the additions of the new high school, to the left of the original building, gymnasium, elementary school addition connected by breezeway to the rear of the original building, and what I presume to be the addition to the elementary addition, referenced in the 1954 news article above and extended behind the 1950 addition, and is directly across from the gymnasium. The classroom building c. 1960 is not visible, nor is the building directly adjacent to the football field today.
The Clarion-Ledger reported September 2002 on a new 1.5 million dollar art center community room proposed for Pearl in 2003. By October 2, 2002, the C-L reported
Pearl builds on past. Workers from Coleman Hammons Construction Co. of Jackson work on the outside of the new Pearl City Hall Community Room on Old Brandon Road in Pearl. The building will feature a tower with the names of every student to graduate when the building served as Pearl High School.
The 1948 high school was demolished to make way for the Community Room, as the City Hall had already been relocated to the former Pearl Consolidated School building of 1929.