Knowing that many of the buildings constructed by the New Deal Administration programs are not always documented in readily accessible locations, any time I run across one that has the years in the right time span, and knowing the architects and builders in Mississippi who designed and built them, I always try to do a little extra fact-finding. Thus, in learning the Holcomb White School Administration Building, constructed 1935, was documented as designed by E. L. Malvaney (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory), I figured it was a possible New Deal building…and then, none of the facts lined up to support that. As soon as I found one lead, I found another that disproved it. However, it was an interesting history of how things get done, or do not get done.
The photograph of the Holcomb school pictured above was taken in 1954-1955, based on the series dates and the year models of the cars pictured in other photographs. The July 28, 1916 Grenada Sentinel ran a bid request for “drilling of an artesian well for use of Holcomb Consolidated High School” and January 19, 1917, reported the “building is large and commodious and is built according to the latest school architecture” in the item describing the dedication of their new $10,000 brick school building. The Home Economics building pictured below (on the right) was constructed 1929 according to MDAH Historic Resources Inventory. The two teacher’s houses were built c. 1950. A gymnasium c. 1945 and cafeteria c. 1947 were also part of the complex. Only the main building remains.
From 1935-1939, the Holcomb School made the news frequently. The best timeline I can piece together is:
- Sept. 3, 1935, Holcomb School made repairs and improvements to accommodate the largest enrollment in history.
- Sept. 8, 1935, funds for a new Holcomb School building was requested from PWA in amount of $51,849.
- Sept. 18, 1935, Holcomb requested $25,874.70 through WPA for school.
- Sept. 30, 1935, Holcomb slated for $52,727 for new school building through PWA.
- Oct. 1, 1935, PWA projects for Mississippi were given a presidential ok, with a stipulation that cost, employment, and construction schedule would be met and were subject to approval if all projects were under contract by Dec. 15. The Holcomb School project was listed for $52,727 for a school building.
- By November, the news announced that Grenada had received federal funds in the amount of $23,437 to improve the Holcomb school building.
- Time marches on, and a year later, the “old building has been completely torn down” and workmen were cleaning brick and salvaging timbers to reuse (“Holcomb School work progresses, Clarion-Ledger, Sept. 27, 1936).
So, what had happened was…? The application for an auditorium (8719) and school (W1201) were received after April 8, 1935 (Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works Projects and Statistics Division, p. 62, February 8, 1939). Holcomb School is not on the list of the 228 school buildings constructed with aid of the PWA in Mississippi (Clarion-Ledger, Sept. 25, 1938, p. 10).
Dropping of PWA projects disappoints many state cities. Mississippi projects abandoned and turned back to state, despite tentative regional approval of PWA due to lack of funds. (Clarion-Ledger, Sept. 9, 1939, p. 4)
Many of the abandoned projects were schools. That Holcomb did not receive funding through PWA is confirmed; it is not included on the official list of completed projects reported by the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works Projects Division for Mississippi published January 3, 1940.
Concluding my visit to the Holcomb school building, I ended with more questions than answers. The building in existence in 1954-55 is still largely extant, however the wing to the right as pictured in Series 1513 photograph is no longer standing.
I have been unable to locate any information as to who currently owns the property. While I did not notice any roof issues, several windows are open to weather and there appears to be interior damage visible through one uncovered window.