Friday Under the Lights: Laurel’s Watkins Stadium

Municipal Stadium Ad from Laurel Leader Call 11-26-1930

I believe tonight is the last night for regular season High School football across Mississippi and we have yet to feature a historic playing field on MissPres this fall.  Tonight (Friday November 3, 2017) Laurel will face off against Natchez, in what is today known as Watkins Stadium.

Watkins Stadium Laurel, Jones County Mississippi 2014 from google street view accessed 11-1-2017

Watkins Stadium Laurel, Jones County Mississippi 2014 from google street view accessed 11-1-2017

The MDAH HRI states that the Municipal Stadium (as it was then known) was designed in 1930 by L.W. Duffee and built in 1930 by L.A. Gilly.  According to a 1982 Leader Call article, the work constructing the field was overseen by school maintenance director Louis Denham.  The article states that “the work included moving tons of dirt out to the area by mule power.”  The initial construction also included electric floodlights, making the stadium purportedly the site of the first night games in Mississippi.  The stands at the time were constructed of wood, but in 1937 a “WPA project” was undertaken to build the brick and concrete stands that exist today.  It’s possible that the masonry stands work was designed by L.W. Duffee.  After a stint as Mississippi’s State Highway Engineer in the early 1930s, Duffee worked for the PWA in the late 1930’s, becoming acting district director for the WPA in 1940, then, State PWA director by 1941. The name was changed from Municipal Stadium to R.H Watkins Stadium in 1938.  When the masonry stands were completed in 1939, they could accommodate 6,000 spectators.  In the 1950’s three sections were added to both the north and south sides.

Watkins Stadium Laurel, Jones County Mississippi 2013 from google maps accessed 11-1-2017

Watkins Stadium Laurel, Jones County Mississippi 2013 from google maps accessed 11-1-2017

Watkins Stadium Laurel, Jones County Mississippi 2014 from google street view accessed 11-1-2017

Have you ever been to Watkins Stadium?  Let us know about your experience!




Categories: Cool Old Places, Historic Preservation, Laurel, Schools

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5 replies

  1. That is a fun Friday fact, especially on the final Friday of football for fall. (I am happy it is Friday–does it show?)
    Seriously, it is always great to see a structure surviving from the period of the depression, and more so when it involves WPA or PWA or any of the numerous agencies that operated under the New Deal. I do wonder what’s up with all the maroon paint, however.

    Liked by 2 people

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