Mid-Week Mid-Century: Mississippi’s Outstanding Post-War Schools

It’s totally normal (I’m sure you would agree) to collect books like American School and University, and as I was flipping through the 1950-51 (22nd annual) edition, I came across a chapter called “America’s Outstanding School Buildings (built since 1945).” In that chapter was a series of school photos and a longer listing of “best” schools in each state.

This is a period of school building that’s very important in Mississippi’s history, as it was around the time of Brown v. Board of Education and there was an attempt to “equalize” the schools for black and white students in order to preserve segregation. As you may recall from this News Roundup, the equalization period was the same one in which the Liberty Elementary School was built.

Anyway, the list for Mississippi really gives us a perspective on what the “experts” of the time thought about individual schools. The buildings were chosen based on such criteria as number of stories (one story was the ideal), acoustics, lighting, sturdy materials (i.e. not Dryvet), and special facilities such as health clinics or multi-use areas. There’s no mention of “modern style” or anything like that, and in fact, look at the difference below between the two pictured schools–one very modern, one trying to look like an old Natchez mansion.

Be prepared to not know what these buildings look like–they’re not the familiar landmark schools we’ve all come to know and preserve. But maybe we ought to give the buildings on this list (the ones that are still standing and intact, that is) a second look–not only for their architectural merit but also considering their important historic context.

Here’s the list, from page 202, with my notes in brackets and those non-extant in red:

Nora Davis Elementary School (Negro), Laurel, built 1948, designed by Meridian architect Chris Risher

Nora Davis Elementary School (Negro), Laurel, built 1948, designed by Meridian architect Chris Risher

  • Wm. H. Braden Elem. School, Natchez, W.H. Braden, Supt. [this building is now the school district offices and is almost completely intact inside]
Braden Elementary School, Natchez, built 1949, R.W. Naef, principal archt., Beverley W. Martin, associate (courtesy HABS)

Braden Elementary School, Natchez, built 1949, R.W. Naef, principal archt., Beverley W. Martin, associate (courtesy HABS)

  • Picayune High School, Picayune, J.E. Bond, Supt. [I only vaguely recall this school and don’t remember the architect]
  • Prentiss High School, Prentiss, W.K. McKay, Supt. [ditto above]
  • Grove Street Elem. School, Vicksburg, H.V. Cooper, Supt. [very cool school built 1949 and designed by Jackson firm Gates & Birchett. Listed on the National Register as part of the Grove St.-Jackson St. Historic District in 2007]
  • Winona High School, Winona, Robert Taylor, Supt. [this is one of those schools it took me a while to love because it’s attached to a 1920s school so you’re looking at classic old school on one side and modern school on the other, but once I got inside a few years ago and looked around, I liked it, and I like the quirkiness of the combination. Could the fact that the modern addition was designed by E.L. Malvaney have anything to do with my acceptance? Maybe :-)]

This post is a throwback to August, 2009.  You can read the post as it originally appeared here. There have been lots of MissPres posts about Mid-Century school buildings that you might find interesting…



Categories: African American History, Architectural Research, Clarksdale, Cool Old Places, Greenville, Hattiesburg, Laurel, Natchez, Picayune, Prentiss, Recent Past, Schools, Vicksburg, Winona

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1 reply

  1. From Princella Nowell of Greenville:

    “I attended Susie P. Trigg and have a few photos to share. I don’t know how to send to your web page so I am sending to you to take care of. I hope these are of interest. I am a Rotarian and about four times a year I still return to the school to read to the children as a part of our community outreach. The school, now called McBride, is in good condition and very much the way I left it. Although I remember it as being MUCH BIGGER. Two of the most interesting things are the magnolia “Mosaic” in the lobby and the “sanitary hand washer.” The hand washer is a round fountain with a foot bar. The hand washers, a whole class. can surround it. I remember we stepped up to the fountain and on the foot bar and washed our hands before going to lunch.

    “The site of the original Trigg School, pre 1949, was on the site of the old Courthouse in Greenville. Some say the old school was in the old Courthouse. I have a bad photo. But the locals always called it “Court School” for being on the site if not in the building. The name carried over even after the new school was built. Trigg was always called “Court School” locally. I remember there being foundations of the old school on the playground. Also remember that from the cafeteria we could see the “tram” cars constantly going over the levee at the Greenville Gravel Company about a block away. Part of that old ramp is still there. The old courthouse (and other public buildings) were on the west side of Poplar street and the original burying ground was on the east, accompanying the public buildings. After the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878 the cemetery was filled to capacity and a new one was opened on Main Street and is still in use. The cemetery across from “Court School” was used for end of school picnics and later as a recreational park, with some graves still scattered throughout, when I attended school. Eventually it was totally abandoned as a cemetery and a park. Today it is the Harriett Blanton Park with a Mississippi Historical Marker dedicated in the center. It is no longer a playground but a memorial to the founder of Greenville. There were 78 Crape Myrtle trees planted in commemoration of year 1878 (for the fever epidemic). I haven’t counted to see if they all survived. I have photos of that dedication.
    Just a few memories.
    Princella

    Like

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