This post is a follow up to a post from a few weeks back that stimulated quite a bit of conversation about appreciation of architecture from the late 1960s and early 1970s that are now reaching the golden fifty-year mark when buildings can be considered for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings in today’s post are less than five years from reaching their fiftieth birthday. Below is a brief 1972 Delta Democrat Times article that highlights two designs in the Delta that received recognition from the Mississippi Chapter of AIA at their annual convention.
Designers of two new Mid-Delta buildings were honored Friday at the annual convention of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Jackson architect Charles Craig received an “honor award” for his design of the William [sic] Herbert White Library (above) at Mississippi Valley State College in Itta Bena. The Greenville architect Joe N. Weilenman received an “honorable mention” in the statewide competition for his design of the Deer Creek Park Recreation and Maintenance Building (left) in Leland. Weilenman’s design was cited for “its imaginative building-land-water relationship and its appropriate use of materials.”
–Delta Democrat Times August 20, 1972
Unlike our last 1970’s awards post, both of today’s buildings are still standing. The MVSU James Herbert White Library was completed in 1971, according to the building’s plaque, but it got a pretty significant remodeling in 2013, eliminating any hopes of the building being National Register eligible. The Deer Creek Park Recreation and Maintenance Building looked good the last time I saw it. The description given in the brief news clipping gives us some insight into what the awarding jury considered the most important aspects of the Deer Creek Park Recreation and Maintenance Building: “imaginative building-land-water relationship and “appropriate use of materials.”
The placement of the building over the bank of the river is interesting. While not groundbreaking, it was probably a conscious aesthetic decision to place the building over the creek. Defining the “appropriate use of materials” might be a bit more difficult to pin down. Perhaps the jury thought that the choice of board-and-batten siding embraced this cladding type’s vernacular roots?
The Deer Creek Park Recreation and Maintenance Building, which is now home to the Birthplace of Kermit The Frog Museum, is within the boundaries of the local Leland Historic District but outside the National Register District. I am unsure what year the building was constructed. The building is very likely to have been heavily influenced by Condominium 1 in Sea Ranch, California that was built in 1965 and designed by architect Charles Moore. Condominium 1 was listed on the National Register in 2005, when it was only 40 years old, due to the significant impact it had on American architecture. The National Register nomination for the Sea Ranch structure cites both the placement and the material choices of the Condominium 1 as revolutionary at the time. It was a reaction to the “International Style ideal [of] the pristine box dropped into a well-tended landscape… [The structure] is in harmony with the landscape by borrowing from local vernacular forms and native materials… Condominium 1 made a revolutionary, if not initial, break with [the International Style’s] tradition.”
The James Herbert White Library and the Deer Creek Park Recreation and Maintenance Building are just two of the buildings recognized at the 1972 Mississippi AIA conference. I’ve yet to identify any other buildings that received an award at the conference.
Categories: Architectural Research, Bridges, Delta, Historic Preservation, Itta Bena, Leland, Libraries, Modernism, National Register, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Recent Past, Renovation Projects