Magee Community House: WPA or not?

Mississippi can document a number of community houses constructed under the auspices of the New Deal Administration, including FERA (Pontotoc and Macon) and WPA (Winona, Biloxi, Carrollton, Enterprise, Grenada, and Eupora).  Additionally, at least 6 other facilities are conjectured to have been built by FERA (Leland and Louisville)  and WPA (Teoc, Magnolia, Magee, Raleigh, and Soso).

Magee Community House 2

Magee’s Community House is conjectured by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database to be built c. 1935 by the WPA. The one-story building is described as Colonial Revival, but it has no external markings that indicate a connection to the builders, and thus, far, the newspaper archives have been of minimal help.

From the historical archives during the New Deal years (1933-1944), one item mentions canning beef at the Magee community house under the Simpson County Resettlement Administration program (Magee Courier, Dec. 13, 1935, p. 1).  The January 30, 1941 Magee Courier reported:

…contracts for material for the community center were awarded and work on the foundation was being done on ‘construction of much needed center in Magee.’ (p. 1)

Although several Magee projects funded by the PWA are mentioned in 1935 news items, nothing about the community house was located.  The first mention of community house construction was the May 15, 1941 item (pictured below) congratulating the Board of Aldermen, Lions Club, and Woman’s Club for the facility construction.  In August, a plumber was paid $2.00 out of the Community Center Fund for 4 hours of work on the house, and in September, the Community Center Fund paid a worker $22.19 for 71 hours of work on the community house.

In 1956, new concrete steps were constructed at three points at the community house, and it was referenced as the community center.

…steps will enable everyone to mount the bank onto the sidewalk with more ease and assurance. (“Community House has new look,” Magee Courier, July 26, 1956, p. 1).

Magee Community House

I assume the center steps  are the ones that provide access from the street to “mount the bank onto the sidewalk.”

The Magee Courier reported in a 1962 article that the center had been “constructed some 20 years ago” and that officials needed to consider installing central air conditioning.  That date would indicate the 1941 facility constructed would be the above-pictured community center, which apparently might not have full air conditioning even today as two window units are visible on the side elevation.

Notable also is that only one of the other community houses constructed in the mid-1930s was Colonial Revival style–the Biloxi Beach Community house.  Tudor Revival, Craftsman, and Rustic (both log and rock) were the designs of choice during those years.  It is possible the 1935 community house referenced a building that is no longer extant, or that the new community center constructed in 1941 was built on the same location, or that new construction enlarged or altered the earlier building.  For example, the New Deal Biloxi community house was rebuilt on the same location as the previous community house structure.

Can anyone from the MissPres nation weigh in with additional information?

 

 



Categories: Historic Preservation, Magee, New Deal

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10 replies

  1. The Pontotoc Community Center is also a WPA project. The Eupora Community Center was built by the same plans. (Somewhere here we have a copy of those plans…)

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  2. i can’t comment on any ‘facts’ but i will say, ‘wow, what a handsome building! -and, yes, have certainly been to magee–though not in many years— i used to go with my grandfather to mcalpin’s to buy ‘nice clothing’–but i don’t remember this building. more ‘federal.moving into greek revivival-revival’ stylistically, it seems to me, but guess ‘colonial revival’ is an okay general term— that name covers so many variants of the renewed interest in america’s earlier styles—

    there is/was? a building in hattiesburg across from hawkins jr high school that has the same ‘federal’ feeling- a few others in hattiesburg–mr gentry might be able to give names—might a hburg architect have done this building in magee?

    just thinking out loud—thanks for bringing this building to our attention—

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    • That would be the American Legion Hut Post 24 at 298 Green Street. The building also housed had a canteen. There was a WW1-era artillery cannon by the flag pole, but I don’t see it in the photo. I remember the architecture differently from the Google map photo. The manager I spoke to said that the post would celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. It was used as the USO dance hall during WWII.

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  3. I personally cannot find any documentation that says it was a WPA building. I do know that the WPA started the Library in this town in 1935. It was on the second floor of the State Guaranty Bank building. According to the Library history, the Community House was completed in 1937, that is when the Mims Williams Library moved into the Community House. The WPA service was discontinued in 1942 and the city of Magee took over. But… According to the Magee Courier Nov. 1949 edition, The Community House was completed in 1940 and still no mention of WPA. If you will send me your email, I can scan the article in sections and send it to you.

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  4. I was told Mims Williams , who was the first millionaire in the town, had the Community House built and gave it to the town. Which may tie into the newspaper clipping above about No one man or group is responsible for the Community House being erected.

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    • You are almost right! The land was given to the city of Magee by MRS. Mims Williams with the agreement that it would always be kept intact for the use of the city. I know that Mrs. Mims Williams was responsible for the Library but I also think (I have no documentation) it was her, that pushed for and made sure the Community House was built. The Library was named in his honor. (We still to this day have his picture in the Library!) She really was a very generous person and loved Magee!

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  5. How interesting – just enough information to tickle the curiosity! Hope this story unfolds a little more. I am glad you shared about the building being used for canning. Operations like that played a very important part in getting the community working again and providing much needed services. They are often overlooked or long forgotten.

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  6. Maybe someday I will make it to DC to the archives! Can you imagine searching all those documents?

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