In military lingo, MRBM = NHCEL

Congratulations to the intrepid Friends of the Mississippi River Basin Model in Jackson, who received the designation of National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark from the American Society of Civil Engineers at a ceremony earlier this week! ASCE gives this designation to projects and sites “that illustrate the creativity and innovative spirit of civil engineers.” The designation is not easily attained. According to the ASCE’s website, only a little over 200 sites worldwide have been designated–the only other recognized site in Mississippi is the Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg.

MRBM, facing east. Photo by B. Gatlin, MDAH, 11-1-2016

The text of the plaque:

The Mississippi River Basin Model was developed by the Corps of Engineers for use in evaluating the effects of flood control projects on the Mississippi River and its major tributaries. Construction of the model began in 1943 when German and Italian prisoners of war were used to sculpt a 200-acre site into a representation of more than one million square miles of American topography drained by 15,000 miles of river. Over the next quarter-century, the model was completed and equipped with instrumentation that allowed engineers to measure and anazlye the effects of floods and flood control projects in planning and design studies as well as in real-time flood control operations.

As I was cruising around on the ASCE website, I realized that another place with a strong Mississippi connection is both a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark: Union Station in St. Louis, designed by Theodore Link. The amazing Romanesque Revival style structure is a civil engineering landmark because

It was one of the first stations to serve as a centralized terminal for multiple railroad lines. It originally served 22 rail lines; 13 from the east and nine from the west.

The station’s trainshed, 700 feet long and 606 feet wide, used the longest metal roof trusses ever constructed to span 32 sets of tracks. Structural engineer George H. Pegram served as the chief design engineer for the project and used a patented configuration of his own design, known as the Pegram truss.

Theodore Link, as you Mississippi preservationist extraordinaires know, later became the architect of Mississippi’s  New Capitol, and saved the Old Capitol, oh, and designed a bunch of buildings on Mississippi university campuses (and died while overseeing the construction of Louisiana State University–a very busy man!).

Maybe someday, our Mississippi River Basin Model will also achieve National Historic Landmark designation, which is awarded by the National Park Service. If you’d like to be a part of the renewal of this awesome place, join the Friends of the Model–they are active in clearing the site of overgrowth and working on a plan for how to preserve and share the model with the world.

Another dedication is happening today, this one at the Medgar and Myrlie Evers House, where the National Historic Landmark plaque will be unveiled recognizing this important civil rights site.

Categories: Architectural Research, Cool Old Places, Historic Landscapes, Jackson, Preservation People/Events


1 reply

  1. Awesome! Hopefully it will get even more awards/recognition, be restored to the extent it can, and even become an attraction once again. I remember going to see this as a kid one hot summer day before it was closed/abandoned. Until fairly recently I thought this was part of the Vicksburg COE WES. Guess it took about as long to get from north Jackson to south as it did to get to Vicksburg, or at least it felt like it in an a car w/o air conditioning!


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