Suzassippi’s Mississippi: Greenwood City Hall, 1930

19 Greenwood City Hall 30Bonds in the amount of $20,500 were passed in Greenwood for the purchase of land to build a new and larger city hall in May 1929.  By July 6, moving of the “old Ed Bryan home” was underway from the lot on the corner of Main and Church streets.  The former Bryan house was moved to property in South Greenwood owned by the city, with plans to convert into two residences for city employees (“Bryan Property Made Ready for New City Hall.”(Greenwood Commonwealth, July 6, 1929).  Not unlike city governments today, the land had been purchased prior to the holding of a special election February 3, 1930 for voters to determine if a new city hall would be erected at a cost of $85,000 (Greenwood Commonwealth, Jan. 9, 1930, p. 1).  The proposed city hall would house the fire department and city jail in addition to other city departments.  In November, the City Council prepared to ask for architectural designs and bids to replace the 1904 city hall at 103 E. Market.  The fire department was housed at Carrollton and Howard street.Greenwood City Hall front elevationThe City Hall constructed at the start of the Great Depression is an Art Deco Stripped Classic design by Greenwood architect Robert James Moor (MDAH Historic Resources Inventory).  Moor (1892-1971) was the architect for at least 12 Greenwood buildings, seven other Delta area buildings, and an associate architect for the War Memorial Building in Jackson (E.L. Malvaney was the principal architect on that project).  The building contractor was Howell Brothers Construction Company and mechanical contractor was J. D. Lanham, both of Greenwood.  City Hall front entranceThe building, its terra cotta decorative medallions and other ornaments (cresting, door surrounds) was designated as a Mississippi Landmark in 2017.

In May 1930 while the building remained under construction, the Commonwealth offered a $10.00 prize for the winner of a contest to select

an emblem or slogan descriptive of Greenwood.  This emblem will be worked into the rubber tile on the floor. 

What this emblem will say, what it will depict, will depend upon the ingenuity of the people of Greenwood, for they will be given an opptrunity [sic] of suggesting the emblem or slogan, and they will be paid for their trouble.

Mrs. G. L. Ray won the contest with a suggestion of the Greek letter Delta Δ with the inscription “GATEWAY OF THE DELTA” and a bale of cotton in the center.  The winning design selected by the judges had to be “workable in the rubber tile with which the floors will be covered” (Greenwood Commonwealth, Jun. 18, 1930, p. 8).  Was the tile floor completed with the design, Greenwood?  The city hall history page describes visitors to the newly opened city hall as being greeted with a sign bearing the design, and the Commonwealth reported:

The main entrance is on Church street, where the visitor is greeted by a sign bearing in the outlines of a Greek Letter Delta, the legend, “Greenwood, Gateway of the Delta” and in the center of the letter a bale of cotton. (Greenwood Commonwealth, Nov. 1, 1930, p. 1)

Church and Main streets around the post office were widened by six feet, intended to reduce traffic congestion.  The Greenwood Commonwealth proposed

With the post office addition nearing completion, it would appear that a continuation of the wider Church street through the block would facilitate traffic and afford greater convenience to those who have business at the postoffice. (May 26, 1930)

Here is an Art Deco City Hall/Fire Department from Weatherford, Texas that has similar details, along with its Art Deco doors that have been retained.  How do these compare to Greenwood’s original doors?


Love that Art Deco? How about Stripped Classic?



Categories: Delta, Greenwood, Historic Preservation

Tags:

8 replies

  1. Wonderful piece about one of my favorite buildings. The exterior integrity of City Hall is quite remarkable, although there have been some unfortunate interior alterations. The Delta floor design was there when I was a child, and may remain, but I am embarrassed to say that I haven’t noticed lately. The stunning bronze Art Deco front doors were sold by a recent short-sighted mayor to an antique dealer. I tracked them as far as Atlanta, where they may have been installed in a church or events venue. Would love to find them and bring them back! Other original doors can be found on the alley entrance (old Police Dept.) and by the Fire Station. My mother had an office upstairs throughout the 1940s and she was in there almost every day during her 30 years as Commercial Appeal reporter, often with me in tow. There was an elderly black custodian, Winnie Baskin, who cleaned the courthouse and then City Hall for decades. She had an “office” in a tiny broom closet, hidden under the stairway, and she was ever alert for political scuttlebutt and scandal. When my mother would come in, if Winnie had gossip or a tip, she’d whisk her off into the closet and give her the lowdown. So many memories, so much history in this extraordinary building! Thanks for sharing it with your readers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. very handsome building which i must have seen on childhood trips to greenwood, but it seems ‘new to me’ today! it is a shame that it couldn’t have been sited on a larger lot, with ‘space’ all around it—to be admired from all angles; and, it could use some ‘softening’ with trees that, had they survived, would be impressive now. on the other hand, i hate to imagine what might have been built as ‘additions’ over the years had there been ‘an ounce of room’! yes, the integrity on the outside is amazing!

    there must be old views of the front doorway, with the original doors. we, at mp, could all be on the lookout for those doors! there must have been folks that opposed this kind of ‘destruction’ but they must not have had any power or the ‘removal’ was done ‘in the middle of the night’, as often happens in similar instances. (where is this mayor now?????)

    and, yes, i enjoyed the ‘human interest’ story contributed by sec040121! thank you both for a most interesting entry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. forgot to mention that it seems amazing that this building was constructed in a state like ms at the beginning of the depression! want to look at more of this architect’s work. also, always nice to see the hattiesburg downtown post office mentioned, from that older blog; it is a great building in our state.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is a combination City Hall Fire Department similar to this in Weatherford, Texas that I have long admired. It was built in 1933. I am posting (above, at the end of this post) a picture of Art Deco doors on that building, and the front so you can see the ways in which it resembles Greenwood’s Art Deco. I wonder if City Halls/Fire Departments were like schools, and there were places with standard plans that could be individualized somewhat?

      Like

  4. hey–i suspect there were standardized plans–from various construction companies, etc–books that an architect’s office would have, or, could get. the gwood bldg much better than the texas example, in my opinion. doors on the latter don’t look right– esp in ‘color’–they jump out— and, that awful ‘new’ driveway(handicapped?) on only one side– really takes away from the front view— not an awful bldg but…..

    Like

    • I believe the large windows in the front were the original fire truck bays, and the driveway would be from that time period. Handicapped parking is at the rear of the building, and the truck bays of the later addition built on the fire department are also now converted to similar windows as those on the front. I guess the doors appeal to some of us, and not others. Texas has a lot of Art Deco buildings with wonderful details.

      Like

  5. finally looked up robert james moor–found some interesting connections to my cousin, frank p gates, a pioneering ms-born professional architect. mr gates attended the armour institute in chicago, which, in 1940, after he was there, merged with the lewis institute to become today’s illinois institute of technology, with the campus designed by mies van der rohe. reading between the lines, mr gates must have known mr moor at armour and convinced him to come to ms, where, initially, he worked in gates’ office. then, he went out on his own and had a distinguished career in ms.
    in the ms dah directory listing, there might be one important error that someone in our group might be able to correct—for moor, it says that he studied at the art institute or armour institute—well, the art institute refers to the art institute of chicago, which is the museum and the art school; they were not the same school. perhaps this should be investigated further and corrected, if it is error.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: