Concluding her new memoir “Memorial Drive,” Former Poet Laureate of the United States and Mississippi Natasha Trethewey, conveys, “...the transformative power of metaphor and the stories we tell ourselves about the arc and meaning of our lives.”
Making sense of Mississippi illuminates an exodus from intractable issues. Focusing our narrative around goodness abounding elevates “the arc and meaning of our lives.”
A trove of New Deal structures shaping the landscape revealed itself while considering Mississippi Post Office murals. (https://livingnewdeal.org/us/ms/ )
Tourists visit historic structures when travelling. They neglect those at home. Buildings should be treasured and preserved.
Professional architecture in Mississippi was in its infancy during the Great Depression. New Deal construction projects comprise a Who’s Who of early talent.
Emmett Johnston Hull and Eugene Dixon Drummond: Ellis Hall and James Ewing Administration Building, Copiah-Lincoln Junior College, Wesson (1938), Gymnasium, Tunica (1941), Livingston Park Pavilion, Jackson (1936), School, Bay Springs (1936), and High School, Senatobia (1938).
Edgar Lucian Malvaney: Armory and Civic Center, Laurel (1937), former City Hall, New Albany (1937), Clarksdale Civic Auditorium (1939), former Eupora High School (1940), Gymnasiums in Cleveland (1939) and Como (1939), High Schools in Bruce (1942) and Hazlehurst (1936), Leake County Courthouse (1936), Lower Elementary School, Magee (1938), School, Utica (1939), Union County Courthouse (1939), former Vaiden High School (1943), War Memorial Building, Jackson (1940), and Wayne County Courthouse (1936).
Robert William Naef: Franklin Academy Elementary School, Columbus (1939), High School, Brookhaven (1936), Mississippi Federated Women’s Clubs Headquarters, Jackson (1936), Roberts Memorial Library, Delta State Teachers College (1939), Yazoo City Jail (1937), and Barnard, Hedleston, Garland, Leavell, Lewis, Mayes, Somerville and Weir Halls (all 1938, except Lewis Hall — formerly the Physics Building — and Weir Hall — formerly the Student Union — both 1939), Hemingway Stadium (1941), and Kennon Observatory (1939), Ole Miss.
Noah Webster Overstreet: Armories in Greenville (1939) and Yazoo City (1942) and Choctaw County Courthouse (1941) — and with Albert Hays Town: Ackerman High School (1941), Bailey Junior High School, Jackson (1937), Bowmar Avenue Elementary School, Vicksburg (1939), Carrie Stern Elementary School, Greenville (1939), Church Street Elementary School, Tupelo (1938), Columbia High School (1938), Delta Primary Care Rural Health Clinic, Indianola (1939), Frank Wisner Student Activity Building, Laurel (1940), Gymnasiums, Shelby (1939), Pace (1930), Pelahatchie (1939) and Shaw (1940), a High School Addition in Canton (1937) and improvements to one in Yazoo City (1939), Holmes County Jail (1936), Hospital, Cleveland (1939), Leland Elementary School (1935), Madison-Ridgeland High School Annex (1936), National Guard Armories in Amory (1941) and Greenwood (1940), former Schools, Byram (1939), and Tunica Penal Farm (1934).
James Manly Spain: Carthage Elementary School (1938), School Administration Building, Oakland (1939), School Gymnasium, Edwards (1941), and Watkins Elem. School improvements (1939).
Many New Deal structures no longer stand. They go unmentioned herein (although Ole Miss alumni will appreciate knowing that Malvaney designed five fraternity houses and two Sorority Houses (1937) — none of which remain — and Naef designed 22 cottages on Faculty Row — one of which remains. Faculty residences were built at Mississippi A&M (1934-9) as well: Some still stand).
The capstone is the Natchez Trace Parkway, begun in 1939. Next important is the Vicksburg National Military Park and then dams on the Yazoo - Tallahatchie - Coldwater River system — Sardis and Arkabutla among them.
The nine original state parks are New Deal legacies: Clarkco, Holmes County, Legion, Leroy Percy, Percy Quin, Roosevelt, Tishomingo, Tombigbee and Wall Doxey. Twenty-one airports were built including Hawkins Field’s terminal (Hull and Drummond — 1936). (I was unaware until this research that Hawkins Field was named Davis Field upon opening in 1928 until 1941).
Too many community Houses and Post Offices were constructed to name. Murals appear to be exclusively inside New Deal Post Offices.
Swimming pools were constructed in Edwards and Moorhead and at Delta State, Mississippi A&M and Ole Miss. None remain.
Five homestead communities were built in Mississippi by the Resettlement Agency. The most intact homestead community countrywide is outside Tupelo — owned by the Natchez Trace Parkway.
The Living New Deal website delineates greater specificity than an overview can. Examining it is commended.
Mississippians enthuse about antebellum architecture in Columbus and Natchez. Little is known about New Deal structures. (Jackson standouts are Bailey Junior High School, the Mississippi Federated Women’s Clubs Headquarters, and the War Memorial Building).
Inadequate appreciation for architectural excellence demands amelioration.
(Mississippi State University offers additional architecture history on its website: http://lib.msstate.edu/specialcollections/collections/manuscripts/archi…)
Jay Wiener is a Northsider.