Holmes County Courthouse

courthouseHolmes County’s Queen Anne/Romanesque courthouse in Lexington was built in 1894 (MDAH Historic Resources Inventory).  The architect was Walter Chamberlain & Co., and the builder was R. Jesty & Company.  Chamberlain was out of Knoxville/Birmingham, and Jesty from Winona via immigration from Bere-Regis, England, to Vaiden (MDAH/HRI).  Jesty also owned a lumber company and brick yard.

Since Lexington was founded specifically to serve as the seat of government for Holmes County, the town exhibits more formal planning than many other towns of similar size in Mississippi.  Its courthouse square is decidedly the symbolic (although not geographic) heart of town, and the courthouse itself is situated on a high point that can be seen from all major approaches. (J. V. O. Baughn, 2000, nomination form for Lexington Historic District National Register of Historic Places)

clock tower 2The red-brick two story structure is topped with an imposing clock tower.  Each of the four sides of the courthouse features a “tetrastyle portico” with cast iron columns (Todd Sanders, 1994, NRHP nomination form for Courthouse Complex).

The detail picture shows one of the four “square, pyramidal-roofed towers” featured on each corner of the building, with pediment “containing a bas-relief sunburst pattern” (Sanders).

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Holmes County Records Building

Sometimes, you just have to let the pictures do the talking.  Here is what I can discover about this stunning 1930 Art-Deco building in Lexington, Mississippi.

entrance 2

One-story, yellow brick building with a low-pitched hipped roof.  Centered on the facade is a recessed, double-leaf, 2-panel wood door with a 12-light transom.  Flanking this doorway, on the facade wall, are two small windows covered with decorative iron grills.  Above the windows are circular plaques containing interlocking diamond shapes.  Above the entrance is a cast-concrete decoration consisting of griffins flanking a rectangular panel.  A large addition, dating to the 1940s or 50s stands  on the SE corner of the building.  A cornice composed of geometrical shapes encircles the original building. (Jennifer V. O. Baughn, 2000, National Register of Historic Places nomination form, retrieved from Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory)

side elevation 2


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Hempstead County Courthouse in Hope, Arkansas

Hempstead County courthouse 2

The NRHP nomination form describes this courthouse as the “…finest extant example of the Art Deco style within the city of Hope, Arkansas. Its horizontal symmetrical massing, set back rooflines and stylized Art Deco ornamentation are all identifying characteristics of the style that became the dominant architectural idiom for Depression-era public works courthouses throughout the state” (Story, 1994). The county applied for PWA funds August 1, 1938. The courthouse was constructed for $200,000, through a $110,000 loan and a $90,000 grant (PWA fund granted). The central part of the courthouse is five stories, with two-story wings on the north and sound elevations. It is ornamented with recessed chevron panels, and the entrance is ornamented with concrete relief panels depicting professions and industry. The entrance also features sunburst motifs and an eagle.

Began in 1939 and completed in 1940, Architect B. W. Edwards designed the building.  Contractors were McAninch and Anderson.

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Weatherford Municipal Power and Light

front elevation

The City of Weatherford sought a grant from the Works Progress Administration to construct a city-owned power plant (Shumaker, 1940).  Bond issues in the amount of $250,000 were approved by the community to build the municipal light plant (Two bond issues, 1937).  Update:  I located a 1939 newspaper article that indication the contracts for the construction of the power plan were let on September 14, 1939.  The low bid was $129,833.09 for the plant construction and installation of machinery.  The Eugene Asche Electric Company of Fort Worth won the contract for installing the distribution system and street lighting, at a cost of $88,912.73 (Weatherford to build power plant).

sidewalk stamp

I have been unable to locate documentation, after days and days of searching newspapers, that WPA funds were actually granted.  The closest I can come is that there is evidence due to the WPA stamp on the sidewalk that the agency was at least involved in constructing the sidewalk.  While I think it is likely that the grant was awarded, based on other WPA and PWA activity in Weatherford–in terms of buildings and grants–there is so far no definitive information that I can find in spite of scouring newspaper archives from 1937-1940, university archives, and any possible lead turned up on a routine Google search.  If anyone out there reading this has some source, I throw myself on your mercy to please let me know where it is.  This building–and its story, which you can read by checking out Charles Shumaker’s dissertation from 1940 (see link on reference at end of story), is too valuable to be lost.

The building was constructed by Fairbanks, Morse, and Company, and completed in 1940.

Out front of the building sit a tractor and a road grader, which pre-date the building, but nonetheless are worthy of publicity.

grader manufacturer

J. D. Adams founded his production company in 1897 and operated it until his death in 1924 (J. D. Adams & Company).  In 1929, his sons formed a corporation, which operated until 1955 when the company was purchased by LeTourneau-Westinghouse, who retained the Adams brand name until 1960 (Berry, n. d., Historical Equipment Association).  Adams was the inventor of “the first successful leaning-wheel pull grader in 1885.


An Adams’ advertisement from The Road-Maker: A Monthly Journal Devoted to the Practical Problems of Highway Transportation, 12(1), January 1918, advises:

The Adams-Leaning-Wheel Grader can quickly prove to contractors and road officials that by leaning its weight against the load, it moves much more dirt with less power, at a consequent saving in cost.


Today the plant is still operational and occasionally utilized to generate power when the cost of market power rises above the cost of generation. (History of Weatherford Electric, Weatherford Utilities Department, weatherfordtx.gov)


J. D. Adams & Company, Manuscripts and Rare Books Division, Indiana State Library.

Shumaker, C. S. (1940). The Weatherford Municipal Light and Power Plant.  Dissertation retrieved from http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc75604/

Two bond issues voted by Weatherford citizens. (24 November 1937). Vernon Daily Record, p. 1.

Weatherford to build power plant. (September 15, 1939). The Mexia Weekly Herald, p. 1.

Posted in Art Deco architecture, Art Moderne, New Deal Administration, Texas, Works Progress Administration | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

DeWitt Publishing Company: The Era-Enterprise

DeWitt Publishing Company

This is the last stop on DeWitt, Arkansas’ historic downtown square.  The building housing DeWitt Publishing was constructed in the early 1950s for a farm co-op, which was unsuccessful.  In 1954, Harold Young opened his department store in the building.  Young’s “…really defined the 1950s and 60s in DeWitt” (History of the DeWitt Square).  The store sold toys, clothes, furniture, and appliances; a service station and meat market for butchering was located in the back.

DeWitt Publishing moved to the building in 1981 when Young’s Department Store closed, and it became home to the DeWitt Era-Enterprise.  The Enterprise was founded in 1916, and absorbed the New Era–founded in 1882–in 1929.  They claim never to have missed an issue (History of the Square).

The building to the right was constructed circa 1925.  Harry Lipman Dry Goods was in the storefront on the left, and Snarr Drug Store in the right.  Buildings to the right of what currently houses Big Time Rentals, down to the corner building, were lost in a major fire in 1930 that destroyed several buildings on the square.

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Historic Courthouse Square in DeWitt

City Hall and Willard's

DeWitt, Arkansas is a rarity due to the design of its public square.  Like many small rural communities, the courthouse occupies the center of the square.  What is unique about DeWitt’s square is that it was designed as

…a continuous street around a public square with one access street in the middle of each block.  The northwest, northeast, and southwest corners have unique lots containing buildings with chamfered corner entrances. (History of the Square, DeWitt, Arkansas)


The Willard’s store is circa 1915.  A central stairway allows access to the second story.  In the 1930s, Schallhorn Hardware was relocated to this building.  William Frederick Schallhorn was also president of the DeWitt Bank and Trust, located in the building next door, now Kelly’s on the Square.  The remnants of the word “hotel” is partially visible behind the Willard’s sign.  The building housed two grocery stores, and doctors and dentists at different points in time.

City Hall and Police Department

The corner building was constructed in 1954 for the Bank and Trust, where it remained until 1977.  In 1979, the city hall and police department were relocated to the buff brick walled building.  The chamfered corner entrance is faced in cut stone with dentils at the cornice, and glass block windows on the sides.

City Hallcorner building on block

Three of the corners have chamfered entrance buildings on them; the fourth corner appears to have had a building in the location at one time, based on the chamfered sidewalk entrance.  The building above, also buff brick, has housed a number of businesses since its construction in the late 1920s.

corner store

The building features what was described as “zipper brick” but is more commonly known as a “pigeonhole corner.”

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Mount Vernon Old Jail

former jail front and side

The former Franklin County jail, built in 1912, is currently in use as the Old Jail Arts Center.  It retains one of the original cells in the upstairs.  It is a simple, unadorned building.  The construction appears to be a larger than usual brick (from inspection of a section where paint has peeled) and is painted a rather bland gray.

jail front elevation

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