Ruston, Louisiana Art Deco High School

ruston-high-school-black-and-white.jpgThe Ruston High School was described, rightfully so, as “an Art Deco gem” (Leighninger, 2007, p. 78).  The National Register of Historic Places nomination form describes is as “among the very best” Art Deco designs in the 40 Louisiana buildings constructed in the style.

…dramatic boldly vertical, faceted tower, rising a story above the main roofline.

Bas relief sculptural panels…what looks like a thin chimney is actually a decorative element…vertical reeded brick panels above [auditorium windows] …limestone panels with geometric figures below.

The original building as constructed in 1939 using federal funds under the New Deal Administration included the center core and the auditorium wing.  The library/gym wing was added in 1968, with the identical brick and similar geometric designs, however, it is lacking in the detail of the original auditorium wing.

The interior retains the geometric details in the terrazzo floor, Art Deco chandeliers, and other decorative elements.  According to the Alumni School History,

The spacious new $940,000 building was one of the first in the nation to incorporate color, and was planned with thirteen color harmonies in the classrooms and foyer.

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Mount Vernon City Hall and Fire Station

Firehouse MuseumThe City Hall/Fire Station project for Mount Vernon, Texas was approved in 1940 with an appropriation of $4,711 in WPA funds.  The two-story, natural stone building was constructed with an estimated total cost of $8,100 (“City Hall project for Mt. Vernon approved,” The Paris News (Paris, Texas), 21 April 1940, p. 3).

The building will contain a garage for two fire trucks and the second floor will be an auditorium.

City offices were located on the first floor.  The building is currently in use as a museum.

 

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Hope, Arkansas: 1911 post office

The Hope post office was begun in 1911 and completed in 1912.  Apparently, nothing unusual occurred with the facility until 1964, when the Federal government decided a new facility was needed due to growth of mail volume, and the plans to put a sorting facility in Hope, which would also necessitate more space.  The fight was on.

Hope PO front elevation There won’t be any new Hope post office.  No one wants it…and to say Hope needs it, in view of the population decline in our county and all southwest Arkansas is absurd. (A. H. Washburn, “Economy begins with a grassroots ‘No!’ to ‘Grants’ that are only a piece of debt.” Hope Star, 3 January 1964, p. 1)

Mr. Washburn, the editor of the Hope Star, went on to say

Congressmen and senators do in the main only what the people back home want them to do.  The Arkansas delegation are my personal friends, and a widely-circulated petition will be enough.

I presume Mr. Washburn meant enough to stop the Feds from building a new post office that he had deemed was not necessary.

Hope post office

This beautiful building is in right downtown Hope, and on what no doubt was a lovely street.  While Mr. Washburn’s argument centered around the cost of the new post office, he strongly believed that no larger building was necessary, due to the decline in population in the area.  He made no mention of the arguments related to the increase in mail volume, and the need for a sorting facility in the area, for which Hope was the desired location.

I kind of had to wonder what alternate universe he was living in that even in 1964 he believed Congress “do in the main only what the people back home want them to do.”  In spite of an extensive campaign by the Star, which garnered a bit of publicity, the new post office (and sorting facility) was built in 1966.

A story on the history of the post office published by the Hope Star 14 December 1968 presented a rather different view of the need for the new postal facility.  By 1968, the former post office was in use as a school administration building, a function it still serves.  This transition was made because

…it was bursting at the seams with the volume of business…the murmured desire for a new post office became a cry of desperate need. (p. 6)

Looks like someone finally figured out that having fewer  people in a county or city did not necessarily mean the mail volume would decrease as well…and maybe someone thought having the economic advantages of having a mail sorting facility and its payroll might be beneficial also.

cornerstone

Post office or school administration building, it is a beautiful and solid looking building, standing regally over the other buildings on the street.  So in one way, Mr. Washburn was right: the building could certainly last longer than 50 years.

Note: Mr. Washburn reported in one of his editorials that the post office offered to buy his building, located next door to the post office and expand the current postal facility.  He deemed that unnecessary and a waste of money as well, even though he had plans to move his newspaper several blocks over within the next few years.

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Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells

Baker view from poolThe Baker Hotel opened in November 1929, and was described as “the largest and finest hostelry of the Baker chain” with a reported cost of $1,750,000 (“H. H. Waller Joins Baker Hotel Chain,” The El Paso Herald, 22 November 1929, p. 18).  The 14-story hotel contained 450 rooms.

The Baker Hotel Corporation, operator of hotels in Texas, became interested in this beautiful resort city thru the personal experience of its president, T. B. Baker, who came here and was benefitted by the mineral waters and fell so in love with the city and surrounding country that he built here one of the finest hotels in Texas. (Edson R. Waite, Did you ever stop to think, The Eagle, 17 September 1931, p. 4)

I posted on Lottabusha County Chronicles about the hotel in 2010 when I learned it was for sale.  The story this time is that it has been purchased and will be renovated and restored, to the tune of a $56 million budget, and all but $4 million has been identified according to the developers (Hanna, 2014, Mineral Wells hopes Baker Hotel is about to be reborn, Star-Telegram). Renovation is expected to take 3 years.

Check out the amazing WPA film (it’s only a minute and a half long) of the Baker, and many vintage photographs and post card images on their Facebook page.

walkway over driveApparently, Mr. Waite was either very enamored of the Baker, or he was paid to write his column as he mentioned Mineral Wells and the Baker Hotel in many of his articles.  For example, in 1931:

From the 450 room Baker Hotel with its luxurious lobbies, its great recreation and drinking pavilion with daily concerts, its roof garden with dancing, gymnasium with athletic director, bowling alleys, play grounds, outdoor swimming pool and spacious verandas, to the more modest cottage or small apartment, Mineral Wells offers an accommodation to meet the need of every visitor, whether for a single day or an entire season.  “Come for a day, and you’ll want to stay forever,” is the way the manager of the Baker Hotel expresses it, and we will vouch for the truth of it…The waters are particularly beneficial in rheumatic, neuritic and similar chronic ailments when taken in connection with the vapor, Turkish and hydro-therapeutic baths available at the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells. (Waite, The Eagle, 26 March 1931, p. 4)

entranceOther information can be seen at the Baker Hotel “official website.”

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Post Office Building Mineral Wells, Texas

United States Post Office building, 1911-1913

United States Post Office building, 1911-1913

The US post office in Mineral Wells was completed in 1913, as the town began to grow and prosper.  Numerous hotels were developed, including the Baker, which I will profile in a coming post.  The post office was in use as the mail facility until 1959.  It is now the Women’s Club building, and was the scene of the recent meeting with the Texas Historical Commission on the Bankhead Highway project.

Texas is documenting the historic Bankhead Highway, mentioned earlier in the post on Mount Vernon.  The Bankhead went through Mineral Wells also.  The project is interesting, and you can view a wide variety of historic images and documents in the 127 unit Power Point available at the Texas Historical Commission link.  It is the pdf called “What is the Bankhead Highway?”

Old Postal Box

Old Postal Box

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Mount Vernon, Texas

Main StreetI stopped off in Mt. Vernon, Texas on my way home last week, in order to get a photograph of a New Deal building for the Living New Deal project.  Although I have driven past here on the Interstate many times in the past 11 years, I had never taken the short detour over to the town.  It did not take long to locate the building I needed, but since I was there anyway, I deemed it worthy of a short pit stop to see what else it might have to offer.libraryPlenty! (Besides the watermelons and other fresh produce available on the “historical town plaza.”)  The library is currently housed in the 1912 former First National Bank building.  Unfortunately, the front of the building has been altered significantly, with the original pediment and columns having been removed.  You can see the original building–way more imposing!–at the Franklin County Historical Association.bank and hardwareOne of the early residents was M. L. Edwards, who started his business in 1900.  The building dates to 1915 per the Franklin County Historical Association.  Mr. Edwards’ grandson currently operates the gift shop/antique shop/cafe in the building (Hospitality by the glassful: East Texas vineyards, IN Magazine.)  Mr. Edwards also co-founded the funeral home with Cecil Harvey in 1900 (Sam B. Harvey Funeral Home).squareI originally thought the plaza, or town square, had housed the courthouse, but early photographs show the 1912 courthouse (coming in a later post) to be opposite the plaza.  Apparently, 1912 was a big year for buildings in Mt. Vernon.  Franklin County Historical Association has early photographs of many of the buildings, including the courthouse and library.mt-vernon-depot.jpgThe depot was constructed in 1894, although it has been relocated from the original position facing the railroad tracks.

The Bankhead Highway, which was the first east-west transcontinental automobile route from Washington, DC to San Diego, was completed in 1919 and is Mt. Vernon’s Main Street.  The highway follows the old Choctaw trail through Franklin County.  The Cherokee Trace is on the edge of Franklin County.

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Go Green. Happy St Paddy’s Day

Bridge 3

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