Historic Herndando Water Tower

Herndando water tower 2While water systems’ materials and designs have changed, the basic gravity-fed concept used by the Romans remains the same. (Nancy Bell, 2013 nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places, retrieved from Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory)

Standing above the city, the historic water tower is one of at least 22 extant water towers in Mississippi designed and constructed by the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company; Hernando’s was built in 1925 (Bell).  The tower is approximately 100 feet tall and held 50,000 gallons of water.  It was in use until 2009 when the growing population of Hernando resulted in the need for a larger capacity tank and a new one was constructed away from the downtown area.

Bell described the tower:

…hemispherical bottom elevated water tower..conical roof and kettle bottom…fabricated in steel plates…set on ‘Z’-braced steel legs.

The hemispherical bottom was a design that followed the flat bottom, and reduced stress on the tower.  The tower was funded with a bond issue to raise the $20,000 needed to build a modern water system, including fire hydrants and underground pipes to transport water to every business and home in Hernando (Bell).  The tower is significant as an historic landmark in Hernando, and as the first water system improvement.


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Arkansas County Courthouse, DeWitt, Arkansas

Arkansas County Courthouse…best known example of the Art Deco style in both DeWitt and all of Arkansas County, but also as one of the best extant Art Deco Courthouses in the entire state. (Arkansas County Courthouse, Southern District, Dewitt, Arkansas County, retrieved from Arkansas Historic Preservation Program)

Arkansas County is the oldest county in Arkansas, and has two county seats–one in Stuttgart and one in DeWitt (local.arkansas.gov).  The building is described as

…prime example of the Art Deco style used in many Arkansas buildings constructed during this time period. (Groshong, D., 2013. Arkansas County Courthouse Southern District. Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture)

ACC front and sideThe front doors are aluminum replacements and two rear additions were added in 1971.  The building still retains the original ceramic tile floor, judges benches and witness stands, and most of the original light fixtures remain (Groshong).  Unfortunately, at some point “wood paneling” was added over the original wall surfaces. (Did you see me shudder?  My guess is in 1971, when they added the additions to the rear.  I seem to recall a lot of “wood” paneling going on during the 70s and 80s.)

The current Art Deco courthouse, started in 1931 and completed in 1932, was the fourth courthouse in DeWitt.  It was designed by architect H. Ray Burks, and built by E. V. Bird Construction Company.  Burks, from Little Rock, also designed the medical building at Little Rock for the University of Arkansas (Hope Star, 24 March 1931, p. 1) and was one of three architects selected for the new administration building at Arkansas State College in Jonesboro (Hope Star, 13 April 1931, p. 2).

Photographs of the earlier courthouses can be seen at the link, and it is interesting to note that the 1891 courthouse depicted “was disliked by the officials and citizens of the area” (Groshong, 2013).  One reason was very soon after completion, it developed cracks in the foundation.  It appeared to be a striking building however.  It was red brick, the second red brick courthouse for DeWitt.  Apparently since it has been there since 1932, the more restrained Art Deco and pale brick suits the officials and citizens.

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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.


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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