Main Street Indianola

Main Street

Indianola’s Main Street led into downtown to dead-end on Front Avenue, where many businesses were clustered.  This charming stretch of Main in the 100 block prior to reaching Front Avenue was home to the Sunflower Bank (visible just to the left of the photograph, and featured in an earlier post), the Enterprise-Tocsin newspaper building (not shown), and the Masonic Lodge (visible beyond the one-story stucco building with the brick columns). From right to left, the buildings above:

  • 131 Main is a circa 1952 building (MDAH Historic Resources Inventory) with a new porch.  It currently houses the Indianola Wellness Clinic.
  • 129 Main is a circa 1905-1908 building of stone.  Permastone veneer was added to the front facade and the storefront changed in 1955.  It was the home of Chapman Printing Company between 1931-1938 at least, although there is no other information I have been able to locate.
  • 123 Main is a circa 1904 two-story stucco and brick building, currently home to Cities Insurance.  Cities was located across the street at 124 Main during the late 1950s.  The porch has a denticulated cornice with decorative cast iron balustrade atop the porch.
  • 117 Main is a circa 1970 building.

It is quite the eclectic collection of buildings of varying styles, ages, and appearance.  I suppose that makes it a typical example of rural southern Americana.

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Posted in Historic Downtowns, Ironwork, Mississippi Delta Towns | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Durant’s N. W. Overstreet Art Moderne School

Durant School 2

I have been in love with the Art Moderne Durant School since the first time I saw it in the header of Preservation in Mississippi back in 2010.  After secretly pining for my own photograph of this school for the last 7 years, I finally managed.  I am nothing if not persistent–it is a blessing and a curse.

N. W. Overstreet designed the monolithic concrete building, which took approximately 2 years to complete.  W. E. Rubush of Meridian was the superintendent of construction.  The building was 181 feet by 138 feet, with an auditorium seating 600, and two adjacent wings for the high school and the elementary school.

Auditorium and wings 2

In 1900, the Yazoo Herald (25 May, p. 3) reported that only one bid had been received for building the Durant school, from W. O. Glass of Yazoo City for a cost of $14,000.  The school board decided to wait.  By 1902, the Vicksburg American (16 Oct, p. 7) reported Durant’s growing prosperity and a public school in good shape would result in a school tax that would give an eight month school term.  Subsequently, they lost and then regained accreditation:

Clarion_Ledger_Sun__May_7__1922_

Clarion-Ledger, May 7, 1922, p. 10.

Like most states, cities and towns, and school districts, Durant sought to utilize New Deal Administration benefits carried out under the Roosevelt presidency.  The first mention I located related to Durant schools was when the state board approved projects that would create 3,199 jobs in Mississippi, one of which was the Durant school buildings, employing 40 men at a cost of $4,945 through the Civil Works Administration program (Homestead Plan Launched; CWA Program Rushed, December 3, 1933, Daily Clarion-Ledger, p. 1, 17).  The first applications for Public Works Administration were approved in 1935, with the school building at Inverness given approval to move forward.  Included in the applications was the Durant school in the amount of $100,000 (PWA Announces Change in Handling Projects, First Job is Approved, Clarion-Ledger, 12 Aug 1935, p. 10).

Auditorium columns

While Mississippi did indeed apply for PWA funds to construct the Durant school, the application was not submitted until after May 10, 1938 (applications X1330 and X1410).  The Durant school project was returned unfunded due to lack of funds ($5,000,000 PWA Projects Denied to Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger, 07 Sep 1939, p. 1) due to lack of funds.  Undaunted, an application was made for  Works Progress Administration funding in 1940.  Durant matched WPA’s $35,799 allotment with $40,616 according to an announcement by Senator Theo G. Bilbo for approval of project No. 41133 (Durant School Project Okehed, February 22, 1940, Daily Clarion-Ledger, p. 2).  Three days later, Senator Pat Harrison announced the federal allotment of $35,799 for the school, and another $10,348 (project no. 41124) for a gymnasium at Unity School in Saltillo (Durant to get school building, Clarion-Ledger, Feb 25, 1940, p. 17).

Construction finally began on the new school building in 1940 when preliminary clearing of the grounds began, employing 20 men initially, and eventually, 60 men (Construction to begin on school building soon, Sept 8, 1940, Clarion-Ledger, p.5).  Durant passed a $60,000 bond issue to supplement the $95,000 provided by WPA.  By March 2, 1941, “School work going fine” and on schedule and touted as “one of the prettiest and strongest” of the Mississippi schools (Clarion-Ledger, p.5).

I have come to love the Art Moderne look…along with industrial architecture and mid-century modern since moving to Mississippi.  Thank you, Durant, for continuing to use this beautiful N. W. Overstreet & Associates building completed in 1942.  Some things just do not need to be replaced, and this is one of them.

Posted in Art Moderne, Mississippi, New Deal Administration, school buildings | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Sunflower Bank Building

Sunflower Bank corner 2

The corner of Main Street and Court Avenue in Indianola, Mississippi is home to the former Sunflower Bank.  A fire–‘terrible conflagration’ in the terminology of the time, destroyed all but the 3 Faison’s brick stores, a dry goods emporium.  The Sunflower Bank was established in February, 1896:

The corporation shall exist for a period of 50 years, unless sooner dissolved by its stock-holders or by operation of law. (Enterprise-Tocsin, 28 Feb 1896, p. 3)

The new banking institution was temporarily located in A. B. Smith Company’s offices (Enterprise-Tocsin, 24 Apr 1896, p. 2).  Following the fire, it was reported:

The Sunflower Bank weathered the fire alright and has proven a most invaluable aid to our business men.  It is a splendid institution and will succeed, as it certainly deserves. (8 May, 1896, p. 2)

Indication of the location of A. B. Smith Company was not given, although his business of plantation supplies was indicated as sustaining losses of $9500 with insurance of $5500, and five store buildings with loss of $5000 and insurance of $1100.  In October, it was still temporarily located in Smith’s office; Smith was Vice President of the Sunflower Bank. By February 1897, the ad read “Located in the Sunflower Bank Building” (Enterprise-Tocsin, 18 Feb 1897, p. 2).

Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory, lists the bank as estimated c. 1901-1903.  The newspaper articles from early 1897 suggest the possibility of an earlier construction, although the original bank building could have been elsewhere.  I did not find any items suggesting a newer building was built in 1901-1903, although regular reports of capital and shares were reported in 1902 and 1903.

The former Sunflower Bank is part of the Indianola Historic District, and is described:

…flat parapet and corbelled cornice corner building with a tower on corner topped with a metal pyramidal roof…recessed entry through an arch with brick vouissoirs and stone keystone on each street. (Nancy Bell, June 2, 2008, nomination form National Register of Historic Places)

Windows on the Main Street elevation have been replaced.

The bank was closed for liquidation in February 1930, and initially regarded as solvent, though later it was determined liabilities were “far in excess of assets” (Biloxi Daily Herald, Feb. 19, 1930, p. 5). The bank was purchased and reorganized and reopened in April 1930, and depositors were reported to be paid.

Posted in Bank buildings, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Towns, Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments

First Baptist Church of Indianola

First Baptist Church

Churches often have a deeper historical significance than just a place of worship.  Sometimes, I run across those stories accidentally while searching for information about architectural history.  I think those stories are part of the fabric of our communities, and that they present alternative narratives about our identifies.  Indianola’s First Baptist is on the corner across the street from the Indianola 1935 New Deal Administration Post Office, which is the reason I was even standing on that corner one afternoon last week.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History Historical Resources Inventory lists the church as a 1911 Neoclassical design by architect H. J. Harker, and constructed by S. L. McGinnis.  Nancy Bell (June 2, 2008, National Register of Historic Places nomination form) described it physically as:

A one-story brick church building, facing south, with a central dome of wood topped with a metal bell roof capped with a small bell tower.  Extending from the dome are centered cross gables over the hip of the main block.  The cross gables on the front and west side extend past the front wall to form a narrow porch (made deeper by a recess into the main block) supported by four monumental concrete ionic columns.  There are seven bays: three art glass/art glass double-hung wood windows under the porch flanked by two art glass/art glass double-hung wood windows with transoms to each side of the recess (these windows have stone pediments and sills).  The entrances are into the sides of the porch recess and are double-leaf paneled doors.  The building is further enhanced with a molded cornice and a concrete water table.

There are estimated construction dates from 1911 to between 1915-1925.  The Sunflower Tocsin (27 May 1915, p. 4) described the community as “the proud possessors of a new Baptist church which was built at a cost of $30,000.00 and is the finest of its kind to be found in any town three times the size of Indianola,” which would seem to lend support to the 1911-1915 timeline.

What led me to those “alternative narratives” was an entry on Wikipedia that indicated “it’s rumored the First Baptist Church basement became home for white students in the wake of federal integration laws.”  A search for Indianola Academy led to another Wikipedia post and the statement “For the 1966-1967 and 1967-1968 school years, classes were held at the First Baptist Church.”  Steve Rosenthal, mayor in 2012, said he began to attend the Indianola Academy “in a Baptist Church” in January 1970, although he does not specify which one (Sarah Carr, Dec. 13, 2012, “In southern Towns, ‘Segregation Academies’ are Still Going Strong”, The Atlantic).  The enrollment of the academy doubled from 1969 to 1970 to 1200 students, and about 223 were grades 10-12 white students.  Classes were held in the Baptist and Methodist churches as ‘satellite campuses’ until a new facility was constructed for the private academy, and I think it likely that only the First Baptist and First Methodist would have been large enough and segregated enough to have accommodated that many students.

Indianola, like other segregated communities across the country, is defined not only by two school systems and two sides of town, but by two competing narratives that attempt to explain segregation’s stubborn persistence. (Carr, 2012)

Those competing narratives perpetuate division and prevent our coming together to solve problems that would result in a benefit to all of the community.  Dick Molpus, co-founder of Parents for Public Schools says Mississippi towns have “limited amounts of money, power, and influence.  When those three things are divided between black public schools and white academies, both offer substandard education.”

Posted in churches, Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Towns | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Indianola Post Office

Indianola Post Office front elevation

I have been planning to visit the Indianola New Deal Administration post office for over 3 years…and this year is the Year of the Great Mississippi Road Trips to the Delta region.  The Indianola post office was built in 1935 in an Art Moderne style.  Nancy Bell (June 2, 2008) in the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places, Indianola Historic District, described an exterior stucco chimney, although it was not visible to me from any of the locations I could access.  The center doors have a concrete surround, and there is a belt course below the top portion of the front wall.  I suspect the single door at the left of the building was originally a window; it is now the handicap accessibility entrance with a ramp.  I am always happy to see a New Deal post office still in the center of town and serving the community.

George Biddle, an artist, contacted his former college friend, President Franklin Roosevelt with an idea to promote art and artists, and the concept of “art for the people” resulted with the first relief project, the Public Works of Art Project operated under the Civil Works Administration.  Other art projects followed, such as the Federal Art Project operated under the Works Progress Administration (1935-1943) and the Treasury Relief Art Project from 1935-1939.  The post office art spending ended in 1942 and was not resumed after the war.

Beulah Bettersworth’s 1939 mural “White Gold in the Delta” originally hung in the Indianola Post Office.  The mural was destroyed in the 1960s during post office renovations.  You can see a black and white photograph of the mural at Jimmy Emerson’s page on Flickr.  Emerson has photographed many of the post office murals in the US.

Update October 22, 2017:  Following Beth’s questions below, I did a bit of additional searching and turned up some information about the 1960s remodeling.  Approval to “enlarge and modernize” the Indianola post office was granted in July 1960 (Greenwood Commonwealth).  In addition to “modernization”–a word that has come to scare me used in conjunction with historic buildings, an extension to the rear and west side were approved.  Following the near completion of the new post office, the Indianola Enterprise wrote:

The only fault, if it is a fault, is in the shape of the building, and the way it sits on the lot.  A few feet to the west so as to line up with the buildings on the north side of Percy street, and a few feet back, would have added to the appearance.  (Uncle Sam’s New Post Office, 27 June 1935, p. 1)

During the renovations in 1962, the post office added the new wing to the west, a basement for a fallout shelter, and the west end–which housed the taller portion of the building, became the center entrance, relocated from the east end of the original building.  E. L. Malvaney designed the extention to the building.  Because of November rains, a canopy of plastic sheeting affixed by a tin roof and wooden framing, was utilized to proceed with construction.

1962 renovations

Delta Democrat Times, 4 February 1962.

The_Enterprise_Tocsin_Thu__Nov_21__1985_

1950s photograph of original design. (Enterprise-Tocsin, 21 Nov 1985)

There is no indication of when the current canopies were added.

Posted in Art Moderne, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Towns, New Deal Administration, Post Offices | Tagged | 6 Comments

Wichita Falls, TX US Post Office and Federal Building

U S Post Office and Federal Building

On a recent unexpected trip to Wichita Falls, Texas, I found myself downtown at the post office mailing some letters for my sister.  Since I love a post office, I whipped out the iPhone to do my best to capture this 1932 post office designed by Voelcker & Dixon.  Voelcker & Dixon designed a number of courthouses and federal buildings in Texas after setting up their business.

The $750,000 building was approved (Abilene Reporter News, 5 Apr 1931, p. 15) under President Hoover’s building program that saw a number of federal buildings erected between 1931 and 1932, including Jackson’s former U S Post Office and Courthouse.

Abilene_Reporter_News_Sun__May_24__1931_

 

Posted in Post Offices, Texas | Tagged | 9 Comments

The Amazing Transformation

New driveway section

Ta-da!  In a mere 2 days, with one piece of excavation machinery, two trucks with trailers, a concrete mixer, 9 workers, and $$$$ later, I will actually be able to drive up the driveway without inching over the giant abyss that had formed the center section for the past 14 years.

Yes, those are little cat feet…the official Lottabusha County Chronicles stamp of approval.

Posted in Country Philosophy, Mississippi, Mississippi Cats | Tagged | 5 Comments

Lottabusha County Cat Box

Pit

The crew showed up early yesterday morning to take out the tree, and late last evening to take out the concrete and roots.  Cats being curious creatures, they were intrigued by the idea of a new comfort station.

Cat box

It made good cat-oflage for the torties.

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The Perils of Lottabusha County

Driveway

When I arrived home last week from my Texas trip, Randy advised me shortly before arrival: “You will not be able to get up the driveway.”  It did not look like this then; this is the new and improved driveway after son J rearranged the broken slabs and attempted to make it level enough that at least the truck would navigate the giant chasm that is now a section of the driveway.

You started it

This is what started it all…that gargantuan tree root.  First, it was a little crack…and then a bigger crack, and then a buckle…with a patch on it.  All of that happened before we landed on this little hill of horrors.

At some point in the early life of this little cottage on the hill, the concrete pad on what was at that time the carport was extended a little further down the hill.  But as fate would have it, they built the section from the curve down to this point without any rebar.  Yeah, we know–who needs rebar in a concrete driveway, right?  The section just below the dip was added later and is asphalt.  As the roots grew and the water ran under the concrete, that section sunk and the upper section rose up.  Remember folks, water damages concrete!  It has been on the to do list for a year now.

Last week, we had the water treatment system cleaned out…and this is the result of a loaded septic tank truck driving over a cracked pavement.  The priority list got revised.  It was great fun to back up the driveway to the crack in order to unload groceries after having been gone a week.  It was almost as much fun as getting stuck while trying to back down the hill earlier.  I love Lottabusha County….and the buzz of a chain saw.

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I’ve been on a blogging vacation.

Maman Tortie

Where have I been?  I’ve been to London to look at the Queen.  Okay, truth be told, I have been on my hillside, managing to not accomplish all of the things on my list to accomplish for the summer.  Life seems to get in the way of my planned life of late.  So, as always, I am regrouping and starting over, or as Willie says in his latest album, “delete and fast forward again.”

But after a productive return to work on Thursday, I have a sense of new beginnings, and moving toward focus–that thing where you do the next thing on the list while keeping the list dynamic and flexible.  Note to self: put self-care on that list.

 

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