Frist Center for the Arts, former US Post Office in Nashville

former Nashville post office

In another of the distinctive and impressive US Post Offices constructed during the depression era of President Roosevelt’s administration, the facility in Nashville was “built in a record 18 months” according to Sanford Meyers on the Architecture Tour by The Tennessean. (Take time to watch the 3 minute video tour–you will be glad you did!)  Although it was built in 1933, the approval came earlier during Hoover’s pre-New Deal funding, and was not funded by the New Deal administration.  From 1933-1934, Marr and Holman, architects, along with contractor Frank Messer Company, utilized

…the most distinctive architectural styles of the period: classicism and Art Deco…spare, streamlined exterior faced in white Georgia marble with gray-pink Minnesota granite is an example of ‘starved’ or ‘stripped’ classicism. (The Building,

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The interior features a variety of marble designs and sources, including Fantasia Rose (East Tennessee), Monte Neva (East Tennessee), Westfield (Pennsylvania), Royal Jersey Green, and Verde Antingua.  The inside also contains cast aluminum doors and grillwork along with the colored mark and stone on the floors and walls.

‘I’ve always marveled,’ architect Charles Waterfield, Jr., observed fifty years later, ‘that such a sophisticated and expensive building came out of the ground in the post-depression years.’ The building reflects ‘the government’s commitment to good architecture as a function of the recovery.’

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Columbia, Tennessee: U S Post Office and Courthouse

US Post Office and Courthouse front 2

This impressive four-story concrete building provided offices for federal programs, a courtroom for federal judges, and the local post office.  Postmaster General James A. Farley dedicated the building during the city’s annual Mule Day Festival in 1940. (Van West, C. 2001. Federal courthouses and post offices: Maury County, Columbia. Tennessee’s New Deal Landscape: A Guidebook. Knoxville: TN: University of Tennessee Press, p. 67)

The print of the April 1, 1940 Kingsport Times is blurred, but it appears as if around 50-60,000 people were present–probably most of them for the “largest street mule market in the world” (p. 1).  Farley was at that time an announced candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency if President Roosevelt decided not to run for a third term, and many in Tennessee were hopeful for a Hull-Farley ticket with Secretary of State Cordell Hull.  Farley’s Tennessee mule, “Queenie” was expected to accompany him (“Farley to take mule to Columbia”, Kingsport Times, February 20, 1940, p. 5).

eagle sculpture

The PWA Moderne design features an eagle sculpture, by Sidney Waugh of Massachusetts, completed in 1941.  The entrance lobby showcased a mural by Henry Billings, Maury County Landscape, installed in 1942.

Billings portrayed the recent transformation of the country’s rural landscape, caused by phosphate mining, chemical companies, burley tobacco farming, and the arrival of TVA-generated electricity. (Van West, p. 69)

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Spring Hill High School

Spring Hill High School entrance

The Works Progress Administration erected the new Spring Hill High School building in 1936-1937 on the site of the old school building on School and Duplex Streets.  Described by Van West (2001) as

…a small rural trade town located between the larger community seats of Columbia and Franklin.

Life in this community changed when General Motors Saturn factory opened.  The WPA school was closed and students relocated to the newly constructed school facility in 1992, designed to accommodate the sudden growth in population.  The former school building is used to house small businesses now, and on the day we stopped by, business was evident in the comings and goings of customers into the various shops.

Spring Hill entrance 4

…it retains much of its architectural presence, especially in the four brick pilasters with Doric capitals that define its central entrance. Several residents remember the old school with respect, even reverence, for the days when Spring Hill was a country town with community life and events centered on the school and the adjacent football field.  (Van West, 2001, p. 113)

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Nashville Farmers Market and skyline

Nashville market

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Historic Pearl High School in Nashville

Pearl High School

Long before this beautiful building was constructed, Pearl High School was serving the African American students and community in Nashville.  It was established in 1883 as a grammar school, and the first public school for black students.  In 1897, it became a high school for grades 9-11 which were transferred from Meigs School.  In 1917, 12th grade was added.  It moved from the original location on old South Summer Street, then to 16th Avenue North and Grant Street, and in 1936, to the current location on Seventeenth Avenue North (Tennessee Historical Commission plaque).

Pearl High School front facadePearl High School, named for Joshua F. Pearl, the city’s first superintendent of schools, was built in 1937 by the Public Works Administration.  Architects were the prominent African American firm of McKissack & McKissack.  The PWA Moderne styled building has many Art Deco influences, including the grillwork, stylized carving and reliefs in various buildings, and terrazzo floor at the entry level (University of South Carolina, Museum of Education; Pearl High School:; Pearl High School 1883-1983, Tennessee State University).

In 1940, nearly 60% of the faculty held master’s degrees, and the school was the center of cultural activity for the Nashville black community because of its large performance venue, the auditorium.

Considered at the time the finest school for blacks in the South, the building’s art deco design included terrazzo floor at the entry level. (Museum of Education)

A vocational building was added in 1945, also by McKissack and McKissack, and a gymnasium and stadium in 1948.  A cafeteria, four classrooms, and another gym were added in 1964.  Following integration of Nashville’s public schools, the facility ended its days as an all-black school in 1971 and students were transferred to the newly integrated Pearl-Cohn high school.  Pearl closed in 1983, and re-opened in 1986 as the Martin Luther King Magnet School, and focused on students who were interested in health, sciences, and engineering (  Pearl High School Alumni began organizing for a return to the historical name.

The historical legacy of Pearl High School was implicitly if not explicitly dismissed.  School officials even considered sandblasting the name–removing Pearl High School–from the facade of the building.

Talk of dropping the MLK name and returning to the name Pearl High School followed, however, those alumni from the time it was name Martin Luther King Magnet School identified that would be the same travesty revisited on those students of losing acknowledgement of the historical past.  In 2001, it was renamed the Martin Luther King Magnet School at Pearl High School, in part due to the leadership of the Pearl High School Committee of Alumni and Friends.  The committee curates and manages a museum in the Vocation Building that includes historic documents and memorabilia from the days as Pearl High School.

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The Cat Show Redux

I posted a slide show of the new kitties a couple of days ago, but it seems to have difficulty with visibility.  I am trying again with a different version in hopes it might do better.  I was trying out my new camera and lens with the super zoom.

I am also trying out Lightroom, since with the new camera I had to upgrade from iPhoto to Photos, which I do not really like as well for ease of editing.  I get it about technology and the constant upgrades, but once I learn to use software and it meets my needs, I am reluctant to have to learn yet something else new, that I may or may not like as well.  These days, that is the name of the game, so complaining is like spitting in the wind, isn’t it?

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US Post Office and Court House Knoxville

front door and lights

Although planning for the new post office and court house in Knoxville began in 1925, it would not be completed until 1934.  Baumann and Baumann were picked to design the new building in 1932, and the Art Deco with Art Moderne influences cost $1 million (Knox Heritage Historic Downtown Knoxville Walking Tour). It is constructed of Tennessee marble.

…its distinctive pink hue is most evident on rainy days.

The eagles on the pediment (see photos below) were carved by Albert Milani of the Candoro Marble Company, and “Knoxville’s best-known sculptor of the 20th century” (Knox Heritage).

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The Cat Show, courtesy of my new camera and new lens!

This gallery contains 8 photos.

I got a new camera for my birthday/anniversary/you name it holiday for the next 3 years.  I tried it out this weekend.  Here are some of my results: Varying between lenses with different zooms and settings, here are my results … Continue reading

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Fontana Dam: Powering a Nation to Victory

As the highest dam east of the Rockies, the Fontana Dam on the Little Tennessee in Western North Carolina commands not only a significant role in the generation of electricity, but an important role in the history of the area.  The Appalachian Trail, which extends from Georgia to Maine, crosses the Fontana Dam (, Fontana Reservoir).

lake Fontana is a man-made lake, constructed by the Tennessee Valley Authority.  At 10,230 acres, Fontana Lake is bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is named for the town of Fontana, a lumber and copper-mining town that was inundated by the lake waters after the construction of the dam (Fontana Dam, Swain County Chamber of Commerce brochure).

The dam was built 1942-1944 to generate additional power for aluminum production for airplanes for use in World War II.  TVA had long sought an agreement with the Aluminum Company of America to construct the dam, but Alcoa nor the congressional approval was forthcoming (The Miracle in the Wilderness: TVA Heritage).

The brewing storm of war changed all that, though.  Defense strategists, seeing the Tennessee Valley as a secure spot to concentrate the war industry, put the huge aluminum plants in Alcoa, Tennessee to military use and established a top-secret weapons laboratory at a place called Oak Ridge.  Both enterprises required enormous amounts of electricity, and building the new TVA dams became a priority.

Due to the extreme height (480 feet) of the dam, rather than a conventional spillway, the design drained water from the reservoir into two spill pipes 34 feet in diameter, and pass around the dam and flow into the streambed of the the Little Tennessee River (Miracle).

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In order to construct the dam, workers first had to build a road to enable workers to access the site.  Fontana Village was constructed nearby to house the workers, as it was over an hour travel time from the nearest town, in a time when cars were rare and gasoline to power them a luxury no longer available due to gas rationing.  By 1943 however, Fontana Village had the necessary amenities of any town, including a school, post office, grocery, health services, and movie theatre (The Miracle in the Wilderness).  Laborers put in 7-day weeks, working 3 shifts around the clock.  The little town that had grown to 5,000 shrank to only about 50 families when the dam was finished.  In 1946, it was converted to a public resort, and continues in operation today as a resort facility for tourists.  Two million people a year visit “the most remote, and in many ways most lovely” of the TVA dams.


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Vulcan Foundry

Vulcan street cover

This Art Deco influenced utility cover caught my eyes while I was photographing Knoxville’s US Courthouse and Post Office.  I appreciate iron works of any type.  Vulcan was a popular name for foundries, as it is the name of the Roman god of fire and smithing.  Vulcan Iron Works founded in Chicago moved to Chattanooga in the 1960s, Vulcan Foundry in Denham Springs, Louisiana was acquired by East Jordan Iron Works in 1995, and there was also a Vulcan Iron Works in Fort Worth.  So, whose cover is this?

Adding V-8441 (the number on the lower edge of the cover) to the search revealed the answer.  The Knoxville Utilities Board Standards and Specifications: Section 02080 Material provides a list of approved vendors for supplies purchased by Knoxville utilities.

Lid for square meter box frame, cast iron, V-8441, East Jordan Iron Works, Inc.

East Jordan Iron Works was founded in East Jordan, Michigan in 1883.  Currently known as simply ej, the company acquired the Vulcan Foundry in Louisiana and continue to manufacture from there, are well as other locations, and provide infrastructure materials to 150 countries.

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