The New Deal in Mississippi: Vardaman Vocational Building

Vocational bldg entrances

Saturday was perfect weather for a road trip to the sweet potato capital of the world: Vardaman, Mississippi.  The Vocational Building for Vardaman High School was constructed by the National Youth Administration in 1941.  The design was common, with a single entrance to the “classroom” area, and a larger double door entry to the “shop.”  This allowed equipment, machines, and completed projects to be moved in and out as needed.

The National Youth Administration was the work, education, and skills development program for youth between ages 16 and 25.  It operated as part of the Work Progress Administration.  Although initially, President Roosevelt did not plan to address youth, lobbying spearheaded by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt changed his mind.  Mrs. Roosevelt said:

I live in real terror when I think we may be losing this generation.  We have got to bring these young people into the active life of the community and make them feel that they are necessary.

In 1937, the NYA moved emphasis to skills development and also opened a program for African American youth.  In 1939 with the approaching war and waning unemployment, the priorities again shifted to training in defense industry.  Congress abolished the program in 1943.

A significant number of vocational buildings were constructed by the NYA in Mississippi, and several have been profiled on Preservation in Mississippi.  A few have been re-purposed in rural areas where there is no longer a school.  More have been demolished or sit empty and deteriorating.  In communities where a school is still present, such as Vardaman, the buildings are often utilized for office space, storage space, or other functions.

Posted in National Youth Administration, New Deal Administration | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Serious Tortitude

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Gallery | 5 Comments

The Blue Bird of Happiness

Every spring, when the bluebirds show up, I get the sense that spring is really here to stay.  It always brings a smile to my face when I look out my window and see them for the first time that year.  This week, in spite of the rains, the bluebirds are back.  Even though he seems pretty far afield from his normal habitat, this guy is a mountain bluebird, sialia currucoides, from the thrush species.  (Since I live on a hill, I think he just feels at home here.)

In 1934, composer Sandor Harmati and lyricist Edward Heyman wrote “The Bluebird of Happiness” for singer Jan Peerce, a favorite at NBC’s Radio City Music Hall.  Peerce recorded the song in 1936 under the name Paul Robinson.  Peerce went on to have a lengthy career singing at the New York Metropolitan Opera.

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Training Day: Where are you going?

Valley noisesCorrections and additions on April 6th: The sun was just peeping in the east windows this morning when I was startled awake by the sound of a siren horn–the kind that officers “blurp” a couple of times behind you to get your attention.  The dogs went nuts.  I put on my robe and went outside.  That little curve in the road, just beyond the trees, has a small pull-off area where people stop to visit, tinker with a car, and truth be told, probably more than a few of them were drinking beer while parked.  This morning, it held a cheering group of bicyclists.

Apparently, the end of the training race (discovered yesterday it was not a training race, but a real “triathlon”) was just past our driveway, so the cheering was wafting up the hill from the little valley below, and right into our house.  Every bicyclist rounding the curve below my cliff-side abode caused a shout to go up from the riders who already reached destination.  The riders were all holding a device in their hands, with their heads down, so I am surmising it is part of the training for mountain race competition and the possibility one needs to follow a map or compass rather than a visual, but I could be just making that up. (I also learned yesterday from my cyclist racing colleague that there is no device–they just lean forward for aerodynamics.  While I know that from motorcycle riding, the whole hands in front gig seemed curious, but it is just another aspect of aerodynamics.)  I know in flying an airplane to become instrument certified you had to do that, wearing a hood/helmet that only allowed you to see your instrument panel.  It is important, because in fog, one cannot cheat and glance out the window.

I admire athletes who train, and one of the things I have been sorting out of late in my plans of what goes and what stays in my life is how to take better care of my body.  Mind you, when I intended to have a peaceful late sleep since April is always a grinding marathon to the finish line, starting in the morning with grading comps and evaluating admission applications, being jarred awake even by those dedicated athletes is a bit annoying.  Hey, guys, me and all my other neighbors like it quiet.  There are empty stretches of road all over this county where people do not live and sleep–you couldn’t pick one of them? (This was said in jest, but just to clarify, I am not a mean person, and of course other people can use my road.:)

Son HouseEven the cats were all milling about, meowing, and asking what was going on.  Training day.  I will get right on that.

Additionally, I learned that those wheels that appeared like “mountain bike” tires to me from such a distance are actually another aerodynamics feature.  The wheel extends to create additional aerodynamic asset for the rider, and it is not part of the tire.  It’s all about the speed. 


Posted in Country Philosophy, Mississippi | Tagged | 6 Comments

Bay St. Louis’ Modern Hotel

The Weston, Built of Brick, Is Credit to the Whole Coast of Mississippi.  Finely Equipped.

front covered entrance

The Biloxi Daily Herald, October 18, 1924, reported on the opening of “the fine new hotel built by farsighted business men of Bay St. Louis and Hancock county.”  The Bay Hotel Company, and president H. S. Weston, was said to represent the latest and best type of hotel construction.  Architect Willliam T. Nolan, a Quebec City native who moved to New Orleans in 1900, and contractor/builder Albert Tolle used “tapestry brick” and

The absence of ‘gingerbread’ work and other cheapening effects with a view of hoping to add to attractiveness, was eliminated and in stead we find a building that is actually handsome and imposing [sic].

Weston front entrance

The “handsome and imposing” building was constructed in the Spanish Mission style according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Equally amazing in 1924, every room had a telephone.  The chef was Henry Gianelloina,
“who ability is well known.”  The Weston was the site of a luncheon for local dignitaries at the completion of construction of the HWY 90 bridge across the bay.  The dedication ceremony for the new bridge was held at the Weston (Hancock County Historical Society).

After the passing of Mr. Weston, the hotel was was sold to Charles Reed of New Orleans and the name changed in 1930.  In 1939, Reed sold the hotel to George Wilkinson of Gulfport and Howard Dayton of Albany, Georgia (Daily Herald, September 29, 1939, p. 6).

At some point, it operated as the Hotel Reed Nursing Home until the 1990s.  Two weeks after the city ordered the former hotel demolished in 2011 as a public nuisance, the hotel burned.  The remains were demolished in 2012.

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Views from Philadelphia…the one in Pennsylvania


Every time I think about Philadelphia, I recall my first encounter with a fellow social worker while we were working disaster recovery on the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.  Our first day in Poplarville, someone asked her where she was from.  “Philadelphia.”  As the conversation continued, she had a realization that they were not discussing the same place.  “No, the one in Pennsylvania.”

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Huerfano County Courthouse

Huerfano County Courthouse 2-2

The Huerfano County Courthouse in Walsenburg, Colorado was constructed in 1904.  The architect, C. A. Henderson designed the Romanesque Revival style courthouse with stone walls, a pitched hip roof, and facades with prominent square towers (  The design is similar to the adjacent 1896 jailhouse, located behind the courthouse.  The former jail serves as a Mining Museum.

Huerfano is Spanish for orphan, and the county was named for Huerfano Butte, that stands by itself, rising up from a flat surrounding just a few miles from the town.

Back in the summer of 2010, we passed through Walsenburg on our way home, with a sick doggie.  I always thought I would check out the historic details later.  I guess 5 1/2 years qualifies as “later.”

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Coffeeville Presbyterian Church (former)

Presbyterian Church

Coffeeville’s former Presbyterian Church was constructed 1905, attributed to Andrew Johnson.  Johnson was from Sardis, Mississippi, and began his career as a builder (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory).  Johnson, nicknamed “Big Swede” due to his large stature, was an immigrant from Sweden, in 1865 (Andrew Johnson, Architect). He eventually settled in Sardis, building many churches, homes, and stores in the area.

Posted in churches, Mississippi | Tagged | 14 Comments

New Albany United Methodist Church

New Albany United Methodist Church

New Albany’s First United Methodist Church is Gothic Revival, constructed in 1928, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.  The first Methodist Church building was built in 1886, on a lot across the street, where the associate pastor’s parsonage is sited today (FUMC, New Albany, church history).  Membership continued to grow, and in 1925 when it reached 500, the congregation purchased the lot and began planning for the new building.  The first services were held in 1927.  The hardships of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression found the church deeply in debt, but they were able to pay it by 1938.  Building additions occurred throughout the ensuing years, and in 1996,

…the church entered on a massive campaign to build a multi-purpose building and a two-level atrium building to connect the new facilities with the existing buildings.

church doors

The Gothic Revival churches built for Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist congregations in the 1920s tended to have a greater degree of formality to their plans than in the previous three decades. (Pace, S. (2007).  Historic churches of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi)

Posted in churches, Gothic Revival, Mississippi | Tagged | 5 Comments

When rowhouse neighbors do not see eye to eye



Posted in Preservation Fail | Tagged | 4 Comments