Mount Pleasant, TN Post Office and Mural

Post Office Mount Pleasant TN-2

Mount Pleasant, Tennessee is another community that has–so far–retained its historic post office located near downtown.  According to J. Davis, C. Hankins, and C. Van West (2003), the Mt. Pleasant post office is

…considered one of the best examples of this design still extant in Tennessee.

Van West (2001) described it as a

…blend of modernist elements with an overall symmetrical shape reminiscent of the state’s other Colonial Revival post offices.

The “modernist” influence is evident in the canopy over the door, the window design, and the brick insets below the windows. The shape and eagle sculpture, along with the traditional wooden entry vestibule and marble wainscoting in the interior lobby reflect the typical design of these post offices from that period.  It was one of some 200 post offices constructed by the Federal Works Agency in smaller communities across the United States in 1940.  It also houses a mural, completed with funds from the Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture, 1934-1943.  It was renamed the Section of Fine Arts in 1938.

Eugene Higgins was born in Missouri in 1874.  His parents were Irish immigrants and his father was a stone cutter.  Higgins studied at the Academie Julian and Ecole des Beaux-Arts, both in Paris (Williams American Art and Antiques, 2015).  He worked primarily in the New York area, although his studio was located in Lyme, Connecticut (Smithsonian American Art Museum).

The post office celebrated 75 years in Mt. Pleasant in November.  Current postmaster, Robert Wakefield, reported  the files contained a letter from Higgins, and “he was coming to install the painting” (Post office celebrates 75 years in Mt. Pleasant, November 15, 2015, Columbia Daily Herald).

Although Higgins was considered a “social realist” in subject matter depicting the poor, his work was also influenced by European styles.

Posted in Modernism, New Deal Administration, Post Offices | Tagged | 13 Comments

Old Salem Elementary School

elementary building

The Old Salem Elementary School was completed in 1952, and was part of the Old Salem School Complex for African Americans in Benton County, north Mississippi, near the Tennessee border.  Old Salem High School and Vocational Building were constructed by the National Youth Administration in 1941, and neither building is extant.

Dr. John Elon Phay, Professor of Educational Administration, Director of the Bureau of Education Research at the University of Mississippi,  completed photographic research of Mississippi schools, beginning in the 1940s, including the Old Salem Complex.  Dr. Phay’s research examined the pre-integration conditions of selected elementary and high schools.  Exterior and interior photographs of the schools at the highlighted link illustrate the complex in 1956, including the building pictured above.

While researching the Old Salem and Hickory Flat schools, I found the Hill Country Project for Benton County.  There is so much we have not yet documented, so it is always exciting to locate a project like this, and the women and men who volunteer and make it happen.  Go visit, please, and make a donation to support the work.

Posted in Mississippi, school houses | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Former Carthage High School and the Leake County Agricultural High School

front elevation

While the development of the county agricultural system in Mississippi might have made fuller progress toward a state-wide establishment since the first act providing therefore was passed, still, all things considered, the condition at the present day is not such as to cause the blush of shame to mantle the cheeks of the progressive men who have been behind the movement.  It is a fact that it was only eight years ago that the first agricultural high school act, authorizing the establishment and laying the legal groundwork of the system, was passed.  Today there are 43 such schools established in 44 counties, two of the number, Copiah and Lincoln, co-operating together in maintaining an inter-county institution.  (“Good showing for old Mississippi, August 11, 1916, p. 8. Biloxi Daily Herald)

In the 2012 nomination form for the Carthage Historic District, which includes the former Carthage High School pictured above, Preziozi described it:

…parapet with tiled cap and row of soldier course brick…recessed entry supported by brick columns.

The old Carthage High School building was constructed circa 1919, after the Leake County Agricultural High School was moved from Lena, where it had been founded in 1911, to Carthage in 1918 (J. Baughn, 2014, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory).   The MDAH/HRI identified Leake Agricultural High School on Red Dog Road in Carthage, no longer extant, but there is no additional information regarding that location.  A search of Mississippi Department of Archives and History school photographs turns up a photograph of the Leake County AHS, the boys dormitory and the girls dormitory, and a hand-drawn map locating it on Red Dog Road near Koscusko Road (Series 1611, ca. 1927 scrapbook, item 30).  No photographs of the building pictured above are contained, although there is a 1962 photograph of the new high school.

The Leake County Agricultural High School was referenced in the 1920 Laws of the State of Mississippi Passed at Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, January 6, 1920-April 3, 1920, Tucker Printing House, Jackson.  Senate Bill # 171 authorized the Leake County Agricultural High School to borrow up to $11,000 for repairs and improvements.  Also in 1920, Senate Bill 500 appropriated money to construct

a concrete or brick sidewalk from the Northwest corner of the courthouse square to Leake County Agricultural High School, about 1 mile north.

The Bienennial Report and Recommendations of the State Superintendent of Public Education  to the Legislature of Mississippi for the Scholastic Years 1919-1920 and 1920-1921 lists the Leake County Agricultural High School, with principal Arden Barnett.  The authorization to borrow the $11,000 was again approved by the state legislature in 1922.  The first section of Red Dog Road is approximately 1 mile north of the current courthouse square, whereas the location of the old Carthage High School is less than a mile, although also north of the square.  The hand-drawn map locates the agricultural high school with surrounding pastures, and an orchard.

In 1927, the president of Mississippi College student body association was Charles C. “Hot” Moore, who graduated from Leake County Agricultural High School, and went on to play basketball at Mississippi College.

A 2-story frame dormitory for boys at LCAHS built in 1920 burned in 1933 at the end of the 1932-33 school year (The Weekly Democrat-Times, September 21, 1933, p. 2).  The building was empty at the time of the fire, but the dorm parents lost all their belongings.

Newspaper archives do not turn up any information about a school on Red Dog Road, nor any additional information about the Carthage High School building featured above.

Understanding the role of the county agricultural high schools for rural education, it makes sense that it would be relocated from Lena to Carthage–the county seat of Leake County, and with boarding facilities.  Was there a connection between building a new county agricultural school and boarding facilities in Carthage at the same time a new high school for Carthage residents was constructed?  Carthage was growing–perhaps it was seen as a prudent thing to do.

Posted in brick work, Mississippi, school houses | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Elkmont Bridge on the Little River

Stone bridge

The Elkmont Bridge, located where Elkmont Road crosses the Little River at Elkmont Campground, is the only multiple arch steel and stone masonry bridge in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (HAER No. TN – 35–full source below).  That I was even able to photograph this bridge at all is a testament to the serenity Rand and I felt whilst in the Smoky Mountains last weekend.  Let’s just say that my ability to read a map is somewhat challenged these days, and one would rarely think of getting stuck in 2 hours of bumper-to-bumper crawling and standstill traffic to go 6 miles in the Smoky Mountains, only to realize I had misunderstood the directions and was not at my desired destination, would one?  The returning side of traffic had been flowing smoothly, until the tow truck called for a disabled motorcycle blocked our lane to load said motorcycle.  We laughed, yes, we really did.  That little fortuitous accidental delay caused us to decide to take a side road, which led to the bridge. Ya see, sometimes troubles can be a good thing.Stone bridge 3

The stone veneer bridge is built of rock quarried from nearby Little River Truck Trail, and one of the few bridges built entirely by Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees, with the exception of the shovel operator, who was a professional.  Superintendent of the park Eakin said at completion:

It is said that many of the enrollees could now secure a job of stone cutter in any organization. (Superintendent’s Monthly Report, November 1936)

Four multi-plate corrugated steel arches were embedded in concrete piers and then topped with concrete.  Each arch is 18’4″ wide and 13’4″ high for a combined length of 113 feet.  The full bridge including abutment is 201 feet long and 22 feet wide.  Begun in June 1936, the bridge was completed in July 1937.Stone bridge 6

The bridge arches were covered with fill dirt, and then the roadbed laid, which was of crushed stone.  At some point, the roadbed was paved with asphalt.  Bridge No. 047 remains in use to access both campgrounds and hiking areas at the Elkmont Campground off Little River Road between Townsend and Gatlinburg.Stone bridge 4

Edward J. Lupyak contributed drawings of the bridge construction peel-away to the survey:

Image in public domain, retrieved from

Image in public domain, retrieved from

Every time I am able to persevere and locate a previously unknown-to-me find, and sometimes, a find not yet identified on the Living New Deal project, I just get a little giddy with excitement.  As I was reading in Carroll Van West’s Tennessee’s New Deal Landscape: A Guidebook, I could not help but feel something of a pang of sadness for the families who lost their homes in order for the national park to be built and preserved that people might have the opportunity to experience the beauty of this incredible part of the Appalachian chain.  Conservation and preservation is always about trade-offs, and I doubt we will ever all see eye-to-eye on that any more than we do other issues.  Elkmont campground is located near the remains of the old resort/summer vacation area of Elkmont, where well-to-do people from the cities spent summers in the cool and refreshing air of the Smoky Mountains on the hillside.  If not for efforts to build the national and state park systems, many of us might not have been able to know those same opportunities.


Historic American Engineering Record. (1996). Great Smoky Mountains National Park Roads and Bridges, HAER No. TN-35.  National Park Service.  Washington, D. C.

Posted in Civilian Conservation Corps, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, New Deal Administration | Tagged | 9 Comments

The afternoon matinee


former theatre, Carthage, MS

Posted in Mississippi, Uncategorized, water towers | Tagged | 5 Comments

Lottabusha County on Break

spraying water

No lives were lost.  Lafayette County Fire Department and the Taylor Volunteer Fire Department saved our house.  You can find out more over at Lottabusha County Chronicles, but I am going to be on break for a little while.  New fences must be built,  clean up must be done, and I feel guilty about lollygagging on the computer, so I am putting on my work boots for a few weeks.  Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?

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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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