Carpenter School No. 1

Natchez Democrat, August 22, 1909.

There is still much to post about the week in Natchez, but a need for software reinstallation on my new computer has left me stranded–photo edit speaking–for a bit longer. I did not make it to the historic Carpenter No. 1 school in person, but the story of this school still bears telling. According to “Carpenter School: Memorial to Mrs. Camille Carpenter Henderson”

…a perfect model of a modern school building, the Carpenter school No. 1 is fast nearing completion at the corner of Union and B streets. Modern science turned its attention to the housing of the young during those hours so important to them later in their careers as men and women and some of the best brains in the country have been employed in improving conditions until today the modern school building embraces all that is best in heating, lighting and ventilation, while the important factor of comfort for the pupils has been recognized and the little ones are surrounded with the very best environment.

(Natchez Democrat, August 22, 1909, p. 1)

Now there is a sentence William Faulkner could have enjoyed. The writer described the school as “almost severely plain” so as not to be distracting to those young minds “prone to wander” during school hours. The school was funded by Mrs. Henderson’s brother, N. Leslie Carpenter, and completed in 1909.

From Carpenter’s School No. 1, Natchez, Miss. Sysid 94343. Scanned as tiff in 2008/07/23 by MDAH. Credit: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

The school had a main hall front to rear, with intersecting halls from the sides, and equipped with sanitary drinking fountains. The six classrooms had blackboards and were capable of seating 300 students, who entered the classroom through a cloakroom where they could hang coats and hats.

These fountains require no cup and cannot spread disease. The water shoots up with little force while the base is equipped with another stream which prevents the water from returning to the supply thereby doing away with the possibility of germs being conveyed from one person to another, an evil which invariably accompanies the benefits of the drinking fountain where many use the same cup.

Commodious and sanitary toilet rooms are located in the basement…constructed of cement and non absorbent materials and permit of frequent and thorough cleanings…toilet appliances are automatic and nothing is left to do in flushing or otherwise operating them.

(Natchez Democrat, August 22, 1909, p. 1)

The building cost $40,000 and also included a 350 seat assembly hall on the second floor. Architect was R. H. Hunt & Co., who operated a Jackson branch of his Chattanooga office, as well as a branch in Dallas.

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4 Responses to Carpenter School No. 1

  1. In the 1980s, I was chair of the local Agency on Aging, which was housed in this building. The interior has beautiful stained wood everywhere, like a fine mansion. It is an ideal structure for the aging program. A large first floor room was used for day care, while smaller rooms provided game and activity areas. Offices housed the director, Frances Trosclair, and a social worker and others who provided services for the aging. In addition to all that, there is a swimming pool in the basement where Red Cross offered swim classes, water aerobics and other swim programs. It was not heated at the time, but it was later added. The local swim team was allowed to practice there in the winter. Sorry you did not get to tour it. Fabulous building!


    • Suzassippi says:

      Thanks for the additional information, Suzie! I spent considerable time trying to learn something about those automatic toilets. I assume they were likely replaced at some point and newer ones installed. The Motts illustrated catalog from 1908 mentioned the Presto flush valve, which would seem to be more likely. I have seen latrines/longdrops that “automatically flushed” by a continuous cycle of running water in the pit, but I hardly think they would have put that in a school.


  2. Sheryl says:

    It was fun to read the old newspaper article described the toilets and water fountains. In a old-fashioned way, they made them sound very modern and hygienic.


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