Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jackson Minicipal Library


The Mississippi Heritage Trust included the Jackson Municipal Library on their 2005 list of "10 Most Endangered Historic Places." I have driven along North State Street many times but never before paid attention to the unused rectangle limestone building across the street from the Welty library (Jackson's current public library). This is the site of the 1961 incident when the "Tougaloo Nine" tried to read books that were not available at the inferior Carver Library, the facility that blacks were forced to use then. The police ordered the students to leave, and when they refused, they were arrested. This building should be preserved as one of the many sites where the civil rights movement began to change America.

This 1954 structure was built in a stern 1950s post-art-deco blockhouse design, but it's not as bad as it sounds. The windows are shaded by ledges and overhangs, and the aluminum or steel frames lend an air of symmetry. Ledges like this were popular through the 1960s but you seldom see them on new buildings. Why not? The sun still shines.

Do any of you readers remember fallout shelters? In the 1950s, office buildings and institutions all over the United States had these yellow and black signs with the ominous triple triangles. Ironically, the signs were so well made, they have outlasted the Soviet Union and you still see them mounted on older buildings if you look carefully. In the old days, fallout shelters were stocked with cans of water, dry foods, and sturdy plastic bags (to use as toilets - really!).

The inside of the old municipal library does not look like much any more. The low ceilings and low-grade Sheetrock construction are rather depressing. What will be its fate? The City of Jackson does not have a very good record of preserving its historic buildings, and increasingly severe budget problems will impose even more neglect in years to come.

The windows on the ground floor are shielded with black cloth inner panels, but I was able to take these photographs over the top of some of the panels where they did not extend up to the window frame. It underscores why it is handy to use a camera with an articulated viewing screen (somewhat similar to holding an old Rolleiflex camera upside down over a crowd or above a fence).

All photographs taken with a Sony DSC-R1 camera, hand-held.

November 15, 2010 update: A reader kindly provided a link to an article from the Northside Sun Magazine which describes how the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board bought the building in 2009. Earlier, the Duckworth Realty Company tried to convert the building into loft apartments, but the plan did not work out:

http://northsidesun.com/printer_friendly/2276212

4 comments:

  1. Well, that brings back memories of my childhood and all the fallout shelter signs. I had not thought about them in a while, nor how ubiquitous they were, but I think I will be on the lookout for a while and see how many I can still spot.

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  2. Thanks for the interior pictures. I had no clue what the interior looked like! In terms of the building, a few years ago, Ted Duckworth bought the building from the city and proposed turning this historic space into apartments similar to the King Edward and Standard Life Building. When that deal fell through, he sold it to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board last year. Here's an artile about it in the Northside Sun: http://northsidesun.com/printer_friendly/2276212

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  3. I had heard the Baptists were planning to turn the building into their archives, which I thought would have been a great use, but I haven't seen any progress toward that goal in the year or two since they acquired it. I hope they're not going to just let it continue to sit.

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  4. That church has bulldozed the blocks surrounding it for parking, parking and more parking. I would take whatever they say with a box of salt.

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