Thursday, September 18, 2014

Before Restoration: the Carr School, Vicksburg, Mississippi, Part I

For three decades, the former Carr Central High School was abandoned and a blight to motorists driving on Cherry Street. According to the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, the school was "designed in the Tudor Gothic style by William Stanton, a well-known architect who had designed many religious, public, commercial and residential buildings across Mississippi.  The school was built in 1924 by the E. G. Parish Construction Company of Jackson, Tennessee, at a cost of $220,000.  It was named in honor of John P. Carr who had served as the superintendent of the Vicksburg Public Schools for 18 years prior to the completion of the school." The sturdy brick building served as the high school from 1932 until 1958, when the H.V. Cooper High School opened. Afterwards, the building became a junior high school but closed permanently in 1979.
This was the south side in 1993, with vines growing up the side and a jungle out back. This is a 4×5-inch Polaroid sepia instant print (a superb medium). The pile of brush in the back covers the remains of the gymnasium, which was in use in the mid-1980s but was subsequently torched.
The school was built on a height of land, a great location to catch breezes in a pre-air conditioning era. But the location also made it plainly visible to visitors heading downtown from I-20 on Cherry Street, a disgraceful mess.
In 2006 or 2007, Mr. Webber Brewer, a Vicksburg contractor and builder, bought the school and hired a work crew to clean out the debris. His intention was to install high-end apartments. Mr. Brewer graciously let me take photographs inside. It was a perfect site for decay photography, so we will start with the lower two floors. Mr. Brewer never completed his project, and the building remained empty for another five years. Just recently, a developer finished converting it into the Carr Central Apartments, so this is a good time look back at the years of neglect.
Coming up the steps from Cherry Street, a student would see the plaque showing the Board of Mayor & Aldermen.
Continuing up the main steps, our student would have entered a rather severe entrance hall. The office was to the left. I suppose you checked in here if you were late and awaited your discipline or browbeating.
The steps in front ascended into the auditorium.
This was an impressive-sized space. The windows on the left lined hallways allowing students to see activities on the stage. This 2002 photograph was a Kodachrome slide taken with a 20mm Russar lens on a Leica - very difficult to scan.
These were storage cabinets on the stage.
The basement had classrooms and a lot of debris.
Because of the big windows, most rooms had plenty of light, unlike modern prison-block schools that require constant florescent lighting.
The cafeteria was really interesting. It was in the basement, but the north wall had widows to let in some light. Nevertheless, these were long exposures with the camera on a tripod.
The kitchen was a gloomy mess with some big holes in the floor. The doors with portholes led to the sitting area. The 2002 frame is another Kodachrome taken with the 20mm Russar lens.
Next to the kitchen was a dim pantry with shelves. I can imagine the canned peas, salty beans, and other health food from that era.
Proceeding further back in the building, there was a locker room or bathroom complex. In the next article, we will look at the upper floors.

Most of the 2007 photographs were taken with a Fujifilm F31fd compact digital camera. This was a 6 mpixel unit with a unique sensor and excellent, clean jpeg output. All of the photographs in the building were tripod-mounted.

2 comments:

  1. I know this will sound strange, but the photo of the line of urinals on the blue tile is really striking to me. It looks like some funky art that would look really cool in the right space.

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  2. Our 6th grade class was the last class at Vicksburg Middle School before it closed. So many memories there like singing in Ms Ruby Regan's choir in that very auditorium pictured. Wow!

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