Sunday, February 11, 2018

Gone Forever: Smith Hall at the Bonner Campbell Institute, Edwards, Mississippi

The Bonner Campbell Institute or college, formerly the Southern Christian Institute, is west of Edwards, Mississippi, along Old U.S. Highway 80 (once known as the Dixie Overland Highway). The college was one of the early institutions in America dedicated to educating African Americans during the era when most southern states did not consider them worthy of education. I have written about the Bonner Campbell before. In late January, while driving west on Old U.S. Highway 80, I saw that the handsome pillared building known as Smith Hall was totally gone. This motivated me to scan my 2010 film negatives and share the photographs.

The Southern Christian Institute was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. A Vicksburg friend, Ms. Nancy Bell, who is director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, did the survey work and wrote the descriptive text. She confirmed that at that time, the buildings were in good condition. The following text is from the official description:

"The Southern Christian Institute (SCI) is situated on 53.6 gently rolling acres at 18449 Old U.S. Highway 80 near Edwards in western Hinds County. The property is rectangular in shape and has 1,434 feet of frontage along the south side of Highway 80 and a maximum depth of 1,776 feet. The campus' seven buildings are situated to either side of a roadway that runs perpendicular to Old Highway 80, and these buildings are linked by concrete walks. The one and two-story structures are constructed of rusticated concrete block, brick, and stucco. Also on the campus are a bell tower and a water tower, and other amenities include a swimming pool and a playground. There are mature pecan, live oak, and cedar trees scattered throughout the property.

In 1882, SCI purchased the plantation of Col. McKinney L. Cook and immediately began repairing the existing buildings, which included the c. 1853 Greek Revival mansion house, a two-story, frame, five-bay, center hall structure with hip roof and two-tiered, full-width gallery. Within five years, a two-story classroom building, a small bam, and two two-room tenant houses were constructed. In 1891, an addition was made to the original plantation mansion to house a girls' dormitory, and over the next 44 years, numerous buildings were constructed, including dormitories, a president's house, a teachers' home, industrial building, and classroom building, in addition to auxiliary buildings such as a grain house, stables, buggy shed, and laundry building.

The campus presently includes seven buildings: the president's house, administration/ classroom building with auditorium, an assembly hall, dormitories, cafeteria, and a multipurpose building that was constructed in 2000. The old Cook mansion was destroyed by fire around 1970, and all that remains is a chimney, which stands on the north end of the campus. The existing historic resources were built by the students during the first 35 years of the 20th century, and many reflect the Colonial Revival style that was popular during that period."
I had always admired this building from the road. When I photographed it in 2010, it has suffered some vandalism, but the building looked sound and the asbestos roof seemed intact.  From the official description:

"Smith Hall Girls' Dormitory 1915 Colonial Revival. Facing west, this building is a two-story, U-shaped, stucco-over-metal lathe, dormitory building (15,412 s.f.) on a raised rusticated concrete block basement with an asbestos covered hip roof. Several colors of asbestos tiles were used to spell out "1914 Smith Hall" on the west side of the roof. There is a two-tiered porch that extends across two thirds of the front fa$ade and over one-third of the north side. This porch is covered by an asphalt-shingled hip roof, with exposed rafter tails, which is supported by tapered stuccoed wooden columns (on the second floor) resting on rusticated concrete block."
Approximate location where Smith Hall once stood (digital photograph).
Allison Hall, the cafeteria complex, has also been demolished.

"Allison Hall (Stanton Hall, Cafeteria) 1909 Colonial Revival influence. Facing east, Allison Hall is built in two sections: the rear section is a two-story square and the front section is a long, one-story, rectangular building. The front section is constructed of rusticated concrete block and topped with an asphalt hip roof. There are ten bays on the main facade: two 2/2 double-hung wooden windows, a single-leaf glazed wood door with a sidelight and transom (configuration of this entry was originally double-leaf with a transom), and two 2/2 double-hung wooden windows."
This building is still standing, but I was unable to check it during my recent visit.

"Administration/Classroom Building 1926. The Administration/ Classroom Building, which faces west, is a two-story, brick, rectangular classroom building on a raised stuccoed basement and crowned by a gable roof with parapeted end walls. A three-bay, gabled, projecting pavilion is in the center of the main facade. There are nine bays on the front facade: four large multi-light, metal, louvered windows; two pair of non-historic, double-leaf doors with covered transoms; and a central pair of non-historic double-leaf doors flanked by multi-light metal louvered windows. A wide concrete band separates the first and second floors and another accents the cornice. The second floor windows have plain concrete lintels. There is an additional wide concrete band that runs across the gable end of the cross gable, above which is a pair of fixed six-light windows with a shaped concrete head mimicking a hood mold."
"Bell Tower 1926. The bell tower is a two-tiered brick structure with an asbestos-shingled hip roof having exposed rafter tails. Brick piers support a wide concrete platform on which brick piers support the roof, which is trimmed by a wide concrete cornice. The bell hangs from the upper tier's ceiling."

The site was also listed on the 10 Most Endangered Places in Mississippi register, which needs to be updated to register the loss of buildings.

Dear Readers, this is how we lose out architectural heritage.

The 2010 black and white photographs were taken on Kodak Panatomic-X film with a Fuji GW690II medium-format 6×9 camera, tripod-mounted. I developed the film in Agfa Rodinal 1:50 and scanned it with a Minolta Scan Multi medium format film scanner.

1 comment:

  1. These are excellent, HABS-like photographs of the Southern Christian Institute/Bonner Campbell Institute, but it is quite disappointing that photographs are the only remnants of these buildings.

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