Thursday, July 24, 2014
Why should we care what post offices look like? Aren't they simply utilitarian structures meant to facilitate the exchange of mail? Why can't they all be boxes made of corrugated metal? As usual, it's not that simple. (Donnelly, L. 2001, Architecture around us, Western Pennsylvania History, p. 8)
Louis A. Simon, whose tenure [as supervising architect] covered the design of some 40,000 new post offices during the Depression, preferred an art deco version of the classical; one wag called it "Starved Classicism." (Donnelly)Starved Classicism is defined by A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (2nd ed.) as
Mean, thin, ill-proportioned, non-style, loosely based on Classicism but displaying little feeling for rules, proportions, details, and finesse, and lacking all verve and elan. It is not to be confused with stripped Classicism, which is usually robust, confident, powerful, and often Sublime.
Traher's remarks in his letter to the selection committee was profoundly revealing of his stereotypical views, his prejudice, and lack of awareness and understanding of the reasons for the very real differences in living conditions. He allegedly just sort of wandered around, sketching out people he saw, making notes of the quiet and calm community, with the plan to put the mural together back in his studio. Did people in DeWitt really let their hogs run loose? I would think not--wouldn't you be concerned about them wandering off, getting stolen, or eating your crops or rooting around in your laundry? It seems to me that might be some artistic license.
I think what art such as this can do is to be used for teaching and understanding of history, of racism and the vestiges of inequality that continue to exist and damage us now, and provide opportunities for understanding. But is it right to do that, particularly knowing that the "learning opportunity" (if it is even attempted) comes at a cost to someone else's emotional well-being, or sense of dignity and personhood? It is a conversation that will not be easy to hear.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
While I can find information about the structure that stood on the spot earlier, and the history of the school that would become Booker T. Washington, I cannot yet locate specifics as to when this building was constructed.historic arch from the new building, constructed in 1926, fronts the new school. The BTW high school was originally founded as Clay Street School in 1873 and was among the first public high schools for African Americans in Memphis. It was renamed Kortrecht High School in 1891. Kortrecht built a new high school on the present location in 1926 and named it in honor of Booker T. Washington.
The website of the school is inspirational, and I particularly liked one of the school's core "Beliefs":
Given a safe, supportive and challenging environment, students will be able to accept shared responsibility for their own academic achievement.
Friday, July 18, 2014
I made it back to Mississippi Wednesday night from Texas a little after 8 pm, thanks to an hour delay to drive 9 miles between Longview and Marshall. Pretty sure it was faster and easier to make the trip home going across Mississippi and Arkansas even at 55 mph, and a whole lot prettier. I was up Thursday morning to go give clinical exams for the next two days.
It was a busy 4 days after I got home to Texas last Friday night. Sis had cleaning up dad's workshop/barn on her list, along with sprucing up the decks. Dad wanted to go out to the barn with us Saturday morning to "supervise." I think he thought we might throw away something, although we assured him we were just straightening and sweeping and getting out real trash, like empty feed bags, etc. He wanted to go anyway, and we wheeled him down in the wheelchair to watch and keep us company. Later, he came out on the deck to explain how to put the tomato cages on, since Sis had not gotten it done before the tomato plants got pretty big. We all enjoyed the time and effort. It was a wonderful day and he laughed and enjoyed being with us, and so did we, and all agreed it was worth it even though it really tired him out and sapped his limited strength. I went back Tuesday afternoon and finished straightening the workbench, putting away tools, cleaning up some spilled screws, and sweeping out the rest of the shop. Dad was always meticulous about putting away his tools, in their proper place, and keeping his work area clean and organized, and it was satisfying, if somewhat bittersweet, to be working in his space, organizing again.
I recall when I learned about queuing for the first time. I was in New York, and being from Texas where folks just walk up randomly and haphazardly and order, I had checked out the foods in the deli case and once I decided, looked up to order. Someone behind me or beside me said, "Get in the queue, it's not your turn" or something to that effect. Oops, "sorry, I did not mean to cut in line." I just did not know that there was a line, being a rube from Texas and all. Queuing is also common in England, Europe, and South Africa, and I do see it more and more in the US. For sure, I am much more observant now about whether or not it is my turn. Mississippi seems to have an issue with queuing at the 4-way stops, too, as in "I stopped, now I get to go" regardless of how many of the other 3 vehicles were there first and had already stopped.
In my next life, I shall be the Queue police, and have a little hover board. When folks on the highway don't queue, I will pull them over and cite them, plus have them wait until all the cars they passed to cut in line have gone, plus, an extra 10 cars for punishment. I will need a really good camera/computer database to keep up with that, won't I?
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Parts of the square are still in use, and other buildings are shuttered and waiting for a revival. Even though driving rural roads takes longer, I have become excited about the possibility of seeing the Americana opportunities in these small rural communities, and it is like a mini-vacation of sorts--the road trips to/from Texas are the closest thing to a vacation I may get for a while. I kept thinking of during the Depression, and the beginning efforts to encourage motor tourism, and the role that the New Deal played in the development of that mode of tourism.
De Witt's banks had more money in them than in the banks of any other city of its size in the state. (Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, encylopediaofarkansas.net)
The telephone operated upstairs, and during the 1930s, the post office was located in the rear of the building. It currently houses and antique/gift shop.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Historic Parker County Courthouse, Parker County Texas website). "The style and design is similar to his other Texas courthouses in Hill, Hood and Lampasas counties. The exterior was restored in the early decade of 1990s, and in 2002, the interior was restored. Interior restoration of the "heavily modified" courthouse was accomplished through the Texas Historic Commission's Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, also at work on the restoration of the Throckmorton County Courthouse.
The courtroom originally featured decorative wall and ceiling painting, small wood balconies and patterned floor coverings, all of which were restored. The original floor pattern was recreated in carpet...In the future, the community hopes to restore the design of the original courthouse square, which has been completely lost to highway and parking lots.The present courthouse is the fourth for Parker County, and cost $55,555.55 (Parker County Courthouse, Weatherford Chamber of Commerce website).
The Seth Thomas Clock was installed in 1897 for $957.
A Texas Historic Landmark, the Second Empire style limestone building is located in the "exact center of the county's geographic center" and is designated with a decorative floor (The present Parker County Courthouse, Texas Escapes.
Dodson's work on Texas courthouses spanned a 15-year period from 1883-98, and designed 12 courthouses. Six remain as originally designed. All 12 are similar in style, as can be noted from the comparative photographs at the link to 254 Texas Courthouses.
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Although the West Texas Chamber of Commerce submitted--among a large number of projects--a request for $10,000 to the Public Works Administration to construct the City Hall of Weatherford in 1933, there is no record that I can find that it was awarded and that PWA funds were used for the building (Abilene Reporter News. West Texas Projects Filed with Advisory Board of PWA. 12 November 1933, p. 4., retrieved from newspapers.com).
The building is currently used as an art center, which certainly seems fitting with the beautiful Art Deco details on the doors and brick pilasters.