Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My first E. L. Malvaney discovery: New Albany old City Hall building

 Randy and I were strolling down Bankhead Street Saturday while waiting for the James Pirkle Blues Band to go on at 4:30 when I stopped in front of the former City Hall building and whipped out my camera.  "Look at this great building!"  Randy sighed, and mumbled, "What's so great about it?"  I said I was pretty sure it was a WPA or PWA building and walked up to the plaque by the door.
 "E. L. Malvaney!  This is an E. L. Malvaney building!"  I was ecstatic.  Randy was underwhelmed.  "Ok, so?"  I explained who he was, and how this was the first time I had stumbled across the work of someone about whom I knew, without actually looking for the building.
 All of the buildings in the New Albany downtown are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Downtown Historic District.  The city hall building was built in 1937 as one of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works buildings, Project Mississippi 1070-RS.  In Mississippi: A Guide to the Magnolia State, compiled and written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, published in 1938, sponsored by the Mississippi Advertising Commission:

"...designed as a monolithic concrete structure."
Hmm....I would have expected a bit more of a description than that.  No wonder there were no authors listed for the work.  Although I could find no other specific references after due diligence in searching, I did some speculation and decided to go out on a limb here with my own assessment.  I trust the folks over at MissPres to correct my efforts, and as always, appreciate the tutoring.

 I'm calling this an example of Art Moderne.  The Art Moderne style was popular during the 1930s and forward, and was considered a "reflection of austere economic times."  Malvaney described himself as a modernist.  Art Moderne is characterized by a number of aspects that I noted on this building:

  • curving forms and long horizontal lines
  • simple metal railings
  • flat roof
  • subdued colors
  • smooth finish, of materials such as concrete or stucco
  • curved canopies
  • aluminum frames in windows and doors
  • devoid of, or simple, ornamentation

 The building currently houses the New Albany Police Department.
One of two pieces of ornamentation: The state seal.

These steps lead down and under the simple metal railing you can see just inside the entrance to the stairway.  There is a brief landing, and then the steps turn and open onto a flat area along the side of the building.  The building opens onto the street at this level, but the ground level is actually down at the bottom of those stairs, and parking is in the back.

Up next, the Union County Courthouse.


E.L. Malvaney said...

Just caught this on my Google Reader after my week of sure'nuff vacation. What a cool find! And you've hit it right on the head with the Art Moderne characterization. I don't get up to New Albany that much, and I don't recall seeing this building in person. From the pictures, it looks more symmetrical than many Art Moderne buildings, and if so, would carry on what I've seen as a Malvaney affinity for classical symmetry even in his Modernist buildings.

Congrats again--isn't it fun!?

Suzassippi said...

Oh, yeah--this is way more fun than my day job! Thanks so much for the feedback. I have to tell you I was beyond thrilled to see this. I have since noted a few other similarly designed buildings in New Albany from the same time period, so I will have to make my way over again soon.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm Edgar Louis Malvaney Jr and this building was built by my grandfather "Mr. Ed"...or as we kids called him "Paw-Paw". He would be so tickled to read of your adventure today and I sent it to my own father (Another E.L.) he's 87 and living with my sister in Biloxi and who worked as an engineer for his dad (my Granddad) for years. You might want to contact him sometime as I know he'd love to hear from you at elmalvany@gmail.com. This blog certainly made our day! THanks so much for this adventurous tale! Paw would have been thrilled! ohboycreative@hotmail.com

Suzassippi said...

Thanks for stopping by, and I am glad you enjoyed it.