Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Union County Courthouse

 Union County Courthouse in New Albany was erected in 1909 by F. E. Dobson and Company.  The courthouse was designed by H. E. Ostling.  Because the stage was erected in front of the courthouse, not to mention the crowds of people wandering about, it was impossible to get a clean shot.  I contented myself with taking pictures of the dome--lots and lots of pictures of the dome.

 Rear wall.
The courthouse, along with all of the downtown historic district, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The city of New Albany was first organized in 1840 at the site of a grist mill and saw mill on the Tallahatchie River (History of New Albany, from the city website).  The town developed as a river port.  The Union army burned all but a few buildings during the Civil War.

In 1870, Union County was formed from parts of other counties, Lee, Tippah and Pontotoc, and New Albany established as the county seat.

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.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tallahatchie River Fest New Albany: James Pirkle Blues Band

I got a call last night from my friend Jill that the James Pirkle Bues Band was playing in New Albany at the Tallahatchie River Fest today.  Is it necessary for me to say that I love the James Pirkle Blues Band?

I first heard the band last April when they were playing in Oxford.  I fell in love all over again when they went to the Mound Bayou September Fest (don't you just love how every town here has a "fest"?) to play a benefit for a community with whom I have also fallen in love.
It's been a while since I did anything on a weekend other than clean house, grade papers, or reply to the endless emails from students, so I just made the choice to enjoy myself today and head over to New Albany's historic downtown and hear a band I really enjoy.

I was humbled that the band gave me one of their new tee shirts which I will proudly wear when I "go to work on Monday one more time" (Si Kahn).

It is not just that I enjoy their music--which I do--but it is also that these guys are willing to go the extra mile to perform and that they do it for the love of the music and the desire to entertain people who also love music.

Stay tuned for then next few days as I share with you the trip up and down Main Street, New Albany.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Riverside Hotel Clarksdale

 The news roundup at Mississippi Preservation recently had a link to an article about the Riverside Hotel.  What I did not know prior to reading the article was that the Riverside Hotel was the former black hospital where Bessie Smith died in 1937.  The G. T. Thomas Hospital served African Americans in the Delta, and the front part of the building (visible in the photo) was the hospital.

The hospital was converted into the hotel in 1944 by Z. L. Hill, the mother of the current owner "Rat" Ratliff, who has run it since his mother's death.  John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke, Ike Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk, and Howlin' Wolf were among the blues musicians who stayed at the Riverside.  It is now on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

Up the street toward downtown.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New dorm taking shape on Rebel Drive

 The construction on the new 720-bed dorm at Ole Miss is moving along.  It is right behind my building, so I get a fairly regular glimpse of the progress on the way to and from work.
 The construction is done by Harrell Contracting Group out of Jackson, and will cost $32 million.  According to University Architect and Director of Facilities Planning, Ian Banner, each bed and associated costs will run around $45,000.
 The Harrell Group built the North and South Residential Colleges at the University, and facilities at several other Mississippi schools, including Jackson State, Alcorn State, Hinds Community College, Delta State, Mississippi Valley State, and Mississippi State.  I'm thinking they have the corner on the university building market in Mississippi.
 What you cannot really see from these pictures is that the new dorm is a series of 3 buildings, situated at somewhat of an angle in relationship to each other.

$45,000 translated into square feet.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Kudzu: The Gift that keeps on giving

 We have lost the battle of the kudzu.  In fact, we never really had a chance in the first place.  There is a sci-fi book I read years ago about a planet where there is constant war with the vegetation, and outside of the walls of the city it is a continual battle to make it safely through.  I think about that book every year when it gets impossible to maneuver much further than my back door.
 A year ago in August, I called the electric company about the kudzu on the transformer.  Even though we called three times, they never came to clear this.  A couple of weeks ago, we began experiencing outages, lights flickering, and the assortment of associated experiences of life here in the jungle when the electricity is not working.  We called again...and yet again.  There is something about live electric lines not functioning properly that makes me very anxious.
Here's a job I don't think I would want.  Even if the power is off (apparently, that orange pole turns off the power off from the line to the transformer), I don't think I would be very comfortable with this line of work.  After getting the kudzu off the transformer, he had to go on the roof and repair a service connector that had come loose, which he thought was causing the problem.  However, he noted that all of the system appeared to be original to when the house was built (sometime in the 60s?) and that they just might need to replace it.  There is always something to look forward to here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Facade Gone Wrong

 I have driven past the Beta Theta Pi house since 2003.  Last summer, I noted construction.  This is the result. My take on it was the apparent over-riding desire to have everything on campus look Greek.  Almost without fail, the majority of the houses on campus have columns, and the requisite other artifacts that seem to imply Ole Miss Lyceum style.

Once I saw the actual results (pictured above) I kept asking myself "What were they thinking? The original building from 1964 is seen here.
 The rear of the house still evidences the style of the original building.  Note the roofline, the angled windows, and the large glass sections that were smaller scales of the front as originally built.

It seems to me that the new entrance is totally incongruent with the rest of the building.  While those smaller windows and lower profile seemed fitting with the original sharply angled roofline and large expanses of glass to help balance them, this juxtaposition just seems wrong.  Like the discussion at lunch today of "vegan jumbalaya," it just does not make sense.

Even more disturbing, this remodel was done by Howorth & Associates, who have earned kudos in my book for restoring buildings to their original intentions.  This is also billed as the "first of a multi-phase remodeling."  Perhaps Malvaney is correct in the assessment of the future of the campus.

What I do note every evening as I drive past this building on the way home is my feelings about how a once really unique building on the campus now just looks like a copy of all the other buildings with no personality of its own.  I miss the other building.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Showers

When we bought this house in 2003, it was not exactly our dream home, but we needed a place to live, and it was one of the few reasonably priced houses for sale in the area.  (Reasonable for Oxford; it was far less quality and aesthetics compared to our former home in Texas, yet at a higher cost).  There were certainly things--like the shower--that gave us pause in terms of looks, yet we had no idea that the problems were more than skin deep.

It was actually a piece of good fortune that a water leak in the shower wall occurred.  When we pulled the wall away to repair what we thought was just a leak in a pipe, we discovered major problems.  It was clear that we would have to rebuild the shower in order to repair the damage in the structural supports for the walls.  If it looked like this on the outside, we could only imagine beneath it.

When we began to tear out the tile, we discovered the reason: Will had built the floor of the shower by pouring mortar on top of wood--no shower pan liner.  I don't imagine I have to tell most folks what happens if you subject wood to moisture over a period of 3 years.
When we rebuilt, we used the Kerdi system--the choice of pros.  Underneath this waterproof kerdi liner is a waterproof plastic floor, and that is what sits on top of the wooden floor, Will.  It prevents moisture from seeping through the grout and reaching the wood.  You can "seal" grout, but it isn't waterproof.
After removing the crumbling remains of the floor under the mortar, we were horrified to see what we had been standing on.  Prior to getting this removed and replaced, I actually did step through it in one place, and ended up with one leg up to my hip and one shoulder under the house, and no way to get myself out of the hole.  I do confess, it was pretty funny, even though painful, and Randy had to come haul me out as there was no way for me to gain purchase on my own.  Score: Will, another one.  Susan, 0.
 Will also seemed not to understand that one needed some type of water barrier on the walls.  You can't just slap up some shower board if you intend to leave giant one inch gaps in it.  Water will just seep right on through it.  There is also a reason they call it "thin set."  You put on a thin layer, with a grooved trowel, so that it adheres to the wall.  You don't put on an inch of mortar on one corner and a half inch on the other.
Yes,  you use the kerdi liner on the walls on top of the shower board, and use "thin set" to attach the tiles.  You also start one tile row from the bottom so you can have it level, using a board as the guide and support for the tile.  That row on the floor goes in last.
 I noted after the fact of rebuilding the shower that had I been paying attention, I would have seen that Will had placed mortar on top of the wooden floor.  Unfortunately, that sort of thing is what I thought I was paying the home inspector to do: point out potential problems prior to our buying the house.  He walked through this shower when it looked just like this.  One of the other things that you cannot really see here is that Will put the tiles on the subfloor and then put the floor on top of it, so water just drained right down to the subfloor at every point along the bottom of the wall.  His idea of spacers in the tile was also clothespins, or whatever thing seemed handy at the moment.  Because his floor was uneven, the tiles were uneven (remember the inch of grout on one side of the tile, and a half inch on the other) so the water would pool in certain areas as well.  After every shower, we had to wipe the floor with a towel. Of course, if we had not done that, the floor could have rotted out much sooner, and we could have replaced the shower sooner.
Here's a concept, Will: lay the floor tile flat, and space evenly in between them.
 This is Will's shelf.  Cut a hole in the wall, pour in some grout, but nothing to seal it, and then wait for the water to run down the wall and rot the studs, wall, floor, and shower board behind it.
This is our shelf.  Build the shelf correctly, like a shelf, not a hole in the shower board, support it, cover it with the waterproof liner--did I mention we love the Kerdi system?--and then tile over it.
 Note the mortar all over the tiles, and the unevenness.
You see, Will, there is a reason that building supply stores sell these little spacers for tile.  It allows you to avoid just "eyeballing" it when you tile, and it makes the tile line up evenly.
Maybe there is some truth to the old saying, "If you want something done right, do it yourself."  Or, at the very least, make sure the person doing it for you knows what he or she is doing.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mound Bayou: September Fest

Debra, LaToya, and I headed over to Mound Bayou early this morning for the homecoming weekend September Fest.  We were there to support the City's Taborian Hospital Project, promote a historic preservation workshop for youth next month, and meet some people from the community as we plan for the service learning class in January.  It was a long, but fun, day and we enjoyed ourselves immensely!  We met a lot of people from the community, and people formerly from the community who were home for the festival.
I made refrigerator magnets featuring the Taborian, and an archived photo of the Bank of Mound Bayou from the early 1900s and we handed them out to folks visiting our table.  We were set up next to the Mayor's booth (where they were smoking ribs and sausage) and it was mouth watering all day long.  I also had yummy catfish and Delta hot tamales!

A local pastor came over, and shared that he was born at the Taborian and that it was very important to him.  I told him about our plans for doing some interviews with people who were born there, or have some connection to the hospital, and he has agreed to be interviewed in our upcoming project!
 I bought some raffle tickets to support the Leading Ladies of the Delta, who do scholarships in the area.
 Mayor Kennedy Johnson, in the aqua shirt, was helping oversee setting up the stage for the music performances.  I also met one of the city aldermen, and one of the members of the board of the Taborian Hospital Project, along with the Mayor's family and many city employees--all of whom were so helpful and welcoming.  One young man loaded our chairs, table, and bags in his truck and took us back to my vehicle when we left at the end of the day.
First up when the festival kicked off at 1 was this gospel group.  There were so many people and so much going on, that I did not hear who they were, but they gave a powerful and moving performance.
These are the cheerleaders for the Mound Bayou Hornets.  We talked to several of them, and they did a cheer for us.  I told Debra that cheerleading is a lot different now than from when I was in high school!
 A little later in the afternoon, and the bands began to play.  Once again, I did not catch the name of this group, but they made you want to get up and dance.
 Nellie "Tiger" Travis is from Mound Bayou, and currently sings in the Chicago area.  She put on a really good show and the crowd loved her.  Nothing like a hometown girl making it to bring out the fans, huh?  She said she was in a club last night and heard one of her songs being performed and thought that was great.
The James Pirkle Blues Band, all the way from Tupelo arrived around 4.  I was introduced to the band back in early summer here, and really enjoyed their music.  The mayor had earlier told me they used local bands for the festival, and I asked if they might be interested in this band, and sent him the link to my earlier post of their music.  This great group of guys played it as a benefit and the Mayor fed them ribs to thank them.  I wanted to get a new video of them (especially in their spiffy new shirts), but it had been a really long day for us, and we had to pack up and get home and the band was not going on until later.  The person who was documenting the festival officially interviewed them on camera, and I must say that everyone we met, whether officials with the City or just town-folk, were wonderfully welcoming and friendly.