Landmark Buildings at Mississippi State

Many began as something else entirely, their purpose evolving as Mississippi State grew and developed. Almost all have an interesting story.

Whatever their histories, though, all of the buildings mentioned here share a common feature: they are listed as Mississippi Landmark Buildings. Of those, three also belong to the National Register of Historic Places.

Designation as a Mississippi Landmark means that both state and national agencies have formally recognized a building's architectural and historical significance.

There's George Hall, built in 1902 and known to several generations of students as the infirmary. In 1918 a Spanish flu epidemic took its toll here. World War I was at its height, and the War Department was then training troops on the Starkville campus. Severely ill students were treated in the infirmary, where 37 succumbed.

Journalist Turner Catledge, then a freshman, was assigned to duty as an orderly in George Infirmary during the crisis. Not yet 18 years old, he was unprepared for what he found. "On my first day there I saw three people die," he recalled in 1977.

When a temporary embalming operation was set up in the basement of the building, Catledge was pressed into service. "This was certainly not what I envisioned when I took the train in Philadelphia, Miss., that September morning to go off to college," he remembered. But Catledge also called that ghastly experience "a most important part of my college career -- a great contributor to my growing up."

Undergoing an interior renovation in 1990, George Hall is home to University Relations, the university's public information office.

Built about the same time, the Industrial Education Building started its life as the Textile Building, home to the short-lived textile school. Established by the state Legislature, the school was to train Mississippians in making fabrics, especially cotton.

It opened in 1901 with $30,000 of donated machinery and high hopes. Filled with enthusiasm about economic prospects from the new technology, a state educator marveled that training in the textile school could promise graduates salaries of "from four to eight dollars a day."

His enthusiasm was ill founded. Faced with the difficulty of maintaining trained staff and adequate funding, the school declined. By 1914, with virtually no enrollment, the textile school dismantled its machinery and was out of business.

The building, with its distinctive twin towers and triple arches, also has been home to argicultural engineering, the building and grounds department, and, most recently, to the technology and education program.

Or consider the beginnings of Montgomery Hall, which today houses counselor education and student support services. It was built in 1902 as a science hall, but almost immediately the building also had to accomodate the university's library. Volumes in the library continued to increase, but space in the building's second and third floor apse, to which the library was consigned, remained limited.

It wasn't until 1921 that the library was transferred to another unlikely location -- the top floor of a new biology building, Harned Hall.

With the exception of the John M. Stone Cotton Mill (now the E.E. Cooley Building), all Landmark Buildings are located in a central historic district on campus. Constructed from 1900 to 1938,they range in style from Beaux Arts to Georgian Revival.

Landmark Buildings are so listed in county land records and are protected from alteration or destruction under Mississippi's Antiquities Law, says Kenneth P'Pool, historic preservation director for Mississippi's Department of Archives and History. Buildings on the National Register of Historic Places must first be nominated at the state level and undergo a lengthy procedure of approval.

"It doesn't mean that they can't be changed in any way," P'Pool explains, "but it does mean that changes must be made in a manner that preserves the historic quality of the building."

To initiate changes, the university files for a permit from the Department of Archives and History. "We work with the university's physical plant, architects, and engineers to determine what is significant about the building," P'Pool says. "We want to meet functional needs of the institution while preserving the historical qualities of the structure."

There are 400 Mississippi structures listed as Landmark Buildings. Sixteen state-owned buidlings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.