By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
HOLLY SPRINGS – One of five historic buildings on the former Mississippi Industrial College campus is being torn down.
Catherine Hall’s demolition began last week after the brick dormitory, built in 1905 at a cost of $35,000, was judged beyond reclamation.
Mississippi Industrial College was founded by the CME Church.
“The educational mission of the school was grounded in theological, vocational-technical, and musical training for black youth from preschool through college age,” stated the 1979 nomination form that resulted in the campus’ core being named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Bernice Jones, a 1963 graduate of Mississippi Industrial College and a longtime educator in Holly Springs, said a lot of memories are embodied in those unstable old edifices – and the one now demolished. As a married student she never lived in the dorm, but she sometimes napped there between classes, she said.
Pointing to the next intact structure to the north of Catherine Hall, she said, “That was the administration building. The library was in there, too.”
The Mississippi Industrial College site is across Memphis Street (state Highway 7) from Rust College, which acquired the property after MIC closed in the 1980s. When both institutions were strong in the early 20th Century, they reportedly formed an impressive northside entrance to Holly Springs.
While the history of the abandoned campus is not apparent to the drive-by observer, its architecture is, with the exception of one obvious expansion effort, striking. Catherine Hall and three of its surviving neighbors were designed by the same Jackson, Tenn., architectural firm.
“They share the early twentieth-century Jacobean and Colonial Revival design influences,” states the National Register of Historic Places application. “The Revival mode was expressed in a more monumental way in 1923 with the construction of the Carnegie Auditorium … funded through a matching grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation.”
As the Catherine Hall demolition shows, efforts to preserve the buildings have been disappointing.
“We’re trying to secure some resources,” said Adrienne Phillips, a spokesman for Rust College, “so we can seal up and shore up the rest of the buildings until they can be restored.”