(Old) Hattiesburg High School
Circa 1911 & 1921
Hattiesburg, Mississippi (Forrest County)
The old Hattiesburg High School actually consists of two buildings, the rear section built in 1911, and the more imposing and highly decorated section on the front constructed in 1921. Robert E. Lee, a popular and prolific Hattiesburg architect, designed the front addition in the Jacobethan style, a style thought to be more “cheerful” than the Neoclassical and Collegiate Gothic styles. One of the more whimsical features of the building is the presence of separately labeled “Girls” and “Boys” entrances on the front. The school, like many downtown schools around the state, was closed in the 1960s, and the building subsequently served as offices for the school district, and later as an antiques mall. The large structure has stood vacant and deteriorating for several years and is threatened by neglect and vandalism. The Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association owns the building and would like to redevelop the building but funds have been limited.
2015 Update – In Progress
The Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association acquired the building in 2003 and has teamed with the Southern Mississippi Arts and Restoration Team to further restore the building.
The building’s restoration has experienced two major roadblocks since that time. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina did tremendous damage to the building, necessitating roof replacement using grant money from the Community Heritage Grant program and the Hurricane Relief Grant Program. Then, as construction continued in 2007, arsonists using liquid accelerant completely burned the interior of the front building. Firefighters were only able to save the façade. (The arsonists have been convicted and are now in prison.) The building is planned to be used by the University of Southern Mississippi College of Arts and Letters for classroom and performance space.
In 2014, the Old Hattiesburg High School received $50,000 from the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association to rebrace the North wall. The building remains unoccupied but plans are in place for a full restoration. Jackson developer Steve Nail has an option to purchase the property and hopes to redevelop it into apartments.