Mississippi Industrial College was an historically black college founded in 1905 by the Mississippi Conference of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church under the leadership of Bishop Elias Cottrell (1855-1937). Bishop Cottrell’s goal was to create a college for African Americans and provide them with liberal arts education and industrial training. Mississippi Industrial College’s campus was located on a 120 acre lot, across the street from Rust College, a competing historically black liberal arts school.
Classes began at the College in January of 1906, and in May the school already had over 200 students. By 1908 Mississippi Industrial College had 450 students. Mississippi Industrial College was one of the most important black colleges in Mississippi for many decades, until the end of segregation resulted in increasingly low student populations. The college closed in 1982 and remained empty. During the 1990s, the Holly Springs Police Department and other businesses moved into the newer of the buildings, but they eventually abandoned the property as well.
In 1979, the five buildings which made up the Mississippi Industrial College were entered into the National Register as the Mississippi Industrial College Historic District. In 1999 an alumni association was formed with the goal of preserving the campus. In 2008, Rust College bought the buildings, and began seeking support and funds for the rehabilitation and restoration of the historic buildings. Even after it’s closing and subsequent slow decay, the college has important associational significance for black history in Mississippi.
The earliest building constructed was Cathrine Hall. It was built in 1905 over a pre-existing antebellum home, and was designed and constructed by Heavener and McGhee firm, out of Jackson, Tennessee. It had strong Jacobean and Colonial Revival architectural details. It was used as a dormitory. Sadly, the building deteriorated to the point where it was completely razed in 2012. For more information on Cathrine Hall and the original antebellum home, see the blog post here.
Hammond Hall was built in 1907 in the Jacobean Revival style. Jacobean details include a curvilinear parapet and single story portico. It was used as a dormitory. It is the best preserved of the historic properties on the campus.
Washington Hall was built in 1910 and used as the primary administration and classroom building. The facade is accentuated by two projecting gable-roof pavilions. Originally a portico was situated between the pavilions with Doric columns and an entablature with balustrade, but this has long since collapsed and disappeared.
Carnegie Auditorium was built in 1923 and remains, even in it’s current state, one of the best examples of Colonial Revival architecture in Holly Springs. It was constructed using funds from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, and was the largest auditorium constructed for African Americans in the State of Mississippi. It is a two-and-a-half-story brick structure on a raised basement plan. The central section has a two-story portico with Doric columns and a raised pedimented roof with a centered fanlight.
Davis Hall was constructed long after the other buildings on the campus, in 1950. It is a modern cinder-block gymnasium with brick facing.
The entire complex is in very poor condition, and will likely be lost forever within 10 years if significant efforts are not made to stabilize and preserve these buildings. There have been positive recent developments (as of 2015), focused primarily on Carnegie Hall.
The historic postcard of Carnegie Hall is courtesy of the wonderful Preservation in Mississippi blog, which has been following the story of Mississippi Industrial College for several years.