Thursday, March 25, 2010

Segregation Forms

Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. Area P Housing for Un-Skilled Laborers, Nitro, West Virginia, 1918.
Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. Area A Housing for Un-Skilled Laborers, Nitro, West Virginia, 1918.

We frequently receive inquiries about the architecture of segregation here in the Southeastern Architectural Archive, and it can be a tricky topic to research for the simple fact that architectural drawings were not historically labelled or organized as "segregated." We inventory and organize drawings based on the architect's or architectural firm's organizing information, normally name of property owner, building function (possibly building name for commercial structures), street address, project number, date.

One can generally assume segregated spaces for U.S. government and municipal structures (courthouses and schools especially) predating the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and those are the easiest to locate. Today, a new acquisition came through Tulane University Library's Technical Services unit, & it reminded me to post some information about related urban planning and residential plans.

The Southern Pine Association, founded in 1915 New Orleans, produced various self-help books and pamphlets designed for property owners and those in the construction trades. One such publication, Homes for Workmen (New Orleans: Southern Pine Association, 1919), presented examples of industrial community developments (aka company towns).

One of the book's featured examples was Graham, Anderson, Probst & White's "transitory city" designed for World War I era government workers in Nitro, West Virginia, a small town founded in 1918 and named for "nitrocellulose," used in the manufacture of gunpowder. The transitory city was intended to accommodate an estimated population of 20,000 skilled and unskilled workers:

"In providing these housing accommodations the well recognized facts were considered that the best workmen can only be obtained and held where housing is not only comfortable but attractive and designed to fit the special needs of each class.

With this in view, the employees have been placed in separate sections as follows, giving in detail the type of workmen and number of buildings, with an estimated number of inhabitants housed in each particular type of dwelling."

The prominent Chicago firm divided the new Nitro into four discrete areas: Area A, Area P, Area S and Area R. The latter was intended to provide services to all inhabitants (post office, entertainment, etc.), while Areas A, P, and S housed workers segregated by class and race.

The bungalow structures designed for unskilled laborers, shown above, were prefabricated and constructed so that they could be dismantled in sections when the explosives plant -- and related laborers -- were no longer needed. GAP & W estimated that the building materials would have a 40% reclamation value (of the original cost), and that the nearby coal industry could readily re-use the building materials. Although bungalow facades are quite similar, room configurations/space allotments differ.

There are a number of articles and books that address the architecture of segregation, and their citations may be found via google scholar. Harvard University has digitized its copy of Homes for Workmen: A Presentation of Leading Examples of Industrial Community Development (New Orleans: Southern Pine Association, 1919) here.

Images above: Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. "Nitro, West Virginia." Chapter in Homes for Workmen: A Presentation of Leading Examples of Industrial Community Development (New Orleans: Southern Pine Association, 1919), pp. 78-87.

No comments: