Friday, May 24, 2013

Abandoned Utica High School, Utica, Mississippi

Utica is a small town in Hinds County about half way between Vicksburg and Crystal Springs.  Like many of the towns in the Mississippi Delta that I have described in these pages, Utica must have been active and prosperous decades ago.  Today, it is a sad place; most of the stores are boarded up, there is little commercial activity.  A few years ago, a block of the former commercial shops on Depot Street were dismantled for their bricks.  Drive west out of town on West Main Street, turn left on Carpenter Street, and the old high school is on the left.  Built in 1948, it is a traditional brick building with large windows and a cheerful look.
The large windows date to the time before air conditioning was installed in schools around here, and the natural light reduced the need for fluorescents.
Two of my friends attended Utica HS.  One of them told me that it originally was for African-American students in grades 9-12.  Students in grades 1-8 attended Mixon Elementary Colored School, a few miles north. In 1970, Utica's schools were integrated, and the first mixed black and white class met in Utica HS that year.  It was renamed Utica Consolidated High School.  With a satellite building to the east (now a grass field), the new consolidated school held about 800 students in six grades, with about 500 in high school.
The building has a fallout shelter in the basement.  That dates it to the early cold war era, the time of "duck and cover."  I recall air raid practice in elementary school in New York City in 1961.  My grandmother lived in Berlin in World War II, and from her descriptions of bombings, I was familiar with the concept of a shelter.
The inner hallways were decorated with that terrible green industrial paint you see in mid-20th century schools and asylums throughout the country.
This building is still in reasonably good condition.  As usual, I can't understand why a school system abandons a facility in sound condition.  You wonder who really benefits from new school construction -  empire-building by bureaucrats perhaps? Kickbacks from the construction trade?
The transoms are another example of ventilation in a pre-air-conditioning era.
The Gold Waves were the basketball team.  They won many athletic events.  The trophy racks and the fantastic purple wall were in the athletic building just to the south of the main school.  The roof of the field house is collapsing now and the gymnasium is a mess.

Photographs taken with a Panasonic G1 digital camera with Lumix 14-45 mm lens, tripod-mounted.

18 comments:

  1. I think you got your dates confused actually haha! I did some research on the state's Archive website, and Utica HS was built in 1939. The elementary and junior high was built in 1948! There was also an elementary school on the grounds of Utica HS built in 1928, that burned in 2000. What I'm thinking, is that during the segregation time, African-Americans attended Mixon and Utica Jr. High, and I guess there was also a HS there as well. The Whites attended the Utica School Complex in town. Sorry for the novel, but I think I straightened it out a little!

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    1. The elementary and high school was connected by an overhead hallway that went across the roadway between the two sections. I went there through all my elementary and high school days. There are many fond memories of that place. Whenever I visit Utica I ride through the streets just to see watch has changed.

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  2. Andrew again Thank you. Old buildings in decent shape... what a waste. I work in schools now and wonder who is getting rich off all the fancy new schools. Keep on working... Ann in Texas

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  3. Your story is all right about the Utica High School, you need to get the facts before posting it was an all-white school and Mixon was all black, until the late 60's and early 70's, it was called Utica Consolidated High School and renamed Utica High School after we were integrated I should know I started school at Utica Consolidated and by third grade I was send to Mixon!!

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    1. Excuse me but it should read " NOT RIGHT"

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  4. I only attended for a short time, in 1975 and part of 1976, but graduated out of state. Pictures bring back many fond memories. Mr. Huskey was the Principal. Ms. Debbie Wilkinson, Ms. Petty, Ms. Huddleston, old Mrs. Stewart, and Coach Terry Clark, who taught Algebra. Coach Clark was the ONLY teacher who ever taught me Math with patience. Oh, and Coach Der. He was a kook! I counted the Knights, Dungans, Tompkins, Dodsons and many others as my classmates and friends, and would have graduated in 1978, had I not moved out of state. I was selected to join the BETA Club, I think in 1976, just before I moved. Also, I remember hearing someone say back in 1976 that out of 588 students, 500 were black and 88 white. And there were rumors way back then that Utica High School was going to be condemned...in 1976! Very sad that community leaders let it go, but I don't know the whole story after I departed. It was a cool school. Basketball team was #1, Football was good too. Great teachers and good friends. I raise a glass to all...Great memories, if even for a short time. JSJ

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  5. There was a school for black children out on Chapman Road. I don't know what it was called. I believe that was before Mixon was built. The older black students went to the Agricultural school, I think. What I recall with the fondest of memories were some of the teachers...Mrs. Osborn, Mrs. Starnes, Mrs. Rowe, Mrs. Simmons, Mrs. Womack, Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Walker and I loved the auditorium. It's a real shame the elementary portion of the school burned. There was also a separate building to the side of the elemetary building which was used for home economics and I think forestry at one time.

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  6. I went to junior high there. As an entrepreneur, I wish I could pick the brain of Warren Buffett and ask him how do you rebuild small towns like Utica, MS. Of course, I would turn Utica High into really nice apartments.

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  7. That was tried with the old Mixon Elementary didn't last long.I wish there was something that could be done to bring Utica back to life it use to be the place to go back in the days now it is a ghost town. I am from Utica and wish there was something to be done to make it beautiful again.

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  8. I attended Utica schools from Sept 1946 through May 1958. First six years were in the elementary building to the east of the still standing building and grades 7 through 12 in the building shown in the photos. There was a "Home Ec and Vocational Ag" building south of the elementary building that burned some years ago. I will not give a list of the many teachers who labored mightily to persuade me to learn things, but two really stand out in my memory for very different reasons. "Ma" Gleason had the greatest positive impact on my life of anyone beyond my parents. And "Chief" Walker was a great principal as well as coach. It would be a nice thing if Jo Anne Mosley could turn the building into something useful.

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  9. I live in Utica now, I am a graduated of Hinds in Utica, still kind of new to the area,but love the peace and quite in our small town...

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  10. Tracy Hughes LiddellMay 27, 2016 at 11:14 PM

    My mom attended Utica elementary/high school. She graduated in 1955. Freida Traxler Hughes Germany. �� I grew up in Utica, but went to Rebul Academy.

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  11. Utica should really open this school back up put something into it education wise summer is here. Prepare it for next summer for kids to still learn and be refreshed on things. I would love to see this happen

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  12. As were many, I was pulled out of Utica in 1967, I think, when desegregation was announced an went to one of the new rural private schools that formed back then. I was in third grade with Mrs. Rowe. Can't remember her son's name (maybe Warren), but he was very tall and she would have him come in once in a while to intimidate us. It was all in fun. I came back to Utica High School in my 10th grade year and ultimately graduated from there in 1976. At that time, my senior class had about 5 whites out of a total of 63 graduates. I have lots of fond memories. I still find myself chanting Goldwaves cheers sometimes. It is very sad to let the building go to ruin, just as it was very sad that fear set it on a collision course with failure back in 1967.

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  13. They have a fallout shelter and if anything was to pop off I'm shooting straight towards there doesn't matter how abandon it is...it won't be abandon when I get there

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  14. Do you know if I can get in contact with the owner of this place? I'm a photographer and I would like to take pictures for college

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    1. I assume the City of Utica owns the old school. I cannot advise trespassing, but most people just go and take photographs. Be careful because some of the roof is dangerous.

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