South Elementary School (Wynne)
South Elementary School, located at 711 East Union Avenue in Wynne (Cross County), is a single-story, brick-veneered four-room schoolhouse constructed in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era public relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 24, 2006.
In the early part of the twentieth century, white children in Wynne’s segregated school system were attending classes in a 1906 building; in 1928, an elementary school and gymnasium were erected when President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal offered an opportunity for funds for a new school. The school district successfully applied for financing from the WPA to build a new school in the fall of 1938.
The Wynne Daily Star-Progress reported in early 1939 that construction would begin on January 19. The newspaper stated that “the new building will cost approximately $15,000…with the board paying $6,200 and the WPA furnishing the remainder. It will be of brick veneer construction…and will have four classrooms.” Veteran WPA builder W. J. Haltom served as foreman for the project.
Construction was swift, and the Arkansas Gazette reported on June 23 that “the school building was completed in record time, work having started March 1. The NYA [National Youth Administration] will construct 250 arm chair desks of the newest type for use in the building.” The finished building, which became known as South Elementary School, was a single-story brick structure with a T-plan; it was designed in the Plain Traditional style of architecture.
A 1942 fire in the basement furnace room damaged South Elementary School, but the school remained in service until Cross County purchased the entire complex from Wynne School District No. 9 in 1968 to build a new courthouse on the site. The 1906 and 1928 buildings were razed, but South Elementary School was repurposed to house a mental health clinic. In 2005, the county offered the Cross County Historical Society the rent-free use of the building, and it houses the Cross County Museum in the twenty-first century.
For additional information:
Cross County Historical Society. Cross County Arkansas History and Families. Morley, MO: Acclaim Press, 2012.
“Ground Will Be Broken for Unit.” Wynne Daily Star-Progress, January 19, 1939, p. 1.
Hope, Holly. An Ambition to be Preferred: New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933–1943. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 2006. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed June 11, 2020).
James, Elizabeth. “South Elementary School.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/CS0046.nr.pdf (accessed June 11, 2020).
“Work to Start on New Building,” Wynne Daily Star-Progress, January 14, 1939, p. 1.
“WPA Completes Wynne School Building in Record Time.” Arkansas Gazette, June 23, 1939, p. 6.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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