The Waveland School

The museum’s home – the historic Waveland Elementary School – is actually an exhibit itself. The only building left standing on Coleman Avenue after the unprecedented rage of Hurricane Katrina, it’s been artfully restored to the highest historic standards.

postcard of the school from the 1940’s

After Katrina and in 2009 after the restoration was completed

salvaged bricks, 2007

the building’s floor plan

Coleman Avenue is the historic main street of Waveland, and the Old School, built in 1927, was the only historic structure left standing after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. The building is on the National Trust and is a designated Mississippi Landmark, the highest form of recognition of significance that the state can bestow on a building.

The first phase of renovations began in 2000 to stabilize the building envelope. Additional work was required after 2005 due to storm surge and the resulting eight-foot waterline – which is now marked with red tape along the hallway of the museum. Project architects were John and Allison Anderson, of unabridged Architecture. As former residents of the Coleman Ave. neighborhood, the architects brought a unique sensitivity to the restoration process.

Renovations of the 7500 square foot building included salvage of historic materials, removal of the non-historic gable roof, restoration of electrical and mechanical systems, finishes, and structural hardening of the brick masonry and foundation. The work was completed in 2009.

Unfortunately, in the hot, humid climate of the south, the flat roof required tremendous maintenance. In order to stop the leaks, a City crew installed a metal gable roof in the late 1980’s. The new roof established a broad gable end wall facing the primary wind direction, and during the hurricane, the additional surface area transferred forces to the unreinforced brick wall below, crumbling one wing of the building. Storm surge pushed floors into skateboard ramps from below. The remaining walls were shored against further movement. Materials were salvaged from on-site, and replacement bricks were sourced from brickyards.

The restored structure is more resilient to weathering and lateral forces. A new perimeter foundation extends deeper than the original foundations to deter scouring. The crawl space is ventilated above a new slab to minimize moisture from underneath. Additional lateral strengthening was accomplished with steel columns bolted into the masonry walls with enlarged footing supports.

The structure was restored to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, with input and funding from FEMA Historic Preservation Team, the Association of Preservation Technology volunteers, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Historic material testing provided a match for the original brick, as only 12,000 bricks were salvaged and 15,000 more were needed. New bricks match the original size, color, absorption, and density. Mortar also was matched to the original lime putty, including horsehair.

Interior colors were established through scanning electron microscope of plaster samples to determine the historic colors. One section of the original plaster was left intact at the front entrance – a true artifact of rough beauty. The ornamental metal ceiling of the auditorium was replaced using molds from the fragile pieces of corroded metal remaining after the storm.

Only a few of the original wood doors were located after the storm, including the front doors and transom, now repaired. No original double-hung windows remain. Windows were replaced in renovations in 2000 with aluminum–clad wood windows to match original lites and muntin patterns.

The Civic Center is an anchor for the restored Coleman Avenue, a symbol of community resilience, and is designed to weather the next storm with even greater strength.