The Pink Apartments

Growing up we called them the “pink apartments”, something unique to the architecture of the neighborhood and an attraction to passersby throughout Belhaven.

The two apartment complexes at 1204 and 1214 Kenwood Place were built in 1938 by Jackson architect James T. (Jack) Canizaro. They have been the home of hundreds of tenants over seven decades spanning three generations of Jacksonians. The apartments rest quietly behind a façade of crepe myrtle and magnolia trees, cool and shady and adjacent to the old Kennington property, which gave their street its name. The pink apartments have no prenomen, but have a great story to tell. No one can tell it better than Bob Canizaro, son of the original designer, who grew up there in the building’s early years.

Mr. Canizaro, an architect himself, lives in Evanston, IL. He grew up in Belhaven with a loving family and great friends surrounded by post-war Jackson and those wondrous times we refer to as the greatest generation. This is his story as told to Bill Harvey, a neighbor from just up Manship Street. 

“The stork arrived at Baptist Hospital on Christmas Eve 1938 and quickly moved me to 1110 N. Jefferson Street, a four-plex that stands today. My architect dad (James T. Canizaro), announced my arrival in a series of blue prints complete with maps, plans and schedules. My first gift from him was a football, which I never played with much myself, but I enjoyed following my favorite teams. These were Notre Dame and Central and St. Joseph High Schools in Jackson. My family moved into the 1204 Kenwood Place building when it was completed in 1939.

The tri-plex apartments were a joint effort with a cousin, Emile Cavallo, a civil engineer. Jack and Emile decided to construct our two buildings so they each could live in one unit and have an income from the other two. Mr. Cavello had been in business for a while and could stake the effort for my dad since he was just getting started in his career.  Apartments were not new to the neighborhood although the architectural design was unique. I never heard any negative complaints except from his mom, Rosa Pantoliano Canizaro.  She felt it lacked a proper front porch where you could rock and talk to the people on the sidewalk. Traditions vary but hospitality remains the same.

I lived and grew up at 1204, until I was 18, then went to Notre Dame, my dad’s alma mater. Many tenants came and went in our apartment building. There was a Dutch couple, Col. And Mrs. Von Oven who lived there during World War II. He was in the Royal Dutch Air Force in training at Hawkins Field. The Dutch flyboys were notorious for their antics in downtown Jackson, often flying low down Capitol Street and waving at the girls in the high-rise office buildings. A woman who worked for us heard a loud noise one day and looked out the kitchen door on the front of the building and saw the Colonel flying down Kenwood Place. No small wonder we won the war!

Col. Lyon Brandon and his wife lived in our building on the Manship side after the war. He worked for the American Legion, traveled around the world and brought me matchbook covers that made a fine collection. I was fond of a tenant named McGehee. He and I were regulars at the old Jackson Senators baseball games at the fairgrounds. We were close to Dr. Estelle Maguria who lived in our middle apartment. After she left, William Fulton, former director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting moved in.

Tenants in our building were generally professional people. The interior and exterior of our home lent itself to the enjoyment of a boy growing up in the times – plenty of room in the back yard, high ceilings, a banister to slide down, my own room, a hill in front to navigate on cardboard sheets and visits to nearby stores for ice cream and comic books. I could walk or ride my bike to school. My dad raised chickens on the back porch and there were endless nearby places to explore. My dad had his architecture studio in a building in the rear yard until the 1960’s. After that it was used by my mother, a recognized Mississippi artist, for a studio. later I made it into an apartment.

My sister Jean Trigiani  lived in the end apartment in 1966 when the rent was $95 a month. She is now Mrs. Jean Enochs.  She remembers when she and her good friend Tine, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Wright grew up together. Tine, who is now Tine Wright Purdy of Huntsville, AL, lived with her family in the 1000 block of Manship Street. She and Jean would play together at their homes or at the Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home where Tine’s father was a partner. Sometimes when the girls needed someone to talk to – maybe on a childhood problem, they would call one another and agree to meet halfway between their residences on a Manship Street curb to talk it over. Having the Baptist Hospital close by proved convenient as I visited the emergency room often with my dad for sprains and stitches. My wife, Beth rescued a brick from the old hospital for me as a memento of those days when the hospital and Jackson were a little smaller.

My good friends in the Kenwood/Manship neighborhood were Fred and John Reimers, John Harley Walsh, Robert Stockett, Kirby Walker, Jr. Guy Lowe, John Potter, Gilmer Spivey, Bernard Meltzer, Tupper and Doug Drane and Howard Shannon. Our family was friends with the Bufords, the Millers, the Wrights, the Harrises, Granthams and Garrisons. This area produced a golf foursome (Reimers, Walsh, Spivey, Canizaro) during our high school and college years. Along streets a little farther a-field, the friends I can remember were Thad McLauren, Rip Pritchard, Jim Herring, Donald McGehee, Bill Bates, George Wilkinson, Bob Thompson, Jim Evans,  Robert Taylor, John Deweese and Ricky Rothenberg.” Older Jacksonians will remember many of these prominent names.

I recall meeting  kids from the neighborhood at Mrs. Downing’s kindergarten on the corner of Poplar and Jefferson. Most of my schooling was at St Joseph, but I spent three wonderful years at the original Power Elementary School at Pinehurst and North State.

My family had a farm in Madison County where I spent most weekends riding horses and making a bit of trouble for the farm manager.  Robert Stockett  (Stockett Stables) and I rode a lot and entered horse shows at the State Fairgrounds. Our farm was a Hereford cattle ranch back then but there were many other types of animals and crops. I later helped care for the chickens, pigs and goats and harvest grain and hay.

I did found time to play ball on the Reimers ‘back forty’; engage in a game of kick the can along the intersection of Kenwood and Manship; and hope, in winter, to get enough snow  to sled down our gentle hills each season. I do remember the 1100 block of Manship was gravel – not conventional gravel, but crushed limestone like they use along railroad tracks.

My friends and I would have rubber gun wars on the “big ditch” on Poplar, which is now Belhaven Park. We would ‘play out’ in the evenings, catch lightning bugs and watch the mosquito sprayer go up and down the nearby streets. I loved model (electric) trains, as did most kids of my era. Freddie Reimers had a miniature rail yard in one of his family’s out buildings and I spent hours playing there. On summer nights, before air conditioning, I would lie awake and listen to real trains switching on the old GM & O yard. My sister also remembers the train cars banging day and night on the tracks over by St. Ann Street. They would make loud noises to the point it got to be sort of a joke.

We could also hear the starting whistle at the Buckeye Oil Mill on Fortification and trains on the Illinois Central line along Mill Street when the wind was from the west.   I remember in the early morning the calls of the vegetable vendors who would peddle their wares on carts throughout the neighborhood. ‘ Fresh shell butterbeans and peas’, they would cry. ‘Okra, corn, tomatoes’. At dawn when the air was still, my sister could hear the lions and elephants at the zoo. I cut grass, worked on the farm, subbed on John Harley’s paper route for money to spend at Cain’s Drugstore (later Parkins Pharmacy) on the corner of Fortification and Jefferson and for a fudgesicle at Shady Nook.

Like so many sons, I owe much of my good times and success to my family. My father, James T. Canizaro, was born in Vicksburg of Italian immigrant parents. He studied architecture at Notre Dame (1928) and worked in Chicago for Graham Anderson, Propst and White. He spent a year in Europe during the Depression studying  Art Nouveau, Bauhaus and Art Deco architectural designs. After a short stay in Washington, DC, he moved to Jackson in 1936. He had just married Helene Host of Lake Geneva, WI. She said many times she married an architect because she did not want to marry a Wisconsin farmer. There was probably a bit more to it than that. She became a Tennessee Walking Horse fan and enjoyed the farm almost every weekend.

My father’s first design projects began in 1937. He preferred the Modernism he had seen in Europe, but was not able to sell that concept to many clients in Mississippi. The Kenwood Place apartments were finished in 1939 and were his original inventive concept of what he had observed on trips to Europe and Miami. It has been described as Art Moderne. He also told me he had admired then current architecture in Southern California. He had a chance to try his ideas on work in Oxford, Mississippi for a local apartment developer.  He did other projects during those years in Oxford (City Hall) and Natchez (Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co.) making him spend a lot of time on gravel roads observing construction. In Jackson, he worked on designs for residences, the City Court, St. Dominic Hospital, the Pix (now Capri) Theater, Farish Street Baptist Church, Christ the King Church, St. Mary’s School, Sally Reynolds School, the JSU cafeteria, the apartments currently at 1005 Popular Blvd., Trustmark Bank (First National) and many other local and state institutions.

My dad had a real hill to climb to prove himself given his ethnic heritage. Because of his talent, charming personality and generosity with his time he was successful. He provided leadership in many of the local cultural, social, religious and charitable organizations. Among these were the Little Theater, where my dad was in some plays, the Jackson Symphony, the Art Association, Magnolia Speech School, Good Samaritan Center, St. Vincent De Paul Society and the Catholic Diocese. My dad died in the Kenwood Place Apartment building in 1984 and my mother moved to St. Catherine’s in 1989. I sold the property to Holden Clark in the early 90’s and he sold it to Waddell Nejam a few years later.”

We see without seeing so many lifetimes in Belhaven.  We admire its eclectic structures whose casement windows reflect the sunlight of a peaceful afternoon. We walk along sidewalks built a half-century ago, half covered now with grass but still a pathway for new parents of children in strollers and pets hopefully on leashes on their way to a walk in Belhaven Park. We take the rugged oaks, like the innocence of our youth, for granted and admire the newer trees and plants in well-kept yards. We share the tranquility, which has always been there, the tenants and lives forgotten or just beginning. The pink apartments stand guard over our past and future. Their legacy is who we are. Thank you Jack and Bob Canizaro for just one more reason why Belhaven is special and a historical treasure to all who know and love it.

 

Robert (Bob) H. Canizaro FAIA is married to Dr. Beth Chihan Canizaro, the founder and Principal of Davis Magnet School, has two sons (Mark and Paul) and lives in Evanston, Illinois.  He is a former principal in the architectural firm, Canizaro, Cawthorn and Davis in Jackson. His resume includes courthouses, hospitals, laboratories, churches, offices, retail shops, residences, schools and a major airport. He has been honored with design awards by members of his profession for many of these works and has a long list of professional memberships and achievements including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mississippi AIA.  He enjoys living in Evanston, far enough from the traffic of the big city but near enough to enjoy the cultural and gastronomic amenities of the urban environment. He maintains a number of contacts in Mississippi and visits Jackson often.

Bob Canizaro and Bill Harvey, September 2012

6 Replies to “The Pink Apartments”

  1. This is a wonderful, informative article. I had always wondered what the story behind the pink apartments was. I have always wanted to see the inside too. Thank you for sharing this with us. We live in such a fabulous historical neighborhood, one to appreciate and work to help preserve.

  2. Belhaven will always be my neighborhood no matter where I live. It’s where I reared my children made lifelong friends and enjoyed that special quality of life that we had during those times. Dorothy Douglas and Leigh would walk or ride their bikes to Parkins where they could and would charge a drink or lunch with Bill’s approval. The pink apartments were especially charming and a bright spot in our special neighborhood called Belhaven.

  3. Myself and people I know have always called it the pink palace. Great article. I live in an apartment building 2 properties down (1025 Poplar) and now I want to know about this building’s history.

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