Historic architecture of Mississippi's Gulf coast


Material Information

Historic architecture of Mississippi's Gulf coast
Physical Description:
Mixed Material
Dessauer, Peter F.
Peter F. Dessauer
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the source institution.
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Full Text









AE 683





This notebook is a compilation of information

from five basic sources (listed in the Bibliography)

which concern the History, Culture, and Architecture

of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

It is my intent in making this collection of

slides, chronologies, and case histories of individual

buildings to produce a readily available reference of

the historic architecture of the Mississippi Gulf

Coast. Such would assist future students in the

Preservation option who have an interest in Gulf

Coast Architecture and who might wish to pursue a

project in this area- either a graphic representation

of the Mississippi Gulf Architecture or further

research to complete in more detail what is already

included herein.

Peter F. Dessauer






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Crocker, Mary Wallace, Historic Architecture in Mississippi,
University and College Press of Mississippi, Jackson,
1973; p.p. 89-104


Ocean Springs


The Gulf Coast is known for its favorable climate and good fishing
rather than for excellent farm land. Therefore, instead of stately man-
sions, there are more modest homes designed to take advantage of the
coastal location. This area was first settled by Frenchmen, then Span-
iards. Reminders of this early period are street names and several

FRENCH HOUSE Slides 20,21,22
According to local historians, the French House may have been
constructed as early as 1737 when Biloxi was settled by the French. The
one-and-a-half-story painted brick structure has a front portico sup-

French House Slide 21

ported by four pillars joined by a decorative iron grill. The facade
features an asymmetrical entry with French doors. The fenestrations
are emphasized by heavy wooden shutters that can be closed for protec-
tion. Iron bracing beams, used for construction stability, can be
identified from the exterior by the S-shaped design near the attic.
The original floor plan consisted of four rooms on the main floor, a
cellar, and one room upstairs that was accessible via an outside

SPANISH HOUSE Slides 23,24
The stalwart, colonial structure on West Water Street is believed to
have been constructed for a Spanish army captain who was sent to
Biloxi as commanding officer when the West Florida Territory came
under Spanish dominion. The house is constructed with brick walls
of from twelve to fifteen inches in thickness. White sand was poured

Spanish House 24

Old Brick House


between the bricks for insulation. Oyster-shell cement plaster was used
to stucco the exterior walls. The stepped roof was sheathed with
cypress boards, then covered with slate. Details concerning the original
balcony were revealed when a frame porch was removed in recent
years. The balcony was thirty inches deep and extended the width of
the building.
The original floor plan consisted of seven rooms. The ceiling height
for the four rooms on the first floor is ten feet, and the second floor
ceiling height is eight feet. The interior walls are plaster on brick with
cypress used for mantels and doors. The floors are of random-width

The Old Brick House on East Bay View Avenue has been the
restoration project for the city and garden clubs of Biloxi.

Mr. De'Buys from New Orleans had this raised cottage built for his
daughter Dorsette Richars. The house has brick construction on the
lower level and wood for the upper floor. The original steps at the
front were probably like the board ones at the rear of the house,

Ralph Wood House paneled ceiling

Ralph Wood House Slide 35

LiIIuS house
Slide 30
which are similar to those at Beauvoir. Note the outside stairway on the
back gallery that leads to the upper floor (Photo). An unusual interior
feature is the paneled ceiling in the central hallway (Photo).

The Gillis House was damaged by Hurricane Camille in 1969 and will
probably be demolished. The architectural style is interesting because
of the recessed porches on three sides and the broad eaves examples
of how local weather conditions can influence building styles. The eaves
helped to shade the house to keep it cool, while the porches provided a
place to sit to enjoy the prevailing breezes. The porch on the west
(left) side has an outside stairway that leads to the upper floor.

Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, attended services held
in this small chapel. When the more imposing Church of the Redeemer
was constructed in front of the chapel, the Jefferson Davis family pew

Church of the Redeemer: Slides 32,33

Episcopal Chapel


was moved to the new church. In 1969 Hurricane Camille destroyed
the Church of the Redeemer, except for the bell tower. The chapel,
which had been converted to the parish house, is now the church once

WOODLAWN Philbrick House; Slides 25,26,27,28,29
Although scarred by the destructive forces of Hurricane Camille,
Woodlawn is still one of the most elegant structures in the South. The
beauty of the mid-nineteenth century building is enhanced by the
setting of live oak trees and a Gulf of Mexico frontage.
The original floor plan of Woodlawn was typical of those in southern
Louisiana: one room deep, three rooms wide and two or three stories
high. Each room on the first and second floors had windows and doors
that opened onto the front and back galleries. The two main rooms on
the principal floor had marble mantels and parquet floors. Before

Woodlawn Philbrick; Slide 26


Camille, a decorative outside stairway could be seen rising from the
right side of the lower portico, changing directions midway before
ascending to the second level.
In the early 1900s, the back gallery was enclosed for use as a kitchen
and dining room. The original kitchen and servant quarters are located
in the rear yard and compliment the main house. The house was built
for Mr. T. C. Toledano.

BEAUVOIR Slides 47,48,49,50,51,52,53,54
Beauvoir is the most historic house on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,
since it was the last home of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the
Confederacy. The house and accompanying cottages are maintained
today as southern shrines.
Beauvoir is a raised cottage which is much larger than it appears in
photographs. The house was constructed in 1852 by James Brown, a
planter from Madison County, Mississippi. Local weather conditions
probably influenced Mr. Brown in designing the new house. For
example, a raised cottage allowed breezes to flow under the house to
cool the floors. Long spacious galleries helped to shade the house and

Slide 48


eauvoir-- front parlor

Beauvoir door detail
Slide 51
provide a comfortable place for sitting. The floor plan features a central
hallway that welcomed breezes from the Gulf of Mexico. Cross ventila-
tion was encouraged by floor-length windows on the outside walls.
The two back wings project from each side of the house instead of
standing directly behind the front section of the house (which contains
the central hallway with two rooms opening on each side). By having
the left wing (composed of two bedrooms) project to the left and the
right wing (composed of the dining room and butler's pantry) project
to the right, a view of the Gulf, as well as the opportunity to receive
coastal breezes, is provided.
Mr. Brown needed a big house. Not only did he and his wife have
eleven children, but Mrs. Brown had two sisters who lived with them.'
Three buildings accompanied the main house. A four-room cottage,
located behind the principal house, was occupied by the Browns while
the big house was constructed. This .building was later used for the
kitchen and servants' quarters. Two smaller cottages are located on the
front lawn. The building to the west was used as a guest cottage, while
the building to the east was Mr. Brown's office and the children's
The bulk of the construction was probably executed by Mr. Brown's
laborers from the Madison County plantation. For the finer work, how-
ever, carpenters and decorators from New Orleans were imported.2 The
style of the doorway with its abundance of oval glass panes is unique.
The design was probably influenced by the setting of the house -
overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
Other unusual features incorporated in the house were the ceiling


frescoes and the rounded corners in the central hallway and parlors.
The frescoes have been attributed to a German artist named Meuhler,.
After Brown's death, the house was sold to Frank Johnston of Jackson
(May, 1873), who sold it to Mrs, Sarah A. Dorsey (July, 1873). Mrs.
Dorsey, originally from Natchez, named the house Beauvoir, which
means beautiful view,
In 1877 Jefferson Davis came to the coast to relax and to write about
his experiences. He was invited by Mrs, Dorsey (a friend of Mrs. Davis,
who was also from Natchez) to stay at Beauvoir, He rented the east
cottage and began writing The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Govern-
ment and A Short History of the. Confederate States,
During his second year of residency, Mr. Davis contracted to buy
Beauvoir. Six months after the first payment was made, Mrs. Dorsey
died leaving a will dated the previous year that made Jefferson Davis
heir to the house. Mr. Davis lived at Beauvoir for twelve years.
After Davis' death in 1889, the property passed to his daughter
Winnie. At her death (1898) the house became the property of her
mother. Because of failing health and insufficient funds Mrs. Davis
sold the house in 1902 to the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate
Veterans with the condition that it be used as a home for former Con-
federate soldiers and sailors, their wives and widows, orphans, and
slaves, as long as there was a need. Mrs. Davis wanted Beauvoir to be
a memorial to Jefferson Davis and his family. By 1940 the need for
maintaining the home for Confederate soldiers and their families had
diminished; hence, Beauvoir was converted into a Jefferson Davis
The house is in good condition today and furnished with many pieces
used by the Davises. The front portion of the ground floor is used for a
Davis Museum. Beauvoir is truly a historic house because of its style
of architecture, its construction, and its previous occupants.

the same as slide 50

Ocean Springs

Who designed the two bungalows and the octagonal cottage located
on East Beach in Ocean Springs Louis Sullivan or Frank Lloyd
Wright? There will probably never be a definite answer to that question.
Sullivan wrote that "He planned for two shacks or bungalows, 300 feet
apart, with stables far back; also a system of development requiring
years for fulfillment."4 Sullivan's biographer Willard Connely wrote
"... they [Sullivan and James Charnley] put their plans, rapidly con-
ceived and sketched as only Sullivan could produce them, into the
hands of a local builder."" According to Hugh Morrison, "Sullivan
designed two bungalows, one for himself and one for the Charnleys,
about a hundred yards apart with stables and servants' quarters set
far back in the woods. The design of all the buildings was very simple,
Sullivan's aim being to make them as inconspicuous as possible in their

Charnley Bungalow and octagonal guest cottage


forest surroundings. The construction was left to a local carpenter.
The cottages at Ocean Springs became Sullivan's most-loved home, and
for eighteen years he visited them frequently for recreation and the
inspiration which he found in a close communion with nature."6 Frank
Lloyd Wright, however, in his biography of Sullivan entitled The
Genius and the Mobocracy, wrote "He remained away for six weeks at
Ocean Springs, Mississippi in the country house I had designed for
him." He further commented, "The master was working away in his
rose garden down there at Biloxi by the Gulf, next door to his beloved
friends the James Charnleys for whom I had drawn a cottage which I
liked better than lieber-meister's. Both were experiments that seem
tame enough now."7 Manson in Frank Lloyd Wright to 1910 questions
who designed the cottages and leans toward Wright." Henry Russell
Hitchcock' attributes the buildings to Wright in his book In the Nature
of Materials 1887-1901 as do Kaufman and Raeburn in their publication
Frank Lloyd Wright: Writings and Buildings.10 Storrer will also name
Wright as the designer in his forthcoming publication The Architecture
of Frank Lloyd Wright, A Complete Catalog." If the question of who
designed the Sullivan cottages is never answered definitely, we know
that they were designed by either of two very famous architects.
Sullivan, considered by many to be the founder of modern architec-
ture, was a partner in the firm Adler and Sullivan in Chicago from 1879
to 1895. The firm's reputation was definitely established after the con-
struction of the Auditorium Building in Chicago 1887-1889. Sullivan,
however, became weary from the strain of the important commission.
He went to California to relax but found the climate unsuitable. After
experiencing a minor earthquake in San Diego he exited immediately
for New Orleans where he met friends from Chicago, Mr. and Mrs.
James Charnley. Sullivan was displeased with the "filthy conditions" of
New Orleans. The Charnleys asked him to go with them to a little ham-
let about eighty miles eastward. The exhausted architect enjoyed the
natural beauty along the way to the eastern shore of Biloxi Bay. He was
delighted with the town which he described as follows:
With daylight there revealed itself an undulating village all in bloom in
softest sunshine, the gentle sparkle of the waters of a bay land-locked
by Deer Island; a village sleeping as it had slept for generations with
untroubled surface; a people soft-voiced, unconcerned, easy going, in-
dolent; the general store, the post office, the barber shop, the meat
market, on Main Street, sheltered by ancient live oaks; the saloon near
the depot, the one-man jail in the middle of the street back of the depot;
shell roads in the village, wagon trails leading away into the hummock
land; no "enterprise," no "progress," no booming for a "Greater Ocean
Springs," no factories, no anxious faces, no glare drummers, no white-
staked lonely subdivisions. Peace, peace and the joy of comrades, the
lovely nights of sea breeze, black pool of the sky oversprinkled with
stars brilliant and uncountable.
Continuing, speaking of himself in the third person, Sullivan states:
"Here in this haven, this peaceful quiescence, Louis's nerves, long taut
with insomnia, yielded and renewed their life. In two weeks he was well
and sound."'2
The Chicago visitors were contacted by Newcomb Clark, a trans-
planted former Speaker of the House in his home state of Michigan who


*was living in Ocean Springs for his health. Clark offered to show them
some property he would like to sell because "my wife is lonely so far
from town; we need neighbors more than trees."13 Clark showed his
property to the Charnleys and Sullivan. Sullivan wrote that he lost his
wits when he saw "immense rugged short-leaved pines, sheer eighty
feet to their stiff gnarled crowns, graceful swamp pines, very tall, deli-
cately plumed; slender vertical loblolly pines in dense masses; patriar-
chal sweet gums and black gums with their younger broods; maples,
hickories, myrtles; in the undergrowth, dogwoods, Halesias, sloe plums,
buckeyes and azaleas, all in a riot of bloom; a giant magnolia and
grandiflora near the front all grouped and arranged as though by the
hand of an unseen poet.""14
James Charnley bought fifteen acres from Newcomb Clark for $750
cash on March 1, 1890.1" Sullivan purchased six acres in the same sec-
tion from Mr. and Mrs. Florian Schaffter of New Orleans. He paid $800
on March 7, 1890.'1 Three days later he acquired from Charnley five
more acres that adjoined his property for the sum of $1. According to
biographer Connely, Charnley was willing to buy the land if Sullivan
would design a bungalow for each of them.17 Whether Sullivan designed
the houses for his newly found dreamland or whether he left this up to
his draftsman in Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright, seems to be an unan-
swerable question. A local builder was responsible for the construction.
The bungalows are T-shaped, shingled structures with steep roofs
and long galleries to fend against the sun. The designs for the bungalows
are very similar with the elongated front part ending with bay windows
for cross ventilation in the bedrooms as well as a view of the Biloxi
Bay. The bedrooms are separated by a wide center hall that was used
as a comfortable living-dining area. The rear wing contained a hall, a
pantry and the kitchen. The wing terminated with an octagonal tower
that was used for the tank water supply before the artesian well was
dug. The bungalows were probably completed in 1890 or early 1891 at
the latest since Sullivan visited his new haven when he came to New
Orleans to check on the construction of the Illinois Central Station.
An octagonal guest cottage was built for the Charnleys between the
bungalows. Servants' quarters, stables, and elaborate rose gardens were
completed by June, 1905, since they appeared in an article "The Home
of an Artist-Architect" written by Lyndon Smith for The Architectural
Record."8 The major emphasis of the article is on the landscaping since
Sullivan had developed extensive rose gardens containing approxi-
mately a hundred varieties, Both he and his wife Margaret were photo-
graphed in various garden settings..
Sullivan's career began to decline after his partnership with Adler
was dissolved. Sullivan and his wife reduced their style of living in
Chicago but continued to make trips South whenever possible. Event-
ually money was not available to finance the trips or pay for gardeners
to maintain the roses. On August 24, 1905, Sullivan obtained a $5000
loan from Gustav Hottinger, owner of a tile company in Chicago. He
pledged his Ocean Springs property for collateral, Sullivan was to repay
the money in five years with a five percent per annum service charge.1"
Before the fifth year expired, Hottinger bought the Sullivan property
in toto on May 1, 1910, for $8500.20 Sullivan commented, "After eighteen


years of tender care, the paradise, the poem of spring, Sullivan's other
self, was wrecked by a wayward West Indies hurricane."21
The Hottinger family owned the property for thirty-three years. On
March 6, 1943, William G. Nichols of Birmingham, Alabama, became
the owner of Sullivan's former paradise.22 After Mr. Nichols' death
the property was acquired by Monsignor Gregory R. Kennedy and his
sister Miss Kathleen Kennedy on April 5, 1968. The Kennedys altered
the structure by adding a room to the front of the house. They enclosed
the property with a chain link fence. Today there are no roses. Suffice
it to say the character of the house and grounds have changed consider-
ably and no longer fit the description provided by Lyndon Smith,
The Charnleys kept their Ocean Springs property for six years and
then sold it to Lizzie W. Norwood, also of Chicago. The house burned
but was rebuilt following the original plans. The only change made in the
house was the interior walls were finished with beautiful curly pine.2"
In 1911 the Norwoods sold the property which continued to change
hands several times and was once used briefly as a night club before
Mr. Leslie C. Wiswell of Chicago rescued the house. The Wiswells
removed the paint and beer posters from the curly pine walls. They also
enlarged the narrow porch on the east side of the rear wing.
After Mr. Wiswell died, Mrs. Wiswell sold the property to Mr. and
Mrs. Stanley P. Ruddiman in two parts with the first transaction
occurring July 12, 1954, and the second June 1, 1963.24 The present
owners are the sons of Stanley Ruddiman who purchased the property
from their parents. Mr. and Mrs. Edsel Ruddiman own and occupy the
bungalow while Mr. Bill Ruddiman has the guest cottage.

Several writers have attributed the design of St. John's Episcopal
Church to Louis Sullivan. Willard Connely wrote that Sullivan designed
the unassuming church without a steeple. Local residents decided the
church looked too much like a chapel; therefore, after Sullivan left
town, they added the steeple.25 Other critics of Sullivan's work have
not mentioned the Episcopal Church.
The church records indicate that the design for the church was
obtained from a church magazine. Further research is needed to identify
the source for the design of the picturesque structure.

St. John's Episcopal Church
Slide 16


The little town of Gautier, located on the west bank of the Pascagoula
River between Biloxi and Pascagoula, has two interesting houses: Old
Place Plantation House and Oldfields.

The French cottage was designed and constructed (1856) by Fer-
nando Upton Gautier for his wife, to last "as long as his love." The
house is distinctly French, with its slender colonettes and broad gal-
leries surrounding the house. French doors, especially adaptable for
the coastal climate, were used on each corner of the house. When the
windows and ten doors are open, breezes flow easily through the house.
The floorplan for the house is unusual, with the double parlors being
a long room that separates four bedrooms. A breezeway connects the

Old Place Plantation House
house to a similar building, with a hip roof and spacious galleries,
which contains the kitchen and dining room. The kitchen is one of the
most authentic kitchens in the state, with its many antique utensils and
a massive fireplace. One is reminded that the occupants were French
when the labels on the canisters are read. The spacious dining room has
a punkah over the dining room table.
Gautier's Plantation House has always belonged to the Gautier family,
and it still contains the original, very fine quality furnishings. The
house is open to the public.

OLDFIELDS Slides 13,14
Oldfields, which is similar in style to The Briars in Natchez, was
built by Mr. Alfred Lewis who owned vast acreage in the area. The
house is located on a bluff overlooking the Pascagoula River. Many
windows and doors open onto the eighty-five foot gallery. The second
floor has a spacious ballroom.


LONGFELLOW HOUSE Bellevue Slides 7, 8,9,10
Longfellow House, also known as Bellevue and Pollock Place, is a
mid-nineteenth-century house with an exposed stuccoed basement. The
house contains black marble mantels, ceilings decorated with plaster
medallions, and a spiral stairway. The house was constructed for a
Mr. and Mrs. Graham, slave traders from New Orleans.
The house, once used for a girls' school, has had a long list of owners,
including people from Maine, Missouri, Louisiana, and Moss Point and
Greenville, Mississippi. W. A. Pollock, a planter and banker of Green-
ville and New Orleans owned the house for the longest period of time,
1902-1938. The house is now owned by Ingalls Shipbuilding Corpora-
tion and is used as a tourist resort.
Legend has it that the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, staying at
Bellevue shortly after it was constructed, was inspired to write the
poem "The Building of the Ship," which contains the reference "from
Pascagoula's sunny bay." The house is known today as the Longfellow


Longfellow House
Slide 7


Spanish Fort

Slide 2

The oldest building featured in this publication is known as the Old
Spanish Fort (1718) which is a misnomer since the building was prob-
ably constructed by Joseph Simon de la Pointe, a French Naval Officer
who came to the Gulf Coast with D'Iberville and Bienville in 1699.
Around 1730 a German named Hugo Ernestus Krebs came to the area
and later married de la Pointe's daughter, Marie Josephine. Hence the
Spanish Fort is sometimes referred to as Krebs Fort. The Spanish Fort
title was appropriate around 1766 when the Spaniards moved into
Pascagoula to take over from the British who had taken over from the
French six years previously. After the Spanish Fort was used as a
military post it later became a residence. Since 1949 the building has
been maintained as a museum by the Jackson County Historical Society.
The National Park Service was responsible for having measured
drawings made of the building in 1940. The data sheet indicates the
oldest part of the building (the central section) is built of cypress and
cedar frame filled in with oyster shell cement. The first addition was
built on the east side utilizing oyster shell cement again. The room on
the west end however, is frame filled with a bouzillage of clay and
moss. The National Park surveyors concluded: "This structure is prob-



ably the oldest by some years of any standing between the Appala-
chians and the Rocky Mountains, It is a great archaeological curiosity
and a unique survival from the earliest period of Gulf Coast coloniza-
In 1971 the Spanish Fort was listed on the National Register of
Historic Places, The Jackson County Historical Society has studied the
history of the building and has obtained appropriate relics for the

According to the Jackson County Genealogical Society, the Frederic
House was built in 1829 by Louis Augustus Frederic, a Frenchman, who
was twice knighted for bravery by Napoleon Bonaparte. Frederic's med-

S' .. l 'A 1. ,,-..... .
Frederic House -original section behind 1895 addition
als are housed in the Spanish Fort museum. In Pascagoula, Frederic was
the postmaster and schoolmaster.
The Frederic house is at the rear of the 1895 addition. The original
structure contains four downstairs rooms with a center hallway. One
large room, which was the schoolroom, is upstairs. The first shutters
were solid instead of slatted.


1. Martha Bassett, "History of Beauvoir, 1949-1969," M.A. thesis, University of
Southern Mississippi, 1970.
2. Gulf Coast Chapters of the Mississippi Division United Daughters of the
Confederacy, Benuvoir-Jefferson Davis Shrine (1968), p. 3.
3. Ibid., p. 14.
4. Louis H. Sullivan, The Autobiography of An Idea (New York: W. W. Norton &
Company, Inc. 1924), p. 297.
5. William Connely, Louis Sullivan As He Lived (New York: Horizon Press, Inc.
1960), p. 125.


6. 'Hugh Morrison, Louis Sullivan (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.,
1962), p. 112.
7. Frank Lloyd Wright, The Genius and the Mobocracy (New York: Horizon
Press, 1949), p. 67.
8. Grant Carpenter Manson, Frank Lloyd Wright to 1910 (New York: Reinhold
Publishing Corporation, 1958), pp. 24-25.
9. Henry Russell Hitchcock, In the Nature of Materials-The Buildings of Frank
Lloyd Wright, 1887-1941 (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1942), p. 108.
10. Edgar Kaufmann and Ben Raeburn, Frank Lloyd Wright: Writings and Build-
ings (New York: Horizon Press, 1960), p. 335.
11. William Allin Storrer, personal letter to Margaret Steelman, February 15, 1971.
12. Sullivan, p. 295.
13. Ibid., p. 296.
14. Ibid., p. 297.
15. Jackson County, Mississippi, Warranty Deed Book, number 11, p. 13.
16. Jackson County, Mississippi, Warranty Deed Book, number 11, p. 44.
17. Connely, p. 125.
18. Lyndon Smith, "The Home of an Artist Architect," The Architectural Record,
June, 1905.
19. Jackson County, Mississippi, Deed of Trust Book, number 2, pp. 143-144.
20. Jackson County, Mississippi, Warranty Deed Book, number 35, pp. 600-602.
21. Sullivan, p. 297.
22. Jackson County, Mississippi, Warranty Deed Book, number 82, pp. 481-483.
23. Ray Thompson, "East Beach of Ocean Springs Takes a Bow," Know Your
Coast, July 29, 1957, p. 2.
24. Jackson County, Mississippi, Warranty Deed Book, number 234, p. 537.
25. Connely, p. 239.