This post is part of an ongoing series, “Time and Tide: Ten Years after Katrina.” Special thanks to Jennifer Baughn, Historic Preservation Division, for writing this post.
Before Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Waveland on August 29, 2005, Mississippi’s three coastal counties boasted nineteen National Register-listed historic districts and scores of individually listed historic properties. Some of the state’s oldest buildings stood on the waterways of the Gulf Coast, including the de la Pointe-Krebs House (“Old Spanish Fort”) in Pascagoula, perhaps the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley, built in the 1740s; the house known as the Spanish Customs House in Bay St. Louis, dating to the late eighteenth century; and Elmwood Manor on North Beach Boulevard in Bay St. Louis, a raised French Creole structure built in the 1820s with heavy timber framing.
Pass Christian’s Scenic Drive was known as the “Newport of the South” for its mile-long stretch of historic beachfront mansions, many dating to the 1840s and 1850s. Although battered by Hurricane Camille in 1969, this historic district had remained remarkably intact because it stood on a relatively high bluff above the Mississippi Sound. Gulfport and Biloxi’s beachfronts also maintained historic residential sections, including Biloxi’s West Beach Historic District, which stretched for many blocks along Beach Boulevard west of downtown. The antebellum Tullis-Toledano Manor, a two-story galleried Greek Revival brick house, owned by the City of Biloxi, was the star of Beach Boulevard and the host of innumerable public events and weddings. Nearby was the Tivoli Hotel, one of only two hotels from Biloxi’s 1920s boom.
In Ocean Springs, the Shearwater Historic District encompassed the Anderson family’s waterfront compound, best known for the pottery of Peter Anderson and as the residence of Walter Anderson, a nationally recognized artist whose depictions of coastal life and wildlife have inspired generations of artists. Also nationally important was the Sullivan-Charnley Historic District, located on the beach road and comprising only three houses. It was here that Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, “the father of modern architecture,” built his winter vacation home along with his friends the Charnleys—two houses that set residential design on a new path toward openness and light and minimalism.
These beachfront landmarks, along with the bungalow neighborhoods on the inland blocks behind them, had survived many hurricanes, including the strongest hurricane to make landfall, Hurricane Camille, and MDAH’s preservationists went into Hurricane Katrina expecting that most would survive this one too. We were wrong.