Old Bay St. Louis Historic District

Train DepotTrain Depot

National Register ID: 10000441

Area Of Significance: Social history

Architectural Styles: Late 19th and 20th Century Revivals, Late 19th and early 20th Century American Movements

Period Of Significance: 1850-1874, 1875-1899, 1900-1924, 1925-1949

Date Listed: 7/8/2010

Location: Roughly bounded by Beach Boulevard and 3rd Street on the east, Breath Lane and Highway 90 on the north, Seminary Drive, St. Francis Street, and Old Spanish Trail on the west, and Carre Court, Washington Street, and Bookter Street on the south.
(504 acres, 933 buildings, 4 cemeteries, 2 religious shrines)

Description

The Old Bay St. Louis Historic District is located on a peninsular plateau bounded by the Mississippi Sound, the Bay of St. Louis and the Jourdan River, a large, deep stream that separates the town from the mainland on the north. The land is part of the Coastal Pine Meadows, a wide, flat belt ten to fifteen miles wide that begins to rise gently as it moves away from the shoreline of the Mississippi Sound. Its sandy soils support a wide variety of lush, semi-tropical vegetation, including live oaks, southern magnolias, and saw-palmettos. Sitting at ten to twenty feet above sea level, Bay St. Louis sits at the highest elevation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The bay, a broad expanse of water two miles wide at its mouth, is the town’s most important natural feature. Throughout much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it attracted large numbers of visitors who made it a favorite coastal resort. It was also home to a small group of permanent residents who derived a livelihood from the resort trade or the rich marine life of the bay and the Mississippi Sound.

The district is composed of 504 acres and contains 939 resources, including 681 contributing resources and 258 non-contributing resources (approximately 28 percent). The area includes 933 buildings, four cemeteries, and two religious shrines. One building, the house at 242 St. Charles Street, is individually listed on the National Register. The district includes much of the eastern part of the city located south of U.S. Highway 90 and east of Old Spanish Trail, excluding those blocks near the bay that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Beach Boulevard, which parallels the Bay of St. Louis, forms the primary eastern boundary of the district. On the west the line is more irregular; on State Street the district extends beyond Old Spanish Trail/Dunbar Street, almost to U. S. Highway 90, while at other points it falls short of that thoroughfare. Tucked away from the disjointed, modern commercial development that has grown up along the four-lane U. S. Highway 90 and separated from other coastal communities by a wide expanse of water, Old Bay St. Louis has retained a sense of timelessness and cohesiveness that has been lost in most of the communities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The Beach Boulevard streetscape, clearly visible from the eastern shore of the Bay of St. Louis, has long been the town’s showpiece, a long, winding drive that featured spacious homes, hotels, and businesses. Many of these historic buildings were lost in Hurricane Camille in 1969, while others were swept away by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Those houses that survive, located on North Beach Boulevard between State Street and Bay View Court, form one of the few seaside clusters of grand historic homes remaining on the Mississippi coast. Built mostly between 1860 and 1960, they include Center Hall2 plan houses, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Spanish Revival, and Craftsman style houses. These homes have experienced numerous severe weather events. As a result, their present stylistic appearance frequently reflects the date of the particular storm that required extensive repairs and also documents the remarkable sturdiness of these historic buildings.

On South Beach Boulevard, located south of the rail line that traverses Bay St. Louis from southwest to northeast, are two of the city’s most prominent Catholic institutions. The brick, Romanesque Revival Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church, located at 228 South Beach Boulevard, was opened in 1908 and completed in 1926. Just to the south of the church is St. Stanislaus College, a Catholic day and residency school for boys in grades seven through twelve. Much of this campus was destroyed or heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The remaining historic buildings include the St. Stanislaus Old Gymnasium Building built in 1923 and designed by Diboll & Owens, and the St. Stanislaus School Library and Chapel built in 1930 and designed by New Orleans architect A. S. Montz. Although these buildings are not addressed on South Beach Boulevard, they contribute heavily to the Beach Boulevard historic streetscape.

The Beach Boulevard properties were built on long lots called “arpents,” a system of land division favored by the early French settlers. As the population grew, property owners began to subdivide the land at the rear of their holdings and the town began a gradual expansion to the west. The 100 blocks of Carroll and Ulman Avenues continued the Beach Boulevard parade of elegant homes. These blocks are composed of a wide variety of house styles and types dating from the mid-1890s to the present.

The district includes two commercial areas. The oldest and largest, referred to as “downtown Bay St. Louis,” is centered at Beach Boulevard and Main Street, extending north on Beach Boulevard to State Street and south to the railroad. On Main Street, the business district extends west to Toulme Street. The downtown also includes Court Street, which parallels Main Street on the south, Cue and Gex streets, and Second Street to just south of Court Street and north to State Street. Like many small town commercial districts, it is composed of a broad mix of commercial, residential, governmental, and religious buildings. Over time, many of the houses have been converted to small businesses and professional offices. There are also a number of empty lots - several the result of Hurricane Katrina - that are being transformed into parking lots and community spaces. On Beach Boulevard and on the first blocks of Main Street, a strong core of commercial buildings survives.

Early favored as a coastal resort, the town’s pattern of growth reflected its emphasis on bayside views and cool Gulf breezes. Perhaps as a result, it lacked the courthouse square typical of so many Southern county seats. Instead, the courthouse was located on a wide lot on Main Street, a block west of the bay. The two-story, brick, Neo-Classical style Hancock County Courthouse (152 Main Street) was built in 1910-1911. A large, two-story, brick addition was added to the rear of the building in 2006-2008. Near the courthouse is the modestly styled, brick Art Deco Old Post Office (137 Main Street), built in 1935-1936. A third governmental building, the raised, classically-styled brick City Hall, was constructed on the southern edge of the downtown at 300 South Second Street in 1905-1906.

The 100 block of Main Street includes several Creole Cottages. The 200 block of Main Street is composed mostly of residences that now house a wide variety of restaurants and other small businesses. The downtown commercial district also includes two churches. The frame Gothic Revival Main Street United Methodist Church (162 Main Street) was built in 1895-1897. The First Baptist Church of Bay St. Louis (141 Main Street) was built in 2007-2008 to replace an earlier building destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Fraternal halls are also an important part of the historic downtown. The brick, three-story Classical Revival style Masonic Temple (125 Main Street) was built in 1925-1926. The imposing, two-story, frame Woodmen of the World Hall, located at 112 South Second Street, was built in 1909. Just to the west of the downtown at 315 Main Street is the Knights of Columbus Hall, a former garage and repair shop that was remodeled into a fraternal hall between 1917 and 1924.

The second commercial district is a linear group of small-scale, connected buildings (122-136 Blaize Avenue, #98) built between 1925 and 1944. This district is located to the southwest of the downtown commercial area, on the opposite side of the railroad that forms an approximate diagonal border on the south of the downtown district. Since Hurricane Katrina, a two-story brick section has been added on the southwest side (138-146 Blaize Avenue, #99). This tiny commercial area is located across a wide green space that separates it from the two-story, brick Spanish Revival style Louisville & Nashville Railroad Depot (1928 Depot Way, #352) constructed in 1929. Just to the southwest of this tiny business area is the Bay St. Louis Ice, Light & Bottling Works Building (398 Blaize Avenue, #100), a two-story, rusticated concrete block structure erected circa 1900. This building is currently being restored for use as a community theater.

The Old Bay St. Louis Historic District includes five historic schools. The oldest is Webb School (300 Third Street, #796), a raised Craftsman style building constructed as the town’s first neighborhood primary school in 1913. The two-story, brick, Second Street School (400 North Second Street, #649), built as Bay High School, was constructed in the Spanish Revival style in 1926-1927. A large addition was made to the rear of the building in the 1930s. The Ingram Building (213 Ulman Avenue, #847) is a small, Contemporary elementary school building constructed in 1954. St. Rose de Lima Catholic School (301 South Necaise Avenue, #527) was built between 1955-1959 to offer a Catholic education to the community’s African American children. The Valena C. Jones School (#534), a one-story, brick building constructed in 1947 at 310 Old Spanish Trail, was the last school in Bay St. Louis to be built for African Americans. At some time, the flat roof was replaced with a gable roof. Recently, this roof has been removed and a flat roof is being installed.

There are three historic churches located outside of the downtown commercial district. The Valena C. Jones Memorial United Methodist Church (248 Sycamore Street, #780) was built by African Americans in 1926 to replace an earlier building on Washington Street. It is a brick, Gothic Revival style building, with a large addition built onto the left side to serve as educational and social space. The second historic church is St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church (301 South Necaise Avenue, #526) erected in 1926. This church is located on the north side of South Necaise across from St. Rose de Lima Catholic School just a block away from the 100 Men Hall (303 Union Street, #878), a one-story, frame Craftsman style building built in 1922 that is the only African American fraternal hall building remaining in Bay St. Louis.

St. Augustine’s Divine Word Chapel (199 Seminary Drive, #679), which is located on the northern edge of the district, was completed in 1936. This brick Renaissance Revival chapel is a part of the former St. Augustine’s Seminary (now a retreat center), which was established by the Catholic Society of the Divine Word to train African American priests. Only two of the other historic seminary buildings survive: (1) a one-story, rusticated concrete block building built between 1930 and 1944 (#683) and, (2) a brick Colonial Revival building (#681), erected between 1930-1944, that is attached to a later building constructed in 1967. Other important features of the seminary complex include The Agony Grotto (#678) and The Sacred Heart Shrine (#940). The Agony Grotto, built circa 1935, is a one-story load-bearing, random rubble grotto with a cement dome ceiling. The Sacred Heart Shrine, built facing U. S. Highway 90 in 1954, has a central statue of Jesus and a semicircle of concrete pedestals supporting tablets depicting the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The shrine was constructed of concrete and broken pieces of road and seawall collected by the Brothers and students of St. Augustine’s Seminary.

The Old Bay St. Louis Historic District includes four cemeteries; three of the four are connected with the Catholic Church, historically a dominant cultural influence in the community. The public burying ground is Cedar Rest Cemetery (#677), located on South Second Street adjacent to the Woodmen of the World Hall. The first land was donated for the cemetery circa 1860, with additions made in 1888 and 1891. Some burials are said to predate the official circa 1860 date. St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery (#533) was dedicated in 1872, and is located on South Necaise Avenue adjacent to St. Rose de Lima Church. Brothers of the Sacred Heart Cemetery (#417) is located on Hancock Street at the rear of the St. Stanislaus College campus, and is the burying ground for departed members of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart that served at St. Stanislaus College. St. Augustine’s Seminary Cemetery (#684), located on the west side of Seminary Drive, was founded by the Society of the Divine Word in 1929 to provide a resting place for those who had served the seminary.

(Details and text copied from National Register nomination form)

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