Beach Boulevard Historic District

916-beach-boulevard-south.jpg916 South Beach Boulevard

National Register ID: 80002239

Area Of Significance: Black Education, Architecture, Religion

Architectural Styles: Bungalow/Craftsman, Queen Anne, Other

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

Date Listed: 11/25/1980

Location: Zone 16, E 276620, N 3357610, E 276550, N 3353760, E 274860, N 3353840, E 275490, N 3356700

Verbal Boundary Description: The Beach Boulevard Historic District is an irregularly shaped area comprising approximately 175 acres. Roughly bounded by Beach Blvd., Necaise Ave., Seminary Dr., 2nd and 3rd Streets.

Description

Beach Boulevard Historic District encompasses a 175-acre area of the city of Bay St. Louis, incorporating an almost two-mile strip of Beach Boulevard properties as well as most of the central business core located in the middle of the district around Main Street and surrounding residential properties. Beach Boulevard is characterized by one- and two-story residences which are generally larger and more detailed than houses farther west, although there is a small proliferation of two-story houses between the city hall and the railroad depot on Union and Keller streets. West of Hancock Street houses become more vernacular, with simpler detail. Shotgun and Creole cottages are prevalent and can be found in various forms with additions and details from several periods. The predominant building material is wood, but there is some use of locally manufactured rusticated concrete block, and some cladding with stucco. Moving west from the beach toward Third Street in the southern section of the district and west toward Necaise Avenae in the northern section of the district, the cohesiveness and visual quality of the area deteriorates and boundaries have been drawn to exclude these areas. The northernmost section of North Beach Boulevard is to some extent fragmented from the rest of the district by U.S. Highway 90, but it has been included because of its traditional association with the rest of Beach Boulevard, Highway 90 having been located where the present Ulman Avenue is until 1954. The northern boundary ends where a 1947 subdivision begins since all the houses on that land were constructed later than houses in the rest of the district.

Large-scale buildings in the district are associated with the two institutional complexes in the district, St. Stanislaus School on South Beach Boulevard and St. Augustine's Seminary on Ulman Avenue. Buildings in the St. Stanislaus complex are primarily brick, and include Georgian Revival and Renaissance Revival styles as well as some larger modern structures. St. Augustine's Seminary contains mission Revival-style buildings of brick and new buildings have been designed of brick with mission-style details.

Main Street contains the largest concentration of buildings with commercial uses, but there is also a commercial row located opposite the depot on Railroad Avenue, and small commercial buildings are located on Ulman Avenue, which was formerly Highway 90. Hancock Street contains a mixture of residential and commercial structures, and small shotgun cottages which were originally small shops are dotted throughout the district. These display canopies and are situated close to the street.

There are three cemeteries located within the district and other open-space areas around the depot, behind the city hall, and behind the buildings on the St. Stanislaus School campus. Tropical, lush landscaping makes photographing streetscapes difficult.

Significance

Beach Boulevard Historic District is a unique collection of significant architecture dating from 1790 through the 1940s, representing vernacular building as well as the Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, and Mission styles. The thoroughfare from which the district takes its name is lined with large dwellings, many originally constructed as summer homes for prominent New Orleans business and professional men. Some outstanding examples are the Swoop House (ca. 1853, 414 S. Beach Blvd.), a one-and-one-half-story Greek Revival cottage with decorated gables which still retains its original kitchen dependency enriched with decorated vergeboards; the house at 418 South Beach Boulevard, an elaborate polygonal-bay shotgun structure with eclectic detailing that was displayed in 1890 at the Louisiana Exposition in New Orleans and then floated on a barge to Bay St. Louis; and the Spanish Customs House (ca. 1790), the oldest house in Bay St. Louis, with thick brick walls clad with stucco and a gallery which originally spanned all four sides, reflecting the period 1790-98 prior to permanent settlement of Bay St. Louis when the area was under Spanish rule.

The McDonald House (502 N. Beach Blvd.) is a good illustration of the local variation of the Queen Anne style prevalent throughout the district. Constructed in 1889 by local contractor Charles Sanger, it utilized typical Queen Anne-style features such as patterned shingles, bay windows, and small colored-glass windowpanes, but it retains the classical rectangular plan with a center hall and utilizes gables and delicate stick-work detailing. This is a pervasive characteristic of Bay St. Louis architecture and may be seen in houses throughout the district. Repeatedly a traditional Creole cottage or shotgun house type will be enriched with stickwork detailing.

Another local builder of distinction was Eugene Ray, a black man, known to have built the three Queen Anne-style cottages, ca. 1890, on Railroad Avenue as well as "dozens of other cottages in the center of town" ("Along the Gulf," William E. Myers, publisher; Mississippi Department of Archives and History Library, Jackson). These cottages, characterized by polygonal bays and decorated vergeboards, were speculatively constructed for the "use of summer residents and if there had been five times as many built, they could readily have been sold or rented" (Ibid.). In addition to his work as a builder, Ray was for a time the only undertaker in Bay St. Louis.

Gaston Gardebled was a third local builder in Bay St. Louis. The only person listed under the heading architects in the 1904 local business Directory, his family also ran the Gardebled Drug Store at Toume and Union streets, which is still standing but with a brick-veneer front. Gardebled was the contractor for the city hall, and was as well one of the directors of the Merchants Bank. He later became mayor of Bay St. Louis.

In addition to examples of local builders' works the district contains two public buildings constructed by well-known architectural firms. The city hall, built in 1905 by the New Orleans firm of Diball and Owens, is articulated in the Georgian Revival style and features a raised balustraded portico with a front gable roof reached by curved staircases, door surrounds with fanlight and side lights, stepped lintels, and a polygonal balustraded roof projection which was once topped with a cupola. The Hancock County Courthouse was constructed by the firm of Keenan and Weis in 1911. It is in the Classical Revival style and features a monumental portico with Ionic columns. Its original large cupola was destroyed by hurricane winds in 1969. Located on Main Street, the courthouse contributes to the unique streetscape of the block, which still maintains its residential character despite commercial and some two-story masonry buildings. Mixed with these buildings are one- and two-story frame structures of various periods, the smaller ones now used for offices and the larger ones utilizing commercial space on the first floor with residential use on the second.

Also unique to the district are the quantity of vernacular shotgun and Creole cottages. These may be found with stylistic variations from the 1860s through the 1920s. Examples of these house types, including the commercial form of the shotgun, are found scattered throughout the district but clusters are also found. A group of Creole cottages with stickwork enrichment and one with Bungalow-style details are located in the 300 block of Main Street. Shotgun cottages with shingled gables are located on Ballentine Street and those with galleries originally supported on cantilevered arches on McDonald Lane.

Contained within the district is the campus of St. Stanislaus School, the oldest institution of learning on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Founded in 1854 by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and chartered in 1870 as St. Stanislaus Commercial College, it became a college preparatory school in 1923. No buildings remain prior to 1924 because of damages from a fire in 1903 and Hurricane Camille in 1969, which destroyed the main building, constructed in 1904. Three architecturally sig- nificant buildings do remain from the period after World War I, when there was a great increase in enrollment. The building on the north side of the campus, Romanesque Revival in style, was constructed in 1924 as a gymnasium/classroom building. A building on the south side of the campus in the Georgian Revival style was com- pleted in 1929 and housed a study hall, science room, chapel, and living quarters for the brothers. In 1950 a student and faculty diningroom was constructed west of this building. It also is in the Georgian Revival style.

Another important institutional complex within the district is St. Augustine's Seminary, run by the Divine Word Missionaries, which was noted in the 1939 Mississippi Blue Book as 'the only Negro training school for Catholic priests in the United States" (Walker Wood, Biennial Report, Mississippi Blue Book; 1937-1939, p. 70). Located at its present site in 1923, the first building was a two-story brick structure with an impressive Colonial Revival-style building added to the front of it in 1955. Other buildings on the campus date from the 1930s and are articulated in the Colonial Revival and Mission Revival styles. The architectural quality of its older buildings, the compatibility of newer structures, and the setting of buildings within the landscape make this complex an outstanding contribution to the district.

Other structures contained in the Beach Boulevard Historic District significant to the black history of Bay St. Louis are the houses and two churches which line Sycamore Street, the St. Rose de Lima Church, constructed in the Mission style, ca. 1926, when a separate parish was founded for the black members of Our Lady of the Gulf Church, and the 100 Men Association building, constructed in 1922 on Union Street. Playing an important part in the lives of blacks, organizations such as these were more than social, providing various benefits such as disability and burial insurance for their members. The 100 Men Association was established in Bay St. Louis in 1888 by J. L. Collins, J. M. Larendo, Noel Perry, and Robert Smith.

(Details and text copied from National Register nomination form)

© 2008 - 2017
Hancock County Historical Society
All rights reserved