Washington Street Historic District

National Register ID: 80002243

Area Of Significance: Black Architecture

Architectural Styles: Other

Period Of Significance: 1900-1924, 1925-1949

Date Listed: 11/25/1980

Location: Zone 16, E 274820, N 3354920

Verbal Boundary Description: The Washington Street Historic District is a T-shaped area comprising approximately three acres. District boundaries correspond with the boundaries outlined on the city plat map.


Washington Street Historic District contains twelve structures located west of the railroad tracks in Bay St. Louis. Eleven are arranged in a linear formation on the south side of Washington Street, with one located on the north side. One building is located west of St. Francis Street, with all others located east of that street. All occupied buildings are now and were originally built for residential use, but two vacant buildings were originally constructed as small commercial buildings, one with an attached residence. The district contains vernacular building types, predominantly shotgun and Creole cottages dating from the turn of the century to ca. 1935. All buildings are one-story and all but one are wood frame with corrugated metal roofs. Although there is one modern building of brick, it retains the low scale of the district and has therefore not been considered in- trusive. Residential structures are set back from the street, while the facades of the two former commercial buildings abut the sidewalk. These twelve buildings form an enclave of older structures in an area which has been the object of urban renewal efforts. Boundaries have been drawn, therefore, to exclude the new replacement structures on the north side of Washington Street.


The Washington Street Historic District is along with the Sycamore Street Historic District what remains of a small black settlement which had developed in Bay St. Louis by the 1920s. Architecturally the district furnishes excellent visual evidence of the evolution of the shotgun and Creole-cottage house types. Two important examples of vernacular commercial buildings are a shotgun form and one with an attached residence.

One of the early through streets leading to the Jordan River, Washington Street also led in the late 1800s to Edwards Bayou, where Edward's mill was located. Two houses in the district remain from this early period. One, at 429 Washington Street, could be as early as 1875 and is a classic example of the Creole cottage with central chimney, undercut gallery, and four-bay facade with two entrances leading to the gallery. The other, at 440 Washington Street, dates from around 1890 and is a distinctive local variation of the shotgun form, displaying a one-bay polygonal facade with rear ell and two-sided undercut porch. The later shotgun cottage in the district, at 410 Washington Street, displays characteristic Colonial Revival traits of a front gable orientation with partial returns. Later Creole cottages display the stylistic features of the prevailing style, i.e., the rusticated concrete-block piers and shed-roofed dormer, all characteristics of the Bungalow style applied to the basic Creole cottage form of 412 Washington Street.

Now residential in character the Washington Street area contained more commercial and religious structures in the 1920s. Next to 429 Washington Street a store was located, and east of that was the black Holy Rollers Church and a two-story lodge hall. These are no longer standing. Some of this area has been redeveloped and is excluded from the district. The two commercial buildings located within the district are now vacant but are nevertheless instructive as to the architectural and cultural history of the neighborhood. The smaller of the two is a shotgun structure distinguished from a residential function by the fact that it displays a canopy and is abutting the side- walk (thus more oriented to the passing traffic than the residential structures on the street, which are set back on their lots). The building at the corner of Wash- ington and St. Francis, although in poor condition, is the most obvious example of the combined residence and business structure because each part is distinct. What is obviously a residence is joined by a hyphen to what is obviously a commercial struc- ture. In addition to illustrating the closeness of the shopkeeper to his work, the fact that it was owned by an Italian, Ben Benigno, and that his brother owned and lived in the commercial building one block north on Sycamore Street (located in the Sycamore Street Historic District) is also of sociological interest.

(Details and text copied from National Register nomination form)

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