When I move to an area, it has become my quest to know a little about the area’s history. I used to go to local historical society meetings, visit the library, etc. as free time was available. Now, with the internet, research is so much easier. I still, however, get out for meetings and visits with longtime locals for the real scoop. We moved to The Coast in May, 2017. We have learned much and find that much is yet to be learned. It is a great place to visit and live. The Best Kept Secret on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Growing up in Mississippi I did travel to The Coast from time to time and was aware that each town had its own flavor. Gulfport is no exception. If you live on The Coast, Gulfport is where you shop, it is where you find your doctor and it is where you find the largest hospital. It is the Gateway to The Coast.
Downtown Gulfport is going through the revitalization many small town, downtowns all over the U.S. are going through, with great success. A drive through the residential areas just adjacent to the old downtown, on the Beach Highway, is a most pleasant experience. Gulfport is rebuilding beautifully even after the record strength of two major hurricanes just in my lifetime. Life will find a way…the resilience of Mississippi people is almost unmatched.
One GIANT shining spot in downtown Gulfport was discovered early on by my Sweet Husband:
13th Street Jazz Bistro. https://www.jazzbistrogulfport.com
Mississippi is famous for her music, all types and her many musical stars. Jazz Bistro Manager, Renata LeFleau Flot has put her years of musical experience and connections in to booking the very best in Jazz (and sometimes Blues) entertainment. This is a must visit spot on your next trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And if you live on the coast, you must become one of her many regulars.
NOW FOR THE STATISTICAL AND HISTORICAL STUFF: Gulfport is the second largest city (square miles, not population) in Mississippi after the state capital, Jackson. It is the larger of the two principal cities of Gulfport-Biloxi metro area. It is co-county seat with Biloxi of Harrison County, Mississippi.
This area was occupied by indigenous cultures for thousands of years, culminating in the historic Choctaw encountered by European explorers. Along the Gulf Coast, French colonists founded nearby Biloxi, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama before the area was acquired by the United States in 1803.
An early settlement near this location, known as Mississippi City, appeared on a map of Mississippi from 1855. Mississippi City was the county seat of Harrison County from 1841 to 1902, but is now a suburb in east Gulfport.
Gulfport was incorporated on July 28, 1898. Gulfport was founded by William H. Hardy (a Yankee after the war) who was president of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad (G&SIRR) that connected inland lumber mills to the coast. He was joined by Joseph T. Jones, who later took over the G&SIRR, dredged the harbor in Gulfport, and opened the shipping channel to the sea. In 1902, the harbor was completed and the Port of Gulfport became a working seaport. It now accounts for millions of dollars in annual sales and tax revenue for the state of Mississippi.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is surrounded by barrier islands. The largest natural port is off the south side of Ship Island, directly out from Gulfport. There is a smaller natural port further west, down the beach in Pass Christian. We will cover this port in my next post. Mississippi was once a large lumber producer for our nation. It still is in a much smaller way today. Lumber was taken by rail to Ship Island and then loaded on ships for transport to the northern states for the building boom after the Civil War.
On August 17, 1969 Gulfport and the Mississippi Gulf Coast were hit by Hurricane Camille. Measured by central pressure, Camille was the second-strongest hurricane to make U.S. land fall in recorded history. An unnamed storm was believed to be stronger in 1935. Camille directly killed 143 people in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
On August 29, 2005, Gulfport was hit by the strong eastern side of Hurricane Katrina. Although Katrina’s damage was far more widespread, because of her size, it was not the fiercest hurricane to hit Gulfport. Katrina, a category 3 storm was dwarfed in strength by hurricane Camille, a category 5 storm, which hit Gulfport and neighboring communities in 1969 with 190 mph sustained winds compared to Katrina’s 130 mph sustained winds.