HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Fire investigators spent the day Friday combing through what was left of the old Coca-Cola Plantation site on Jourdan River Road in Bay St. Louis, trying to determine why a guest house caught fire.
The blaze broke out at around 10 p.m. Thursday. Firefighters from three departments battled the fire. Authorities say the guest house had been vacant for years.
WLOX News talked with a man from the neighborhood who says Hancock County has lost an important piece of its history. Chuck LaFleur says it's a painful sight to look at, the smoldering remains of a home he became familiar with more than 20 years ago.
"It was probably early 19th, 20th century 1930s, 40s, it was called the Cazabon place. It was just a grand old home that had been here many, many years. Cazabon Road is the road that comes in here. The Cazabon family owned it before Katrina and sold it to Mr. Thompson, who built the big house," said LaFleur.
The late Dick Thompson was a wealthy businessman who owned the only Coca-Cola bottling franchise in the state at one time.
"He was a hard nose Republican businessman," LaFleur said.
After living in the house that burned for a short while, Thompson built a three story 17,000 square foot mansion on the 150 plus acres there. Before Katrina, LaFleur was privileged to take a look inside.
"It was like a great Southern mansion. Chandeliers, big book cases everywhere with pictures of Ronald Reagan and presidents," explained LaFleur.
LaFleur says he hopes someone will restore the place to its original grandeur. He says the neighborhood will miss seeing the original structure on the property.
"Before it kind of grew up with the vines, you could see these big chimneys in the sky as you drove up and down the river in your boat. It was just a beautiful place set up underneath these oak trees," said LaFleur.
The plantation, which was once home to long-horn steers and cattle, is now owned by a group of businessmen. We have no word on their plans for the property.