Gulfport restoring memories of Grass Lawn with replica mansion

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A new municipal building in downtown Gulfport will give the city's police department, and its court system a state of the art home. A new senior center in west Gulfport will modernize the programs the city offers its retirees. But it's two other construction projects -- the ones that turn back the hands of time -- that have city leaders so excited.

In the 1830s, a two story mansion that would overlook the Mississippi Sound came out of the ground. For the next 169 years, that home between Highway 90 and Second Street became one of Gulfport's most recognizable symbols.

"It's part of the city's seal, that's how important it is to us," Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr pointed out.

The unrelenting hurricane of 2005 spared Grass Lawn's avenue of oaks. But the mansion tucked behind those stately trees got knocked down. Now, one cinder block at a time, Gulfport is salvaging a piece of its history. The construction price -- a million dollars.

"It's the only structure in the United States of America that was granted the funding by the National Park Service to make this project possible. That's very important," the mayor said.

An exact replica of Grass Lawn is slowing being built. In a matter of months, the 3,600 square foot replica will again host weddings, receptions and parties along Gulfport's waterfront.

"It's such an important structure, not just to the city of Gulfport, but for the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast," thought Warr.

Grass Lawn's lead contractor says work on the replica mansion should be finished in late June or early July.

About a mile away, Gulfport is preserving even more history near its shoreline. The old courthouse used to be on Courthouse Road. But, Katrina toppled the historic brick building. Soon, original bricks from that building will form the exterior of another city replica. And Gulfport will have another place were people can meet, and also remember what this city once looked like.

"We're excited to get it back," said the mayor.