PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (WLOX) - An early Monday morning fire ripped through a historic home on Scenic Drive in Pass Christian.
Known as the Monroe House, the 25,000 square foot mansion has been an iconic structure on Pass Christian’s Scenic Drive.
Destroyed in less than 12 hours, Pass Christian firefighters say it might be the biggest house fire they have ever battled.
Firefighters battled the flames at the iconic home for ten hours. They say it was a difficult battled based on the building material and the way the house was designed.
“There is a void in the ceiling and the roof that ran completely around the structure,” said Pass Christian Fire Chief Dwight Gordon.
Modeled after their summer home in Rhode Island, the main house was built in 1964 by New Orleans businessman J. Edgar Monroe and his wife Louise. The Ramsey family bought the home in 1993, adding two additional wings to the structure.
Chief Gordon said smoke filled the second floor and quickly spreading through the wings of the home.
“Once it got a hold of some of the heavier timber and material, we just weren’t able to get ahead of it,” he said.
Firefighters from Pass Christian, Long Beach, Harrison County, Gulfport, Bay St. Louis, and the CRTC, as well as paramedics from AMR were all on scene. Officials said it was a complex blaze that spread to the attic and in between the walls.
Unfortunately, said the fire chief, it will be considered a total loss.
“We tried to get paintings and some mementos and stuff that was important to the family,” said Gordon.
According to a family friend, two family members were home at the time the fire started but were able to escape safely. They believe lightning hit the chimney around 4 a.m. Monday but fire officials haven’t officially determined what started the fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
When J. Edgar Monroe and his wife Louise built the home, it was modeled after their Rhode Island summer home Rosecliff Mansion, which was made famous in the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
Charles Ramsey bought the house in 1993, overseeing a massive expansion to the property that included the addition of the east and west wings, tripling the home’s square footage.
The house has weathered hurricanes Camille and Katrina and hosted many grand events, including Toast to the Coast, an annual fundraiser for Coast Episcopal School.
The property has been on and off the market since 2011, when it was originally listed with an asking price of $15 million. In 2015, the price was reduced to $12.5 million, which was still reportedly “Mississippi’s priciest listing" at nearly double the price of its nearest competitor in the state.