GAUTIER, Miss. (WLOX) - A historic Mississippi property is getting a new lease on life after a generous donor made its purchase by the Mississippi Heritage Trust possible.
Constructed in 1845, the Oldfields property in Gautier holds years of Mississippi history within its walls. In recent years, the property has been listed as one of the 10 most endangered historic places in the state.
Now that it’s been purchased by the Mississippi Heritage Trust, the historic home - which belonged to Alfred Lewis before being the home of famed Coast artist Walter Anderson - can now get some much-needed upgrades.
Nicknamed “Oldfields,” the historic home sits on a scenic bluff overlooking the Mississippi Sound in Gautier. The home was originally built in 1845 for Alfred Lewis and his family. Lewis was a planter, merchant, politician, and Civil War officer.
Later, the property was purchased by the Grinstead family. Agnes Grinstead, or Sissie as she was known, married artist Walter Anderson, and the couple and their children lived at Oldfields for many years. The couple’s daughter reflected on her time in the home during a 2016 interview with our sister station WLBT.
“I lived at Oldfields from the time I was three until I was eleven. It was wonderful. It was in a world apart,” said Mary Anderson Pickard. “It sits on the high bluff overlooking the sound and you can see Horn Island on the horizon, and I lived there for the part of my life that was very important in connecting to the land. It was the scene of a great deal of my father’s work. At that time we could sit down beside him while he was drawing and watch. And he’d be drawing chickens and a chicken would go running across the page and it was like magic.”
The home is among the few antebellum-style homes left along the Mississippi Coast and has weathered many storms, receiving significant damage during Hurricane Katrina. According to Lolly Rash with The Mississippi Heritage Trust, the property needs a lot of work.
“The porch was very badly damaged. It needs a new roof. Some of the interior floorboards were washed out. We’re looking at complete restoration of the property,” Rash said.
Despite how it looks, the structure has been witness to much history, and that cannot be overlooked. In fact, not only did Walter Anderson live on the property, but he created some of his most significant work while residing at Oldfields.
“This is where he launched his boat to head out to Horn Island where he created so many beautiful works of art. It’s an incredibly beautiful place both architecturally and naturally, and it just has a special place in Mississippi’s history,” Rash said.
While the home sits vacant and deteriorating right now, there is hope on the horizon. The Mississippi Heritage Trust has purchased the property and plans to revive it.
“We are very proud as an organization to be able to play a role in helping to secure the building and serve as stewards to find the next best use for it where it is preserved and loved,” Rash said.
The trust is now looking for community partners to help in the revival and restoration of the historic property.