The Mississippi City Courthouse sat in a city long forgotten. |
The courthouse complex began its metamorphosis in 1841, with the birth of Harrison County. When Hancock County was split, the new county to the east was named after President William Henry Harrison, who'd died in office.
The question of where to put the new county seat was quickly settled by some forward-thinking Scot-Irish men who formed Mississippi City Company to sell lots, issue stock, build roads, railroad tracks and wharves. That same year, 1837, state legislators chartered the nonexistent city.
The founders believed a port city rivaling New Orleans would quickly spring up. They planned for Mississippi City to be the southern terminus of Gulf & Ship Island Railroad, which would cut through the piney woods and deliver valuable yellow pine to their port at the end of Railroad Street.
An economic depression ruined their dreams. Today, we know Railroad Street as Courthouse Road, and the city as Gulfport.
Mississippi City was the county seat for 66 years before the title was taken by upstart Gulfport, which worked hard to win that designation after its 1898 incorporation. Of course, the new city wanted a new courthouse in its new downtown.
The unrealized port materialized in the new downtown. The end came in 1960s when Gulfport annexed the city.
By that time, only one building of the large Mississippi City courthouse complex remained. The red-brick structure was built in 1893 for $2,800 and had housed a grand jury room, the clerks' offices and county records.
Eventually the courthouse was owned by an American Legion post that hoped to tear it down to expand, but a successful land swap with the city saved it. The last city use for the building was as offices for Gulfport Leisure Services.
Katrina claimed the old courthouse.
"The city saved the bricks that were salvageable," said Mayor Brent Warr. "The plan is to rebuild and restore the building to as close to its original condition as possible."
- KAT BERGERON