Downtown Gulfport was born with wide streets and planned walkways, unlike most of the Mississippi Coast downtowns that developed over many decades.|
Gulfport was incorporated in 1898, though its seeds were planted in 1837 when Mississippi City, now the southeastern end of the city, was incorporated with thoughts of making it a port.
The port didn't come until 1902 when a channel was dug, and not until after one of two founding fathers, Capt. Joseph T. Jones, put his own money into its making. Before that, Ship Island was used as a natural port.
The other town father, William H. Hardy, bought 5,000 acres fronting the water and in 1887 the first stake marked the boundaries of his "planned" city. A financial depression kept him from realizing his dream of a commercial city rivaling Mobile and New Orleans.
Downtown today is a mixture of architecture dating from the turn of the 20th century to modern times. Beginning in the 1980s, some older buildings were restored as Gulfport looked toward downtown revitalization, a role also important in post-Katrina development.
"I will ask that people be objective and think about the legacy we'll be leaving behind for generations when we move forward with rebuilding," Mayor Brent Warr said during the first planning session of Gov. Haley Barbour's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal.
- KAT BERGERON