Grass Lawn, built in 1836 as a summer home for a Port Gibson surgeon, was the second-oldest home in Gulfport. Made of cypress and the sturdy yellow pine that used to grow in South Mississippi's ancient forests, it was of "pegged" construction.
It was built on the beachfront more than 60 years before Gulfport became a city.
The original Roberts family sold it to the Milner family in 1904, when the Grass Lawn land was subdivided. The Milner family has a long history in politics and soft-drink bottling.
The city became owner in the early 1970s after the late Gulfport civic activist Esther Barrett rallied support for it to become a city landmark instead of falling into the hands of developers. It was restored, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and used by the city for all kinds of events, from impressing out-of-town dignitaries to weddings and other social gatherings.
Katrina did what nearly two centuries of other storms could not; Grass Lawn is now rubble.
"Grass Lawn will be reconstructed," said Libby Milner Roland, Gulfport councilwoman for Ward 2, which includes the Grass Lawn property. "We're going to have to wait to determine at what height it will be reconstructed.
"After Katrina, volunteers started immediately salvaging the old wood and the timbers from Grass Lawn and from other older houses, which can be used in the reconstruction.
"Every piece of wood that can be identified as Grass Lawn is being saved. The mayor and city realize Grass Lawn is an important part of our heritage."
- KAT BERGERON