When she married the man who would be Gulfport's first appointed mayor, Mary "Percy" Roberts wanted to build a house of her own. She lived in Grasslawn, one of the city's oldest and most historic homes, but she and her husband, Finley B. Hewes, wanted to create an architectural legacy.|
With sturdy two-story, multigallery construction of cypress and heart pine, Blossom Lodge at 604 East Beach was next to the 1830s Grasslawn, which they sold to another prominent family, the Milners.
The new Hewes house was built in 1904. The gubernatorially appointed mayorship had come at Gulfport's incorporation in 1898, but Hewes was serving in Cuba. Someone else served those first four years, but Hewes, on his return from war, became influential in young Gulfport.
The couple had one child, Finley Jr., who inherited Blossom Lodge. He married and had no children and passed the house on to a nephew, Dr. Thomas Finley Hewes.
"I'm single and nobody could imagine a bachelor living in that big house," said the orthopedic surgeon.
"After I retired, I'd sit on the front gallery every morning, drink coffee and watch the dolphins and take everything for granted, as everyone else did."
Two years ago to celebrate the house's centennial, Hewes invited 450 people for dinner and dancing: "I thought I was crazy to spend all that on a party, but I look back now and it's the best investment I ever made. It showed the house in all its glory."
His aunt and uncle had stayed there during Camille and opened doors to let the water through, preventing structural damage: "With Katrina, I was like everyone else, expecting another Camille kind of damage but I had no idea there would be nothing left. I spent all day carrying everything upstairs because I thought it would be safe."
Hewes does not plan to rebuild but will sell the land "after everything settles down."
- KAT BERGERON