The Edgewater Gulf Hotel, Queen of the Coast

Edgewater Gulf Hotel, Edgewater Park

Real Photo post card - MDAH collection- colorization TB

If one hotel alone were to capture the spirit and grandeur of the faded elegance of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Edgewater Gulf would likely be the candidate for the honor. On February 26, 1926, ground was broken for the 400 bedroom hotel, quite the largest on the Coast.  Designed by the Chicago architectural firm Marshall and Fox, the hotel’s clean and almost modernist appearance was broken only by its Moorish central tower. Set in verdant gardens, the hotel was designed to appeal to wintering midwesterners and others who would likely take the Illinois Central down from Chicago. Chicago’s famed Edgewater Beach Hotel (1917) was the parent of this precocious child.

Edgewater Gulf Hotel Groundbreaking  Mississippi State University Digital Archive

Groundbreaking ceremony at the Edgewater Gulf- photo Mississippi State University Digital Archive

The hotel flourished immediately and featured long hallways of gleaming marble and brass.  Of particular note was the lounge with a conical fireplace open on all sides.  Guests dined in the Marine Room with fine china and heavy linen.  The sun terrace was adjacent to the dining room and also featured a wall of glass overlooking the sweeping lawn and the sparkling Gulf of Mexico beyond.  A friend of mine from Woodville once told me about how she and a friend were in the dining room one summer’s day for lunch.  They were freezing in the air conditioning wearing only sun dresses.  An observant waiter rushed to their table with tablecloths fresh from the laundry in which they wrapped themselves before continuing their repast.  Such service was not unusual at the Edgewater.

The hotel had an excellent golf course, a huge outdoor pool which could even be enclosed in the winter months and tennis courts as well.  As if this weren’t enough, passengers from up north could take the train right to the station on the hotel grounds at Edgewater Park.  The hotel was popular as a meeting place as well.  My grandparents even visited the hotel from Syracuse, New York for an insurance conference in the 1930s.

One of the lounges facing the sea

In later years, the hotel didn’t lose any luster.  While I may not particularly care for the style of the modern renovations completed in the 1960s, it could be argued that they were necessary.

The Edgewater Plaza Shopping City, built next door to the hotel in the early 1960s would prove to be the doom of the hotel.  In early 1970, the owners of the hotel, the Wakulla Edgewater Co. of Florida decided to close the fabled hotel.  In 1971, it was destroyed in an implosion performed by Controlled Demolition of Baltimore.  Performed may not be the right word here as the demolition didn’t go quite as planned.  The central tower toppled forward, but several additional blasts were needed to bring the Edgewater to its final end.  An expansion of the mall with a new Sears store followed.

1960s suite

Another suite



Categories: Architectural Research, Biloxi, Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Lost Mississippi

27 replies

  1. Great memories from childhood, including driving by the old hotel, and later shopping excursions to the Edgewater mall…

  2. In my early teens I spent a long weekend at the hotel with my parents who were attending a convention. The grounds were awesome. One of my strangest memories was the fact that I had Hamburger, french fries and chocolate malt for almost every meal.

  3. Hamburger, fries, and malts–sounds like the perfect meal, so why not have it three times a day? :-)

  4. Hi,
    I fondly remember the Edgewater Gulf Hotel – going there with my family for years during the summers. The drive from New Orleans in the 1960’s was 3-4 hours, but it was an interesting drive. I was so upset when I heard they were going to blow it up. Adding insult to injury (or so I thought at the time) someone in my school brought a door knob from the Edgewater that had been auctioned off before the destruction and was bragging about it and I could only think how upset I was. I guess now I would be happy to have a piece of the old hotel.

    When the hotel didn’t go completely down, I held out hope that maybe they would rebuild it because it was built to last. I had friends staying at the Edgewater Hotel the night of Hurricane Camille. Windows did break because there was a lot of flying debris and the basement was flooded, but I believe the Hotel became an emergency shelter.

    The Sea and Sirloin Restaurant rebuilt with beams from the Edgewater Hotel. I went there a lot, it made me feel better somehow.
    During the 80’s I did research into The Edgewater for a possible documentary. I did find postcards and film and photos and a few stories, but not enough for a documentary. Fueled by my frustration at not being able to bring back the hotel (I used to dream about it) I wrote a song “The Edgewater Blues”, which expressed by frustration about historic places colliding with greed and used the visuals to make a music video.

    Here is the link for you tube.
    http://www.youtube.com/user/DBB90?gl=GB&hl=en-GB

    Barbara Brown
    dbb@mcn.org

  5. Love the song! It was perfect timing after EL’s post this morning.

  6. Thanks for the video again. I do wish that the Edgewater could be rebuilt- at least in spirit. The Coast needs a grand hotel again.

  7. My grandmother, Myrtle Lyon, worked at the Edgewater Gulf Hotel in 1936 and 1937, after having worked at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Her husband, Lloyd Baker, was a headwaiter there. If anyone has any pictures of the hotel from that period of time, I would love to get a copy for my family history project. Thanks!

    • I have a post-card of the hotel sent by my grandfather to my Dad (who was under 10) dated April 21, 193? (final number unclear). My grandparents were living in Pelham, New York at the time ( we’re Canadian).The hotel looks very grand, and the caption on the back claims there were “300 acres devoted to outdoor recreation.”
      I could scan it for you if you like…

      • If you’d like to scan it and post it here for readers to enjoy, please do so. Is it an image not otherwise easily found on the internet?

        • That was a very quick response, Tom! I don’t know what’s available online as far as images of the hotel. I have in my possession a box of old postcards that belonged to my paternal grandfather, and this was one of them. Have no idea what he was doing in Mississippi in the 1930s! My grandparents were then living in Pelham, New York, having been transferred down from Montreal. This postcard was sent to my dad who was a young boy at the time. Yes, I can scan it for you or send it some other way. I don’t have a scanner myself, but my dad does ( he’s 85 now!) and I see him often. Where would I send it?

      • Would love copy of postcard. My mom worked as convention manager from around 1965 through around 1970.I ran the manual elevators when I was 14 – 16 (After school and weekends. Yes elevators needed elevator operators.) Was lifeguard 17 – 19. Beautiful place. Too bad its gone. Many memories.Could you scan and send to pattilp@msn.com? Please? Send replies to email address above. thanks

  8. I spent several consecutive Memorial Day holidays with my family for the Petroleum Club of New Orleans Golf Tournaments. The rooms were elegant, the service and room service were extraordinary, the golf course beautiful and the southern hospitality beyond compare. I miss it sorely and the feelings it created. I was personally “devastated”, at 20 years old when it was “partially” demolished. And then completely gone…I have never visited the mall… The Edgewater Gulf Hotel will always be the fondest of my family memories.

  9. I lived at the Hotel from November 1943 to July 1944. I went to the Fernwood elementary School also. My father worked in the kitchen as a Sauschef. It was an experience and I remember the Easter egg hunt that was arranged for the children who were staying at the hotel at that time. Norma Grandone nordan58@gmail.com

  10. I spent nearly a week there surrounding the 1959 Sugar Bowl. My cousins and I loved the burgers and shakes. We also played Bingo every night, run by the employees as I recall. We fed the squirrels on the grounds, very beautiful.
    One memory stands out when Batista’s family arrived at the hotel. My first experience seeing machine guns held by men in suits. There was no problems that I can recall but what an experience.
    I’m sorry it is gone. Would loved for my wife to experience the hotel.
    Bill McCarty

  11. I remember the Edgewater Hotel from visits there with my grandparents. Early 1950’s.
    I am fortunate to own a Silver Soldered Coffee Pot engraved on the bottom with “Edgewater Beach Hotel.” It is stamped IS for International Silver and is numbered. 0 9 C and 48 oz and the number 54 engraved in a square. There is a symbol on the left side, which I am unable to identify, if one is holding the handle in the right hand to pour.

    Pat Atkinson

  12. The coffee pot would likely have come from the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, the Edgewater Gulf’s sister property. Have you got any pictures from the Edgewater Gulf?

  13. I stayed at the Edgewater Hotel every summer as a child and in 1968 we were there at the same time as Jayne Mansfield. My Mother and Grandmother knew her so we spent the day with her and her children.. Later that night Jayne was killed in a car crash. We have some of the last pictures taken of her.

  14. Can someone please tell me the address of the former Edgewater Gulf Hotel? I am a librarian at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI who is working with a private collection of menus we received as a donation to the library last year. One of the items is a Luncheon A la Carte menu from the Edgewater Gulf Hotel on Sunday, January 19, 1941. It will be posted soon in our online archive, but I would like to include the original address in the item record. The menu indicates that it’s “Midway between Gulfport and Biloxi,” but not an exact address. Once it’s online, I will post the link here. Thank you for your help. It was wonderful to read all of your comments. It brings even more life to this beautiful piece of history.

    Sincerely,
    Erika Gearing

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