Gulf Towers, a high-rise apartment building in Biloxi, was the featured Mississippi building in the February 1964 issue of Mississippi Architect. It might be hard to remember now, but back in 1964, before Camille and of course before Katrina, the Gulf Coast boasted long stretches of historic and architecturally significant houses on large beachfront estates. By the 1960s, numerous large hotels, motels, and more residential clustered motor courts interspersed the older estates. Gulf Towers then was a trend-setter, opening the way for more such high-rise developments and the transition of Biloxi, for good or for ill, to a modern beach strip built around the automobile.
The building survived Katrina, with the bottom floor lost to the surge, but it sat vacant for several years until being repaired. I believe it is now a Sheraton Hotel.
GULF TOWERS INC.
Charles W . Crisler Jr., Pres.
BARLOW & PLUNKETT
Architect & Engineer Jackson
HOWIE CONSTRUCTION CO.
General Contractor Jackson
Gulf Towers is situated on a 1.35 acre site overlooking West Beach Boulevard (U. S. Highway 90) and the Gulf Coast beach. The site has native magnolia, oak and pecan trees lending natural beauty to the development. Sloping from rear to front and elevated above the highway, the site was developed with an elevated recreational area and first floor enabling tenants and guests to look “out to sea” over the highway.
In setting the building back from the street, a parking area for guests was developed in front, with retaining walls. The setback and elevated site act as a buffer to highway noise, which is somewhat abated by large trees and planted areas developed in conjunction with the guest parking. Tenant parking is in the rear of the building accessible from the side street, Hopkins Boulevard. Native trees were preserved within the tenant parking area and planted areas were developed to provide a garden-like atmosphere.
Preliminary market analysis revealed that this building should incorporate a wide variety of apartment types to accommodate the various tenant needs. This is an unusual market area due to the high influx of seasonal vacationers and the military personnel in the area. Financed under the F.H.A. 207 program, the budget was closely regarded during design development to arrive at an efficient building providing a sound owner’s investment. Flat plate concrete floor slabs, concrete shear walls and columns were selected to minimize building volume, thus resulting in a more economical structure. The application of floor finishes and ceiling finishes to the upper and under surfaces of these flat slabs resulted in structural integrity and enabled a high degree of flexibility in the design.
A lounge, druggette, beauty shop and laundry were designed on the first floor convenient for tenants and guests’ use. Garbage is centrally collected through a chute located on each floor and picked up from the garbage room at the rear of the building. Two high-speed elevators are centrally located and a stair is located at each end of the building for convenient tenant inter-floor travel.
The building exterior contrasts finished white concrete with brick at the first floor, and cypress screens at the front balconies above. The stairwells are enclosed with finished white concrete and decorative clay screen tile. Sliding-glass doors open onto the balconies from the living areas. The front apartments on the upper floors have a view including offshore islands.
Gulf Towers consists of 115 units, having six different apartment types. The total construction cost of the project was approximately $1,800,000.
This article is reprinted from the February 1964 issue of the Mississippi Architect, with permission from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. To view the full February 1964 issue of Mississippi Architect in a digitized format, or other articles in this ongoing series, including the pdf version of each full issue, click on the MSArcht tab at the top of this page.