Uncredited Mississippi: Forest Heights, Gulfport

In my car I keep a copy of A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester. It comes in handy when I have some time to spend while waiting for an appointment or if I am out and see an interesting styled house that I want a little bit more of information on. If you are not familiar with the book’s format it outlines different styles not only by form but also geographically. Mississippi has a good representation with 15 examples credited in the index to the state.

Photograph by Chauncey Hinman (c. 1966) for United States Department of Housing and Urban Development as it appears in McAlester’s Field Guide
(c. 1984) Image scanned from authors copy.

Film still from “SOMETHING OF OUR OWN”
Produced by Carl Ragsdale Associates, New York City
for Thiokol Chemical Corporation and the U.S. Department of House and Urban Development. created c. 1966.
Source: http://www.criticalpast.com/, accessed 7-21-2012

Almost every picture in the book is listed with its location and a circa date. I say almost every photo because three chapters, Modern, Neoeclectic, and Contemporary Folk, do not give locations or dates for the buildings in the photographs. When the book was written thirty years ago these styles were apparently deemed just too recent for give the date and location of the examples. Under the category of Modern is the sub-category of Ranch. One of the examples on page 480 (see above) in particular looked very familiar. While not credited as being in Forest Heights, the index credits the photo to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. It further goes on to credit Mississippi Gulf Coast photographer Chauncey T. Hinman for taking the photograph. While I was sure the house was on the Coast, due to Hinman’s credit, I was not sure it was in Forest Heights until I ran across this movie, as the house can be seen at 6 minutes 50 seconds (still above).

Map of Forest Heights Subdivision. Gulfport Miss.

Forest Heights was established around 1966 by the National Council of Negro Women, in cooperation with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and supported by the Ford Foundation. It was one of the nation’s first integrated home ownership developments for low income families and was located in North Gulfport, Mississippi. The program requirement was that only legally married couples with children were eligible to apply, and the husband must be employed. The name Forest Heights is a tribute to civil rights activist Dorothy Height, who was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1947 until 1997. The Subdivision was designed and built by Collins Building Service. Company vice-president Francis X. Collins, who was the past president of the Mississippi Home Builders Association and active supporter of Forest Heights, described it as the most modern subdivision in Mississippi at the time. Two hundred homes were laid out on one hundred and seven acres. The three, four, and five bedroom residences utilized thirty five different styled exteriors. A community house was built at the T section of Russell Boulevard and Holly Circle. Today, the Subdivision retains much of its original character with the only major changes being due to Hurricane Katrina. These are the loss and replacement of the community house and the loss of a half dozen houses. The success of the Forest Heights program led to similar programs for home ownership being developed in Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.

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Kudos to Forest Heights for making it into McAlesters’s Field Guide! Let’s bump that Mississippi representation to 16 examples. All you Miss Pres’ers out there keep your eyes peeled because you never know where Mississippi may turn up uncredited.



Categories: African American History, Architectural Research, Books, Civil Rights, Gulfport, Historic Preservation, Modernism

7 replies

  1. lovely research; but i still resent these building developments that do not account for our vernacular tradition and the special climate needs that tradition addresses. they take away personality and practicality.

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    • Thank you. It was exciting to do. I agree that the style takes away from personality and practicality for the most part. That may be why the location was uncredited, as the personality belies its location. I think the style some what reflects the times by saying “the resident has no need for previous practical designs because they employ modern technology to over come”

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  2. I grew on up Cherry Court in Turnkey and I am so so proud of this neighborhood as it was a community that focused on family and character building we were truly blessed to have had the opportunity to be a stable environment that is still standing and was meant for families that were low income and that has since over came that status.

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    • I am glad to hear that Forest Heights has carried out its goals. Do you have any memories about the different layouts of the homes. I am curious if the exterior appearance of the homes indicated the interior layout, or number of bedrooms.

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  3. 3/30/2020 – My grand parents were some of the first families to move in Forest Height a/k/a Turnkey. We grew up on Holly Circle. Growing up in Forest Height back then was sooooo much fun!! We would walk the Dam that circles around the back of the subdivision, play softball in dead-end street courts, draw large hopscotch on the new sidewalks, race around Holly Circle, Name kickball teams after the street court names, we enjoyed the dances at the Community Center, etc, We just enjoyed being outside in our new environment. I was nine years old when Hurricane Camille came a shore and had been in the home I think about a year or so but we managed to get it back together. My grandmother was one of the happiest proudest women I knew! She took pride in her yard, flower beds, trees…. just anything to do with the home. The house is a Ranch Style. Entering the front door is the living room and straight ahead is the dining room and kitchen.To the left is two bedrooms separated by a full bath with shower and tub. From the living room to the right is the hall then a bedroom to the right, down further another bedroom to the right, turn left down the hall to the right another bedroom and to the left a full bath with shower and tub. It was a blessing to many of the families, otherwise they may never have had the opportunities of becoming homeowners. I agree, it focused on families and character and gave many a since of purpose. For my grandparents, it was a dream of having something of their own, something decent, something to be proud of raising your family in and having a sense of status. Once upon a time, if you lived in Forest Heights, you were living somewhere. I moved to Jackson, MS 1974 graduated high school and college, married, had children, divorced, now the children grown and have families. My nest is empty, I plan to retire soon. I visit Gulport, MS from time-to-time and go through Forest Height. Would I live there today? No. It’s not the same and the younger generations don’t value the properties as we did. I want to thank the National Council of Negro Women, Dorothy Height, Francis X. Collins and Mississippi Home Builders Association. I’m proud to say I’m a product of Forest Height A/K/A Turnkey.

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  4. The History of Forrest Heights gave families a place to call home. Very few original home owners are still thriving, now with their grand children visiting. Majority of the homes are now owned by private individuals, investors (rental property) and entrepreneurs.
    June 29th and 30th of 2018, I attended Forest Heights Community 50th Anniversary, truly a Golden Gala.
    Children from other communities benefit from The Boys and Girls Center of Forrest Heights, Orange Grove, D’iberville, Saucier, Wool Market, Biloxi, Ocean Springs just to mention a few. Truly A Blessing For All.

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  5. Our family moved into Forest Heights/Turnkey in 1969, right before Camille. We lived in #4 Russell Blvd. for eight years. My dad worked for Colin Realty as a contractor and I believe helped on the Forest Heights building project. Those were some of the happiest eight years of my life. I remember the “Center” where we enjoyed so many fun activities. We were long-time members of the Forest Heights Missionary Baptist Church, which started in the “Center” and moved close by in North Gulfport. So many fond memories. I was very fortune to have lived in Turnkey. The sense of community we enjoyed has left a lasting impression upon me. My new novel makes honorable mention of Forest Heights/Turnkey. So thankful to Dorothy Height and the National Council of Negro Women. God bless you all.

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