[Update 12/1/16] For access to the Charnley Norwood House please contact the MS Department of Marine Resources: 228-523-4150 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Good news! The Charnley-Norwood House, now home to the Gulf Coast office of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, will be open for tours on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Susan Ruddiman, who grew up playing under the many Live Oaks that shade the grounds, will be your guide for this amazing architectural experience. Susan’s aunt and uncle, Edsel and Mary Ruddiman, owned the property for many years and are fondly remembered in Ocean Springs for the festive church picnics and pilgrimage tours held at the home.
From Susan’s article for the Ocean Springs Gazette:
Considered one of the one of the most significant architectural treasures on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Charnley-Norwood House in Ocean Springs was designed by Louis Sullivan, father of the modern day skyscraper. Its charming bungalow design herald the arrival of modern day residential architecture.
The Charnley-Norwood House is now open to the public for a limited time from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. each Saturday. This follows the successful Christmas open house event in December when more than 300 people toured the house over the eight days it was open. The 1890s-era house, located at 509 East Beach Drive, was fully restored after heavy damage from Hurricane Katrina. It had been acquired by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) in 2011, and restored to the era of 1900 through funds obtained by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH). Prior to the hurricane, the house was a private home on East Beach where its historic significance was known to few.
It was designed in 1890 by Louis Sullivan, who was known at the “father of the modern day skyscraper,” and possibly his young protégé, Frank Lloyd Wright, who was a draftsman in Sullivan’s office.
Sullivan designed and built adjacent gulf-side retreats, one for himself and the other for his friend, James Charnley, a wealthy Chicago lumber merchant. Charnley sold his home to another lumberman, Frederick Norwood, in 1896.
The original home was destroyed by a fire in 1897. Norwood immediately rebuilt it almost identical to the original design by Sullivan, using rare curly pine on the walls and ceilings that he had acquired through his lumber business. Sullivan was spending more time in Ocean Springs, and apparently took the reconstruction as an opportunity to improve the plan.
The houses that Sullivan designed, perhaps with the assistance of Frank Lloyd Wright (he later would claim authorship), were different from the homes of that era. The verticality, floor plan and florid details common to the late 19th Century Victorian architecture were replaced with horizontal orientation, rooms that flowed one-to-the-other, simple natural materials and expanses of glass that erased the lines between the interior and exterior spaces. All of these building forms later became the hallmarks of modern architecture.
Within the design of the two houses can be found the nexus of ideas that would powerfully reshape American residential architecture of the 20th Century, according to Ken P’Pool, deputy state historic preservation officer for the MDAH.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed Sullivan’s home, located on the corner of Holcomb Boulevard and East Beach Drive, however the Charnley-Norwood House, as well as the octagonal shaped former guest cottage next door, were salvageable.
Emergency stabilization work was carried out under the direction of MDAH. The historic structure report and architectural conservator analysis showed that the Charnley-Norwood House was remarkably intact despite the passage of years and owners.
Currently four groups are working under a temporary memorandum of agreement to open the house to the public – they are MDMR, MDAH, Mississippi Heritage Trust and the city of Ocean Springs. A public use plan for the house will be completed in April. The weekly tours are possible now because of a BP museum seafood grant the city of Ocean Springs received. Because of the restored yellow pine wood floors, no footwear with sharp heels is permitted inside the house. While the house will be open each Saturday, arrangements can made for weekday tours if needed. For additional information, email email@example.com or call 228-875-2112.
FOR YOUR CALENDAR
What: Tour the Charnley-Norwood House
Date: Every Saturday
Time: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Location: 509 East Beach Drive, Ocean Springs