Architect Pics: Thomas Sully

Not long ago the Tulane University’s Southeastern Architectural Archive blog announced the recent compilation of the finding aid for their collection of documents from the office of Mississippi City born architect Thomas Sully.

Thomas Sully, left, and unidentified man, on Sully’s yacht Helen, circa 1893. Photograph mounted on gilt-edge card stock. Courtesy Thomas Sully Finding Aid, South Eastern Architectural Archive. Tulane University.

Thomas Sully and unidentified man, on Sully’s yacht Helen, circa 1893. Photograph mounted on gilt-edge card stock. Courtesy Thomas Sully Finding Aid, South Eastern Architectural Archive. Tulane University.

“The Southeastern Architectural Archive recently finalized the processing of the Thomas Sully Office Records. The collection consists of architectural drawings, specifications and photographs associated with the career of Thomas Sully, a Mississippi-born architect (1855-1939) who is credited with designing New Orleans’ first skyscraper, the Hennen (AKA Maritime) building.”

I found this collection of records to be unique from others in the SEAA collection because in addition to Drawings, Specifications, and Correspondence it contains photographs of Sully’s leisure activities. One of the buildings listed in the SEAA collection accredited to Sully is the 1903 Gulfport Yacht Club clubhouse. In addition to designing buildings Sully also designed boats. As a matter of fact the photographs I could locate online of Sully are not due to any architectural association but rather to his love of boating and the outdoors.

Sully was elected commodore of the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans for two consecutive terms in 1893 and 1894. During his tenure he coordinated events with the Mississippi Gulf Coast yacht clubs. Included in these clubs was his hometown club, the now defunct Mississippi City Yacht Club. I believe Sully was a member of the Mississippi City Club along with another New Orleans architect with family ties to Mississippi City, Rathbone E. DeBuys. Thanks to the research for this post I finally drew the connection that DeBuys Road, the road that separates Gulfport from Biloxi, was likely named for DeBuy’s Station which had been named for Rathbone’s father. Here is what the MDAH HRI Database has to say about Mr. Sully:

Sully, Thomas (b.1855 – d.1939)
Architect, New Orleans, LA
Born in Mississippi City, the son of a cotton merchant. After studying in New Orleans and working in Austin, Texas (in the firm of Larmour & Wheelock–apparently JACOB LARMOUR formerly of Canton, MS) and New York (with J.M. Slade), he returned to New Orleans in 1882, first working independently, then as Thomas Sully & Co. (1885-1887), and then setting up a partnership with Albert Toledano as SULLY & TOLEDANO (1889-1893). Office in Hennen Building in 1895, practicing as Thomas Sully & Co. again. From 1897-1899, he was a partner in the firm Sully, Burton & Stone, with HAYWARD L. BURTON and Samuel Stone (of STONE BROTHERS). See The Buildings of Biloxi (1976), pp. 63, 155. Listed in “Directory of Southern Architects” in Southern Architect and Building News, V. 32, #2 (Dec 1913), p. 45. Submitted a proposal for a new MS State Capitol. Records located at Southeastern Architectural Archives at Tulane. “Pioneered metal-frame skeleton construction in New Orleans” including the Hennen Building. See Kingsley, Buildings of Louisiana, pp. 39, 43, 119-120, 126, 131, 134, 214-215, 425. Architectural drawings located at the Southeastern Architectural Archive at Tulane University in the Thomas Sully Office Records Collection (#8). See wikipedia entry:

You know you’re big time when you have a Wikipedia page! According to the MDAH HRI Database not many of the Mississippi documented buildings designed by Sully are left. Most of the listed work was in Gulfport, with the three remaining documented buildings being in the same block and build with in a few years of each other, all which gives a nice homogamy to the two Beaux Arts and one Gothic facades.

Thomas Sully’s outdoor photos remind me of another set of Architect Pictures of Meridian Architect P.J. Krouse, who was shown later in life on a hunting trip in the photographs shared by Mark Clinton Davis. If I may be so bold I would draw a connect to Mississippi Skyscraper architects abhorring the city in favor of the relaxing aura of the coast. Its well know that Louis Sullivan drew inspiration from spending time in Ocean Springs. Architect Claude Lindsley (who would have been Sullivan’s neighbor on Holcomb Blvd had Sullivan still been alive when Lindsley moved to Ocean Springs) ended his career in Ocean Springs. I wouldn’t say he retired there as he was just as productive in Jackson County during his time there as he was at anytime in his career. Both men appear to be in the same mode Thomas Sully, enjoying the coast as a way to recharge one’s design initiative .

“Thomas Sully Office Records SOUTHEASTERN ARCHITECTURAL ARCHIVE COLLECTION 8” Finding aid at the South Eastern Architectural Archives of Tulane University, New Orleans, LA. Accessed 2-14-2014

Scheib, Flora K. History of the Southern Yacht Club. Pelican Publishing Company. 1986

Categories: Architectural Research, Banks, Gulf Coast, Gulfport, Historic Preservation


17 replies

  1. The Gulf and Ship Island Railroad Building had been junked up over the decades; but a lot of the credit for its resumed dignity should go to Leo Frederick Wagner Jr. When the building was reworked into the headquarters of Mississippi Power, Wagner’s involvement of color and space management resolved many problems for a new use without compromising the integrity of the building’s original design.


    • I had remembered the building as having a slip cover on it. Do you remember what year the restoration was done? That building has always made a statement but even more so now that it’s the only structure standing on the block. I’ve never been inside so you piqued my interest to.


      • I believe it was 1985. It was certainly long before any Katrina associated work. Fred Wagner also enacted an MDAH sponsored restoration of part of Jefferson College near Natchez as a bicentennial project in 1975-77. It was very sensitively done.


  2. Also, thanks for this intriguing post. Sully seems responsible for most of the best of historic downtown Gulfport.


  3. I see architectural twins! How cool. I also note that on my upcoming trip to Biloxi, I need to wobble over to Gulfport for a history lesson.


  4. In Folder 70 at the link below, There is listed in Hattiesburg The Great Gulf & Ship Island Railroad Company Hotel and Store. Three is also listed The Great Gulf & Ship Island Hotel, Station and Power House. I have a print of a sketch of The Gulf & Ship Island Railroad Company’s Hotel, Station and Power House. There is another unidentified building next door in the sketch. The caption reads: The Gulf & Ship Island Railroad Company’s Hotel. Station and Power House, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. ATLAS PORTLAND CEMENT, LONGVIEW LIME, ST. LOUIS HYDRAULIC PRESS BRICK and ACME CEMENT PLASTER were used throughout the construction, aggregating more than one hundred loads. Morrison Brothers, Sole Agents, Jackson, Mississippi.

    I don’t see how either of the two buildings could have been Hotel Hattiesburg. Or the Milner Building that I knew as a youngster in Hattiesburg. The site of the then Hotel Hattiesburg is that triangular lot in front of Sack’s army Store with railroad tracks on one side. Could this have been a poured concrete structure with pressed brick veneer? The obverse of the print is a sketch of the State Capitol Building with a ring of images of twenty-four of the State governors…Governor Vardaman being listed as number twenty-four.


  5. It was the Loeb’s Theater.


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