Today’s post is brought to you by a guest author, Jeff Rosenberg of Biloxi. Jeff was a preservation specialist in the MDAH Gulf Coast Office from 2006 until 2014 and now works as a consultant and has become a historic home owner.
Biloxi’s Preservation in May events are always very interesting but I was particularly intrigued by the walking tour of one of the city’s newest historic districts. The East Howard Avenue Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in May of 2015. Professor Deanne Nuwer lead us up and down East Howard Avenue, keeping everyone moving as we had a lot to see. While I have admired many of these houses over the years, this tour was a great opportunity to stop and take a longer look. The tour was well attended, and several property owners graciously opened up their buildings to us. Many of the attendees shared personal stories of the properties on the tour, giving us wonderful in-depth history of the properties.
Properties within the district are in several styles including Vernacular, Folk Victorian, Neo-Classical, and Queen Anne. We were invited into 632 Howard Avenue. This building, currently home to a dance school, has an amazing porch, fireplace tiles, and the sidelights on either side of the front door are hinged. Like any good Victorian home, no two exterior wall surfaces were clad in the same milled material, be it lap siding, carved mill work, or various types of beaded board running every direction imaginable.
Next at 651 Howard Avenue we toured a vernacular side-gabled cottage that is right in the middle of a pretty significant remodeling. While most of the historic interior has been destroyed, this cottage did at one time have a plaster interior as the lath remains on the walls. A curious detail because while this type of home was once very typical in Biloxi the interior walls were usually tongue and groove boards, either left bare or papered. This hints that the house may have been more than your typical cottage. The owner of 583 Howard Avenue told us of her restoration work completed on the house since Hurricane Katrina. I believe she said the house received four feet of water, with wave action atop that, inside the house! This large classically styled house features a cindercrete stucco front porch and chain foundation wall. The cinders create a lightweight, coarse aggregate, which gives the stucco its rough textured surface.
The two more homes on Howard Avenue were open up to our group. 571 Howard Avenue is a charming gable end Folk Victorian Biloxi Cottage with turned porch posts and two over two wood windows. The house at 566 Howard Avenue is a unique example of Queen Anne style architecture that makes proud use of a repeating diamond motif on the front gable. We also stopped to see the amazing Capt. Louis R. Bowen house at 555 Howard Avenue. Built in 1906 it has been featured here on Misspreservation.com before, but photos cannot do these concrete block justice; it is a house that really has to be seen in person to be appreciated. The house was constructed by the Gulf Coast Concrete Construction Company for Capt. Bowen. Work was superintended by August Larson, who was also superintendent for the construction of Biloxi’s current city hall, then the federal building. The concrete blocks were supplied by the Barataria Canning Company, who in an attempt to utilize bi-product oyster shells, began using crushed shells as aggregate in concrete blocks they produced at their Point Cadet seafood factory.
The last stop on our tour before heading back to the Biloxi library for snacks and a slide presentation on the history of the Bowen House was 137 Lee Street. This little cottage uses classical elements such as the Tuscan columns to define its style. Compare this structure with the similarly formed structure seen above at 571 Howard Avenue. What differences/similarities do you notice?
A very big thank you is due to all the owners who participated in the tour. Being able to see these homes was a special treat. With such a well-attended tour, I believe there would be public interest in touring some of Biloxi’s three other new historic districts. Hopefully we won’t have to wait until next May for such a tour to be offered? If you attended the tour, please share your favorite moments!