Happy 160th Birthday, Louis Sullivan!

Hurricane Room- Buena Vista Hotel ca. 1956- Mississippi State University Digital Archive CHARM collection

Hurricane Room- Buena Vista Hotel ca. 1956- Mississippi State University Digital Archive CHARM collection

To commemorate the 160th anniversary of Louis Sullivan’s birth (which I foolishly missed on September 3rd) I’d like to pull from the archives a newspaper clipping regarding his most noted apprentice Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright visited the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a guest speaker for the 1949 Southern Conference on Hospital Planning.  At the end of the conference in memory of Sullivan, a memorial service was held and a plaque was dedicated.  From 1890 until 1910 Sullivan owned a house in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  It was the only house he would ever own.  In his 1924 autobiography, Sullivan says of his home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast “‘Twas here Louis did his finest, purest thinking.  ‘Twas here he saw the flow of life, that all life became a flowing for him, and so the thoughts the works of man.”

Architect Sees Need for Genius

Frank Lloyd Wright, famous architect, said at Biloxi at the Buena Vista that genius and men of genius were needed today more than ever. 

Wright addressing the Southern Conference on Hospital Planning, said that only genius can gather the so-called advantages and open their significance to the world today.  

Communism kills that genius and so does socialism, he continued.  Only democracy keeps it alive.  

The organic architecture is hanging by a thread and glimmer, and young men’s faith are catching that glimmer, he remarked.  Architecture, however, he said is a gray headed profession.

Wright said it is necessary to love the work one does in order to do a good job.  He declared himself to be an “amateur” and not a professional.

General knowledge, the architect felt, was more desirable than specialized information.  Specialization is an easily acquired knowledge, he stated, that keeps up from setting at the heart of things.

[the conference] will conclude with the dedication of a memorial to Louis Sullivan, late famed architect and one of the teachers of Frank Lloyd Wright.

St. John’s Church has been chosen as the church building where the memorial tablet to Sullivan will be placed.  The memorial service and dedication will take place at 3 p.m.

Sullivan designed St. John’s Church [ed. note: Sullivan did not design St. John’s] which was constructed 68 [ed. note: actually 57] years ago.  Sullivan was one of the outstanding architects produced by this country.  His theories of design and ornamentations which he developed perhaps have influenced more architects than any other person, it was pointed out by officials of the planning conference.  

-Biloxi Daily Herald May 21, 1949

While Sullivan is often credited with the design of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ocean Springs the structure is more than likely based on a published design of New York Architect Manly M. Cutter.  But Sullivan did design multiple structures in Ocean Springs including his own home (Louis Sullivan House, destroyed 2005), the Charnley House (burned 1897), and later the Charnley-Norwood House & Guest Cottage, not to mention several stables, outbuildings, doghouses, and perhaps several other structures yet discovered.

St. Johns Episcopal Church Ocean Springs, Mississippi 6-13-2012

St. Johns Episcopal Church Ocean Springs, Mississippi 6-13-2012

Previous Louis Sullivan Birthday Celebrations:


Categories: Architectural Research, Biloxi, Churches, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Ocean Springs


3 replies

  1. Wow! I learn something new every day from you! I only associated Sullivan with his lovely department stores in Chicago and recently learned of his work in the mid west. I was in the small town of Clinton IA this summer and recognized his handiwork almost immediately on what was once a man’s department store that is now being restored. I was able to get a small tour of the ground floor and my heart just skipped a beat – my grandparents lived in Chicago for many years and while I was too young at the time to experience the wonderful architecture, the Carson Pirie Scott building has been a favorite of mine. Thanks for sharing even more of his wonderful legacy!

    The Van Allen building


  2. In all my forty years on the Gulf Coast I must have passed this beautiful old church hundreds of times. Even have friends who attend there. Why didn’t I ever stop, get out and admire it up close. I have always loved old churches and mine was built in 1914 and thought it might be the prettiest ever. I am just prejudiced. This one is in the top ten as well.


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