Mississippi Builders: Christian (Chris) Thompson

O. E. Thompson Advert Biloxi Daily Herald April 1, 1902

Today’s post is about a builder from the Coast’s early boom period when Gulfport was first established, and Biloxi’s hotel trade was really taking off. Christian Thompson was a younger brother of Builder/Architect O.E. Thompson. The elder Thompson is likely a more prolific builder than the MDAH HRI database gives him credit for. I’ve searched for an obituary for O.E. Thompson but I haven’t had any luck yet. Chris Thompson’s obituary gives some insight into the work history of his brother’s firm.

CHRISTIAN THOMPSON
Christian (Chris) Thompson, 94, retired building contractor, died early Friday at Howard Memorial Hospital in Biloxi where he had been a patient for five weeks. Born in Hancock County, he had resided in Biloxi for 84 years, maintaining his home at 125 Croesus St. since 1906. Mr. Thompson attended Biloxi schools, in 1897-went to New York City with Ed and Jim Booth, twin brothers from Biloxi, and attended lectures at night at Columbia University. He worked with many of the major building contractors of the Gulf Coast, including his brother, O.E. Thompson. He worked on Dukate’s Theatre, now First National Bank; the former Biloxi City Hall, former Biloxi High School, and, Biloxi Yacht Club. During the period from 1900-1907, when most of the early construction took place in Gulfport, he worked with his brother’s general contracting company which built the Catholic’ Church and the Hewes Building. In 1916, the county put Mr. Thompson in charge of rebuilding 35 bridges that were washed out during a cloudburst. In 1904 he married Miss Laura Caillavet. He retired in 1954, the year she died. He was a member of the Church of the Nativity. Mr. Thompson is survived by three sons, Christian G. Thompson of Mobile, Lester J. Thompson Sr. and Howard M. Thompson, both of Biloxi; one daughter, Mrs. Cecil B. Creel of Long Beach; 10 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. …

-The Daily Herald. Biloxi-Gulfport, Miss. June 23, 1972

Another article about Mr. Thompson from 1970 adds a bit more information, specifically that he was born in Gainsville, MS on February 27, 1878, and in 1889 the Thompson family moved to Biloxi.

Mr. Thompson seems to have been the old-timer about town in the late 1960s and early 1970s as there are several articles in which he is cited, or he shares stories of the Coast at the turn of the 20th century. I am curious as to what specifically caused Thompson to travel to New York and take classes at Columbia, or if it was just an instance of a young man going along with his friends for the adventure? In another article, Thompson clarifies his studies at Columbia.

“Most of my schooling I got from correspondence schools,” he said. I finished a course in mechanical engineering with the International Correspondence School in 1900.”

He also went to New York City before the turn of the century where he and Ed and Jim Booth, twin brothers from Biloxi, attended Columbia University.

Thompson studied mechanical engineering, Jim studied chemistry and Ed studied law. “I lived on Fifth Avenue,” he said. They worked in the daytime and went to Columbia at night, receiving free tuition because they were “working boys.”

-The Daily Herald. Biloxi-Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 23, 1970

Mr. Thompson also admits to having signed the buildings he worked on. So you might just come across his signature in an attic, crawl space, or wall cavity of an old coastal landmark.



Categories: Biloxi, Bridges, Churches, Gulf Coast, Gulfport, Historic Preservation

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4 replies

  1. Interesting–I have underestimated Gulfport. The photo of the Hewes building sent me to Google maps and downtown to do a little more exploring.

    Like

  2. thanks for this interesting post. i remember some of the older, ‘nicer’ buildings in gulfport from family trips there in the 1950s.

    Liked by 1 person

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