The Autumn Garden dramaturgy: Pass Christian

NICK: I’ve had a dull day, darling. Where’d you skip to?
NINA: We drove over to Pass Christian.

Table of Contents

Pass Christian, Mississippi (map center) is east of Bay St. Louis, along the Gulf of Mexico

Pass Christian, Mississippi (map center) is east of Bay St. Louis, along the Gulf of Mexico

Pass Christian is a city in Harrison County, Mississippi, United States, along the Gulf of Mexico. It is part of the GulfportBiloxi, Mississippi Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 6,579 at the 2000 census.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.3 square miles (39.6 km²), of which, 8.4 square miles (21.8 km²) of it is land and 6.9 square miles (17.8 km²) of it (44.97%) is water.

History

Pass Christian was named for a nearby deepwater pass, which in turn was named for Nicholas Christian L’Adnier who lived on nearby Cat Island beginning in 1746. (Another nearby pass, Pass Marianne, was named for L’Adnier’s wife Marianne Paquet.)

The town was a famous resort prior to the American Civil War and the site where the first yacht club of the South (and second in the US) was established in 1849. The town was a favorite location for the beach and summer homes of the wealthy of New Orleans. The row of historic mansions along the town’s shoreline, especially Scenic Drive, was one of the country’s notable historic districts. Tarpon Hole, offshore of Pass Christian in the Mississippi Sound, was the location where a world record Black Sea Bass was caught by Captain John T. McDonald. Captain McDonald operated The Schooner “Queen of the Fleet”

The fishing vessel was noted for its nearly spotless racing record throughout the 1890s and early 1900s until being replaced by larger, faster schooners built for the Biloxi fisheries during World War I. The two-masted 42-foot vessel was purchased in 1895 by Mrs. Bidwell, later given to John McDonald, and years later, was lost at sea on October 16, 1923 during a storm. John T. McDonald had been a city alderman in 1888, and served as mayor for three 2-year terms from 1890 to 1895, and served another term in 1903.

Pass Christianis a city in Harrison County, Mississippi, United States, along the Gulf of Mexico. It is part of the GulfportBiloxi, Mississippi Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 6,579 at the 2000 census.

Pass Christian — Paradise

On becoming an exclusive upscale bedroom community

The area of Pass Christian historically traces its early presence to 1699 by the French Explorers d’Iberville and Bienville.  As it slowly developed, the small commercial fishing village was incorporated in 1848.

During the mid 1800s Pass Christian thrived as an important trading center.  Farmers brought live turkeys, pigs and other livestock, as well as wool and cotton and produce down the Red Creek Road from upstate and back country to the Pass Christian harbor, when it was a major stop on the steamboat route between New Orleans and Mobile.

It was also the heyday of “Watering Places” and resort spas which brought tourists year round including droves of stately families and “nouveau riche” from New Orleans and upstate who established second homes for reasons of health and entertainment.

An 1850s commentary was — “Pass Christian is celebrated for its pure and salubrious air, the beauty of its site, the elegance of its private mansions, the refinement and wealth of its citizens, its excellent academy for the education of young misses, and its military school;  moreover, it is the favorite summer resort for the more opulent Orleanois, many of whom have built tasteful abodes along the shore, facing the lake, where gardens, lawns, porticos, and verandahs, enchant the eye.”

During the early 1900s, northern railroad links to the nearby city of Gulfport caused most businesses to reestablish from Pass Christian to its booming young neighbor at the east.  By 1920, Pass Christian’s hotels no longer existed, except for the Inn By the Sea at Henderson Point and the small Grey Castle at the east end.  Thus, most of its tourist trade shifted elsewhere.  However, the colorful shrimping and oyster industry continued to operate along its coastline, almost like gray ghosts in the early morn.

The town’s population seemed to stay below 5000, producing a local saying which became common place.  “If you want to live in the Pass, bring your own money!”

Today, “The Pass,” as it’s known, continues to function as a resort for wealthy cognoscenti who maintain vacation homes, or have retired here, or who manage to rent one of the few guest cottages.  An InnKeeper once stated, “We never advertise — you have to know someone here!”

Mayor Billy McDonald continues to brag that, “We don’t let anyone in until someone dies!”

Yet another claims,“The Pass is the last place on the Coast where you can still see life as it use to be!”

Upon viewing the lovely old mansions and the ubiquitous white picket fences —  another person remarked, “All’s right in the World!”

Dan,

My name is Margaret Loesch, and my father was Brig. General L. F. Loesch;  we owned the beautiful home at 625 East Beach from 1952 until the mid-1960’s, and later ( after my father was, sadly, killed in a plane crash ) my mother, brother and I moved to the “Ewing House” ( as we always called it ) at 829 E. Beach, where my mother lived until the early 1970’s.

Although we traveled and lived around the world, we always considered the Pass as our home ( which was exactly why my parents had purchased there, so as to give my brother and I a sense of roots not usually enjoyed among military families ); we spent many summer vacations there, and many holidays, and after my father died, we lived there fulltime.  I so miss Pass Christian; although I’ve traveled the world, it still remains uniquely special.  Thus, it was with great appreciation that I eagerly read your book, sent to me by a friend from Gulfport.  It brought back a lot of memories, including Camille, of course ( we were living at the 829 E. Scenic Drive house by then, and yes, we were in the house when the storm hit).

Unfortunately, my mother ( Maggie Loesch, originally from Meridian) passed away in 1995;  she had been living in the guest house I built for her on our property here in North Hollywood, Calif.  She would have just loved reading your book!  You mentioned in your book that I had something to do with the Muppet Babies tv series;  yes, I did; actually, I was the Executive Producer of the series, along with Jim Henson; he and I were partnered on that series for six years, until he died,  while I was CEO of Marvel Productions.  In 1990,  I left Marvel and the Muppet Babies to become the founding President & CEO of the FOX Kids Networks, Worldwide, where I stayed until the end of 1997.  It was with great irony that in early 1998, I became President of Jim Henson Television;  I left that company ten months later to run a cable network purchased by both The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark.

And now, even as Pres. & CEO of Odyssey Network, I am often reminded of the Gulf Coast and “the Pass” during my travels around the country.  Still, to this day, the Pass remains  the loveliest of towns, etched in my memory forever.   I’m so happy that the gambling hasn’t come to PC.

I can still remember the smell of the summer rains, and think of the summer breezes wafting through our house ( we had no air conditioning in those days…that would have cost us a small fortune!!);  when I tell my son about the “sweet” smell of burning leaves in the fall as we kids had to rake and rake and rake all those piles of  magnolia leaves, he looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind !  For, as you might guess, in Southern California, we could NEVER burn leaves, due to fire dangers and air pollution restrictions!   And he can’t even begin to imagine the freedom we all felt as kids as we’d head off for the day on our bikes to explore regions unknown throughout the Pass,  making sure to be back just before  dinner!  Here, in Los Angeles, kids don’t enjoy that freedom, for we parents all fear some maniac might grab them!

My son is lucky if I let him ride his bike four blocks to another child’s house, and then he has to call me immediately, lest I start a parent’s patrol looking for him!  Well, so much for “the good old days!”   I’m sorry to babble on so much.  I just really wanted to let you know how very much I enjoyed your book.  I don’t get “home ” to often, but I do keep in touch with some friends still living there.  My dream is to someday buy one of those lovely old homes on Scenic Drive!  To think, my mother, brother and I sold the house at 625 E. Bch., now worth well over a million dollars, for a mere $ 75,000!!

Regrettably, I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy it back!   But, until I can, I’ll have your book to browse and, using my imagination, re-live my wonderful childhood spent there.

Margaret

Dan,

My grandfather, Frank Mendoza, originally owned the Grey Castle Hotel and sold it to the Jesuit Priests.  I would be very interested in getting copies of pictures of The Grey Castle Hotel.   Over the years my pictures have been lost, we only have one picture of my grandmother on the front steps.   My grandparents also owned the Miramar Hotel at one time.  If you can be of some help it would be greatly appreciated.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Bettie Mendoza Brady

4 Responses

  1. I have been looking for info on the location where the baptist assembly was located. What is the history of it before it became that? Someone had said they thought it was used as some sort of military training. If so when and what. Thank you for any help.

    • Gullfshore Baptist Assembly was located at 100 1st Street, Henderson Point, Pass Christian.
      The Mercahnt Marine Academy was on that site until after the Korean war. The Baptist Convention of Mississippi bought the properety at public auction in 1959. Their publice relations published a book called Beside the Point tht contains pics and additional info about the area.

  2. Hi,
    I am a Pass Christian native who now lives in San Francisco. I am so happy I stumbled across this page. Can you tell me where the Grey Castle Hotel was?

    I attended St Paul’s in the Pass in the late 1970’s. We lived in Henderson Point, where my parents were still till Katrina.

    I will be in New Orleans next weekend. I hope to visit the Pass again.

    Thank you
    Mike

  3. Looking for info on the grey castle on hwy. 90 in pass christian ms. Not the hotel. Its still standing

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