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Historical Hotel Gulfside has interesting history

Arthur P. Bedou, a New Orleans native, made the photograph for this postcard, which was published by the Albertype Company of Brooklyn, New York.
Arthur P. Bedou, a New Orleans native, made the photograph for this postcard, which was published by the Albertype Company of Brooklyn, New York. Albertype Company of Brooklyn, New York

The caption on this undated postcard is something of a mystery.

It identifies the building as the Hotel Gulfside and the Waveland Post Office, yet its interesting history does not include evidence that it was ever a hotel. However, the post office part may be accurate.

The house, which was located at the eastern edge of present-day Buccaneer Park, was steeped in legend from the beginning. The local story told that the home was built by President Andrew Jackson, the “Hero of New Orleans.”

But the extensive research by Hancock County Historical Society historian Russell Guerin separates the fact from fiction. Actually, the construction of the home in the late 1850s was by the President’s adopted son, Andrew Jackson Jr.

In 1876 the property was purchased by New Orleans Judge Honore F. Deblieux. The native of France retained it as a summer home.

After his death in 1878 the property passed through different members of the Deblieux family. The last owner, John D. Deblieux, is listed in the 1910 census as the manager of a lumber mill in Iberville Parish, Louisiana. The fact that both John and his brother, Ivan, served as Waveland’s postmaster at various times may account for the identification of the house as a post office.

At some point during the Deblieux family’s tenure, the high-pitched, dormer-windowed roof was replaced by the roofline pictured here. As for the hotel part, Lynda Hlywiak, John Deblieux’s granddaughter, who has compiled an excellent genealogy of the Deblieux family, was mystified when asked about it during a telephone interview. But there are speculations that may serve as an explanation.

In 1923 African-American Bishop Robert E. Jones of the Methodist-Episcopal Church purchased the Deblieux property, and with young black people in mind, he made it into a religious educational facility and a recreational resort, which he named Gulfside. As it was a place where people stayed overnight or for several days at a time, the postcard publisher may have erroneously identified it as a hotel. Learn more about the house and the Gulfside Assembly in the next Flashback.

Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast’s distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and daytime phone number to Flashback, the Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; or call 896-2424; or email living@sunherald.com.

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