Living

The Anniston was a premier Coast hotel but fire was its nemesis

This picture shows the replanting of the great oak trees that been destroyed when the original Anniston fell in the fire of 1913.
This picture shows the replanting of the great oak trees that been destroyed when the original Anniston fell in the fire of 1913. Photo courtesy of Paul Jermyn

This is a photograph of the Anniston Hotel, which was on the beach a short distance west of the present-day Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport.

The few extant pictures of the Anniston are postcard images. This early July 1915 photo shows the second Anniston that was rebuilt after a fire destroyed “the last stick and timber” of the original hotel.

East Gulfport was known as Mississippi City when the first Anniston was built in 1898. It quickly became the most popular hostelry between Gulfport and Biloxi.

In its earliest days, the Anniston operated exclusively as a summer hotel, but it became a summer-winter resort when steam heating was installed in 1911. The hotel became a social center, host to a whirlwind of events: Dances, dinners, parties, with sometimes as many as 500 guests attending. It catered not only to Northern visitors, but also to those from New Orleans and upstate Mississippi. The young people of Gulfport and Biloxi found it a delightful place to rendezvous.

After the great fire of 1913, the Anniston rose from the ashes in record time. Formally opening on July 5, 1913, it quickly reclaimed its status as one of the premier hotels on the Mississippi Coast.

One satisfied guest described it as “a rambling, roomy hotel standing out like a Swedish chalet. People are swinging lazily in hammocks on the wide veranda, children are frolicking on the lawn, horses are champing at the gate, sails are flashing over the waters . . . this is the Anniston.”

But fire was its nemesis. Defective wiring was the probable cause of the fire that swept through the Anniston on Nov. 2, 1938. As strong northeast winds fanned the blaze, the Anniston met the same fate as did many of the other early wood-constructed hotels along the Mississippi Coast.

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. Send a description with your name, address and phone number to Flashback, the Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; call 896-2424; or email living@sunherald.com.

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