Living

In the 1940s, a Creole cottage in Ocean Springs became the French Hotel

Guests of the French Hotel/Edwards House could enjoy the Gulf breezes from the 600-foot pavilion that encircled a large oak tree on the front lawn of the property.
Guests of the French Hotel/Edwards House could enjoy the Gulf breezes from the 600-foot pavilion that encircled a large oak tree on the front lawn of the property. Photo courtesy of Paul Jermyn

Pictured circa 1940 is the French Hotel that stood on the Ocean Springs beachfront just east of Martin Avenue. In his excellently researched book “Ocean Spring Hotels and Tourist Homes,” Ocean Springs historian Ray Bellande tells that this building evolved from a five-room Creole cottage style structure that French immigrants Antoine and Marie Gouraux Bertuccini opened in 1896.

French-speaking guests from New Orleans and the rice and sugar plantations of South Louisiana felt welcome and right at home in the hotel run by the French-speaking proprietors. Guests were indulged with the finest foods and wines produced from the hotel vineyards. They could enjoy saltwater bathing off the 750-foot pier and the medicinal benefits from the famous local springs of the area. After Antoine's death in 1921, Marie sold the hotel to Scotch-born renowned chef James H. Edwards.

In 1927, Edwards and his New Orleans-born wife, Amelia, improved the original building by enlarging the dining room, adding guests rooms and new bathrooms, and a second story, hence it became the structure pictured here. The Edwardses also brought the modern convenience of electricity and an up-to-date heating system, but they retained the warm and personal concern for their guests, always going the extra mile for their comfort.

The amenities of the hotel expanded to include wedding parties, dinner parties, receptions and meetings. In about 1943, the name French Hotel was changed to the Edwards House. After her husband's death in 1950, Mrs. Edwards continued to run the hotel until 1969, when damage inflicted by Hurricane Camille made it unsalvageable.

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 phone number to Flashback, Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; call 896-2424; or email living@sunherald.com.

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