It was Gunston Hall before it housed this famous Coast restaurant that recently reopened

Dr. H.M. Folkes and wife enjoy the Gulf breezes from the veranda of their home.
Dr. H.M. Folkes and wife enjoy the Gulf breezes from the veranda of their home. Local History Department, Biloxi Public Library

Dr. and Mrs. Hyman M. Folkes (1871-1926) are pictured circa 1922 on the veranda of their home, which is located on the northeast corner of U.S. 90 and Rodenburg Avenue.

When Dr. Folkes built the home in 1919, he patterned it after an antebellum home he had seen in Virginia. So impressed was he by the Virginia house that he gave his own home the same name, Gunston Hall. But, of course, along the Mississippi Coast it is known as the White Pillars.

A native of Brooklyn, Mississippi, Dr. Folkes came to the Mississippi Coast in 1896 to fill the job as physician at the Ship Island quarantine station. He went on to set up a private practice in downtown Biloxi and became a partner in the Folkes & Grant Drugstore.

In the early 1900s, Dr. Folkes along with Dr. W.T. Bolton established first Biloxi’s charity hospital. In 1903 he opened the Biloxi Sanatorium and Health Resort, which included a nursing school and offered the latest medical treatments.

After his death in 1926, Dr. Folkes’ widow lived on the property until 1942, when Julia Wendt purchased it. During World War II, Wendt served in the military and was captured by the Japanese. During her time as a POW, friends of Wendt saved her home by paying the taxes during her absence.

In 1966 Wendt sold the home to the Mladinich family who restored it and filled it with European and American antiques. In this ambiance the White Pillars Restaurant began serving food as unique, rich and elegant as its surroundings.

The waters of Hurricane Katrina flooded the historic house and former restaurant, but it stood solid. The hurricane also swept away the Phillips 66 gas station that stood to the south of the restaurant and its front courtyard enclosure. Today, the White Pillars’ future looks bright. Its stately white columns face the beachfront once again, just as Dr. Folkes built it and the restaurant recently reopened.

Dr. H. M. Folkes and wife enjoy the Gulf breezes from the veranda of their home.

Photo courtesy of the local history dept., Biloxi Public Library.