A half-dozen dump trucks and earth-moving equipment has spurred Sun Herald readers to ask what’s being built at the entrance to Shepard State Park on Graveline Road in south Gautier.
Answer: It’s a foundation and parking area for the new park welcome center and general store that is being moved from Allen Road near the corner of Interstate 10 and Mississippi 57.
The historic Wilson House Inn that was operated as a bed and breakfast — before the new Bienville Orthopedic building was built — is being moved to the state park. It’s a two-story log house, believed to be the largest and oldest of its kind on the Coast, maybe even in the state.
Made of Southern yellow pine logs and very sturdy, the city will separate the house in sections and bring it down Mississippi 57, city workers said. Expect to see it making the move within the next two months, Mayor Gordon Gollott told the Sun Herald.
The house, which actually has its roots in Gulfport, was donated to the city more than a year ago by attorney Brian Britt, who had operated the bed and breakfast in north Gautier at one point and now owns another business on the property.
The city is using $300,000 in state Tidelands money to enhance the state park with the historic house. That money will fund the move, the foundation, the stabilization at the new site, sidewalks and handicapped access ramps, as well as a parking lot and drive through for RVs. The city will seek more funding to fully finish the project.
The house was originally built in the 1920s at a location that is now the west side of U.S. 49, a mile north of Interstate 10 in Gulfport. It was built by the Cox family. The house was built on acreage that was a nursery that stretched from Creosote Road to Dedeaux Road. When the Cox family lost the house and business in the Depression, Joel Pinson Wilson bought it and continued to run it as Wilson Farms Nursery.
During the 1940s, U.S. 49 split the property, according to the history provided to Gautier. The business was handed down to Clarke and Marjorie Wilson, who became well known in the Orange Grove community, initially helping to form a farmer’s cooperative in Harrison County.
Marjorie Wilson hosted a television show on gardening and wrote on the topic for the newspaper, now the Sun Herald, for 50 years. Originally from New York, where her father was president of Western Union, she had a journalism degree from the University of Miami, according to the history. She died in the 1990s.
After her death, the property was sold to a car dealership and the house moved to Allen Road in Gautier near Mississippi 57 to save it. It was used as a residence and bed and breakfast by attorney Brian Britt who called it The Wilson House Inn.
Gautier is excited to get it, Gollott said. The city is planning to create meeting rooms or perhaps a city museum in part of the house.
“I think it’s a perfect fit,” he said. “It will fit in well with the look of the park.”
The city manages Shepard State Park but follows state rules, Gollott said. It has a master plan and recently opened a 28-lane archery range.
The park is a big asset to the city, he said. “You’d be surprised at the number of campers who use it.”