The La Pointe–Krebs House may just be the oldest confirmed building in the South, a USM professor said Tuesday.
Grant Harley, professor of geography and geology at University of Southern Mississippi, said samples of timbers he took from the house in February show the structure dates back to 1757.
“It’s extremely rare to have a house standing for 260 years or so, and I know there claim to be some older buildings, but to my knowledge, it’s the oldest confirmed building, I would say, in the (Deep) South,” Harley said at a press conference.
"Many people claim their building is a certain age, but many times this age is conjecture or passed down through oral histories." Harley said. "Having an actual paper deed record or having the structure analyzed through dendrochronology is about as sure as it gets."
The dating process, called dendrochonology, is a method by which timbers are dated through measurement and analysis of tree ring width.
In this case, samples from the La Pointe–Krebs House were compared with samples from a database at Eglin Air Force Base that has samples dating back to the 1500s, Harley said.
The study allowed Harley to pinpoint when the timber for the La Pointe–Krebs House was cut for construction.
Harley said samples taken from the center room of the house were the oldest, dating to 1757.
Specifically, the bark and tree rings showed that the timber was harvested in late summer or early fall of 1757.
Samples taken from the East Room doorframe dated to 1762 and some other timbers dated to 1772. Those Harley said, were replacement timbers to repair the house after a hurricane that year.
Harley said samples taken from the West Room could not be dated because there was no bark attached. The timbers were squared and cleaned off.
“I’ve never dated a building this old,” he said.
The study was initiated by Josh Bowman, a student of Harley’s, for a dendrochronological study. USM funded the study.
Harley said he has been involved in “tree-ring” science for about eight years, and dated many structures in the South and Midwest.
“This house is by far the most important building I have worked on,” he said. “Now that the construction history of the La Pointe-Krebs House has been revealed by science, it allows us to know more about its value on the landscape during a time of cultural transition for the Gulf Coast.
“Structures of this age are exceedingly rare, and it is a major point of pride for the City of Pascagoula and Mississippi. Preservation of this structure is of the utmost importance.”
Kristin Pugh, a La Pointe–Krebs Foundation board member, said it was a big day for the state.
“Today was such a big day for not only Pascagoula, but the entire Gulf Coast and Mississippi,” she said. “What a wonderful thing to know about your hometown, that we have such a historical treasure in our own backyard. The Museum will open at 4 p.m. July 1, and I hope that everyone will take this opportunity to see the hard work that is happening at the La Pointe–Krebs House and Museum.”
Staff writer Karen Nelson contributed to this report.