Pedestrians passing by the apartment building located at 3000 Beach Blvd. S. last week may have noticed a curious metamorphosis underway. The square lines once visible where the columns of its arcade met the second story of the building have transformed into graceful, curving arches. What they may not realize is that this nearly 100-year-old building is taking a step back into its past.
The building known to Gulfport history as “The Holiday Inn” was built in 1925 by Walter O. Brooks. It was characterized by elegant Mediterranean revival features such as its double-decker arched colonnade and cornices of terra cotta tiles. When completed, it stood not at the corner of Beach Boulevard and 30th, but Davis Boulevard and Bon Air Street, and a flag waved proudly at the northwestern corner of its roof.
The building has not moved, but the street names have changed.
In the 1930s, The Holiday Inn housed a variety of businesses on its first floor, including the G. Jarrell Grocery, the Gulfport Tavern, the Gulfport Spa Restaurant, and the Modern Oasis Restaurant. During the same period, 3002, immediately next door, played host to Virginia Easters Beauty Shop and Charles Hegener’s barber shop, where patrons could enjoy a 25-cent haircut.
But, as Poul Hornsleth of R.W. Caldwell Realty & Insurance points out, the site’s history goes back even longer than that. In 1905, it was the location of the Veteran City Post Office (recalling our town’s brief stint as a retirement community for Civil War veterans).
Caldwell Realty acquired the building in 1988, when it served as an apartment complex. Time had not been kind to the structure. The wiring was dangerously antiquated and along the back of the building ran what Hornsleth calls the “sideways staircase” which tenants teetered precariously up and down. And the pretty arches along the colonnade? Ridden with termites.
The current restoration of the arches is just the latest in a series of improvements – including some landscaping and a new bike rack – that Caldwell has made. And hopefully, it won’t be the last; he’s hoping to install mini split air conditioners to replace the old window units and he’s curious to see if there’s any trace of the old half-moon arches in the upper windows. What happens next will depend on costs.
Whatever changes come, here’s hoping this lovely old Gulfport gem will continue to serve our community for another hundred years.