Preserving History - The Charnley-Norwood House in Ocean Springs FEB 4, 2019 Connie Raley

By: Connie Raley 

The Charnley-Norwood House in Ocean Springs boasts construction that marks a turning point in modern American architecture and design. Initially built in 1890, the house was designed by Louis Sullivan, often referred to as the father of the skyscraper, and his draftsman, Frank Lloyd Wright, the father of modern residential design. The house has stood the test of time and weather, from fire to flood, and we are fortunate to still have this piece of history.

In 1889 after completing an extensive project in his hometown of Chicago, Louis Sullivan escaped to New Orleans, Louisiana, for some rest and recuperation. While there, he ran into other Chicagoans and friends, James and Helen Charnley. The Charnleys suggested Sullivan venture with them on a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. There, Sullivan fell in love with the picturesque views and serene landscape of the coast, finding charm and tranquility in the quiet town of Ocean Springs. 

After spending about two weeks in the area, Sullivan and the Charnleys each decided they would like to have a vacation cottage to escape the harsh winters of Chicago. They bought adjoining pieces of property, and in exchange for some land, Sullivan agreed to design  a home for the Charnleys.  The resulting plans called for a pair of similar horizontal cottages for the friends.

Though Sullivan and Wright were highly influential architects, they were not trying to impress others with an opulent design, but rather create private retreats. During an era of grand, vertical, Victorian architecture, the t-shaped horizontal layout of these vacation cottages brought a sense of functionality and evolution in design. It was a dramatic standout from  typical homes at that time.

Sullivan’s affection for the natural beauty in Ocean Springs was evident in his design to bring the outdoors inside. Simple moldings and woodwork seem to complement the connection with nature rather than compete against it. Large windows allowed enormous amounts of light in, as well as views of the foliage and ocean. An impressive number of exterior doors opened onto over a 1000 sq ft of porches.

In 1896, the Charnleys sold their gulfside retreat to another Chicago couple, Fredrick and Elizabeth Norwood. Unfortunately for the Norwoods soon after their purchase, the house burned completely to the ground. Sullivan was still living next door, but he and Wright were no longer partners; they had a falling out years earlier. Sullivan redesigned the home for the Norwoods using the original construction and design while incorporating improvements such as bay windows and exotic wooden interiors. 

Frederick Norwood owned a lumber mill near Brookhaven, Mississippi and had access to a variant of local longleaf southern pine known as curly pine. The curly pine is altered by a fungus that grows in the seed of the tree itself. This fungus creates a unique pattern to the wood. Only when the wood is cut with the grain is the curly design revealed. This particular wood was used after the fire allowing the addition of the natural material to be the home’s decoration.

The Charnley-Norwood House is simple and unassuming from the outside, but the unique, creative architecture style is both beautiful and peaceful. The CNH is possibly the first of its kind in the United States and an important example of early horizontal, open design. The collaboration between Sullivan and Wright helped shape residential American architecture.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina brought with her a 30-foot tidal surge onto the shores of Ocean Springs. Sadly, Louis Sullivan’s home was completely destroyed. The Charnley-Norwood home was lifted off of its foundation and scattered over an acre. Remarkably, however, large pieces of the home were left intact though the exterior chimneys collapsed, and portions of the roofline were buried in the dirt.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) staff and volunteers salvaged thousands of pieces of debris, storing them and stabilizing the building until a full restoration of the Charnley-Norwood House could take place. The long-time owners at the time, Edsel & Mary Ruddiman both died shortly after the storm and after their passing, the house was set to be demolished. MDAH, along with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, and the Mississippi Heritage Trust all came together to find an alternative to demolition. Prior to the restoration, a historic structure report, a finishes analyses and a landscape history were created to thoroughly document the house’s original design and construction. In 2011 the property was acquired by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the MDAH began restoration. The home’s restoration work was completed in 2014, returning the home to its original beauty circa 1900 using physical evidence and photos.

Most recently, the beautiful, fragrant rose garden that inspired the home’s name, Bon Silene, has also been restored. The Charnley-Norwood House remains under the care of The Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area and is used for educational purposes celebrating and sharing the early works of modern architecture. Tours are given by appointment only. The Charnley-Norwood House "survives as an invaluable asset to America’s architectural heritage and example of the power of preservation partnerships.”- MDAH

To learn more or inquire about a tour, please contact: or visit

Crooked Letter Brewery & Restaurant Ocean Springs, MS FEB 4, 2019 Chris Dearman

Looking for a place to get award-winning craft beer, along with amazing, made-from-scratch craft food? Look no further than Crooked Letter Brewery & Restaurant in Ocean Springs. Housed in a craftsman-style cottage located on the newly revitalized Porter Avenue, Crooked Letter offers unique food, beer, wine, and cocktail options that will have you coming back for more.

Having made a name for brewing great tasting beer in Ocean Springs since 2012, owner Paul Blacksmith relaunched as a brew pub brewery after an eleven month reorganization in December 2017. His business now provides patrons a full bar and food options, along with plans to be back in the distribution business later this year. 

For fans of the four original Crooked Letter staples, Mystery Romp, a mocha colored ale, infused with chocolate and coffee, Crooked Heffy, a German style Hefeweizen, Stabello, a European style pale larger, and their Gipsy IPA, you are currently able to get these fine brews in growlers to take home. You can also purchase many experimental one-off beers that are brewed on site daily, using the same system they started with. 

"The beauty of this environment is when you’re brewing small-scale, if you come in here once or twice a week and your into trying new stuff, is that you’ll always see something new on the board,” Blacksmith said of his every-changing beer menu. "Our craft beer board changes literally every day.”  

The one-off beers, some of which he calls SMASH beers – single malt and single hop so you know exactly what you are tasting, eventually become regulars. He also provides guest taps to highlight unique, often local offerings. Wanting to get his brews to as many people as possible, they also have plans to break ground later this year to build an approximately 1800 square foot facility to brew and distribute their offerings. 

Beer isn’t the only beverage on the menu. Blacksmith told me that they are the only brew pub in the area that has a full bar, so you can also get wine, whiskey, bourbon, and other handmade cocktails.  

"Bloody Mary’s every day, all day long,” Blacksmith said of having more than just beer options. "We’re a brewery that has margaritas! But it works. Crooked Letter has always been a little weird and quirky.”

This quirkiness comes across with Crooked Letter’s craft food menu as well, with both traditional and chef-inspired creations. 

"We take a lot of pride in our food,” Blacksmith said of standard they have to uphold. "When we reorganized an opened as a brew pub, we knew we had great beer since 2012, the food had to follow that.”
You will want to start with an appetizer or two, and you will find more than just standard bar food options. While you can get traditional items such as fried pickles, fried mushrooms, and chicken strips, you can also Southwest egg rolls, hummus with pita bread, spicy fried green beans, or even fried avocados. They also have their most popular appetizer, Chicken Crack, which is hot out-of-the-fryer tender meaty chicken and crispy skin pieces similar in texture to pork rinds. Blacksmith says his customers crave them. "There’s a reason we call it Chicken Crack.” 
For those looking for something a little healthier, Crooked Letter offers salads as well, with offerings such as grilled chicken, Caesar, or grilled Portobello. You can also get a Portobello sandwich with sautéed bell peppers and onions, or a veggie burger. 

Speaking of burgers, people are raving about Crooked Letter’s handmade options that they call Romp Burgers, which along with many other menu items, are made with beer. 
"There is a little bit of Mystery Romp added to all the patties, and this is why some say they are the best kept secret on the Coast,” Blacksmith said. "They all have this smoky, sort of roasted flavor to them. Not just because they are on the grill, but because there is literally some of our porter in the meat itself. We just do it because it tastes good.”

On my visit I had the Hot Pig with Bacon burger, which is a delicious blend of ground beef and Patton’s Hot Beef Sausage. I had it topped with candied jalapeño bacon, also called "cowboy candy.” This add-on is made by cooking the bacon and jalapeños in brown sugar, creating a sweet & spicy melt-in-your-mouth goodness that went perfectly with meal. 

While there is live music just about every weekend, they also hold special events throughout the year. Every few months or so they have World Dinner Theater, offering a four course themed meal such as Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian, or Chinese food, with three acts of world fusion dance. Vegan and glutton free options are available. 

They also host a Whiskey & Sticks Night where they partnered with Coast Cigar Company to highlight a different whiskey each month. For only $20 or $25, you get beer and whiskey samples, along with a fine cigar.  
Crooked Letter Brewery & Restaurant is a family friendly environment open seven days a week starting at noon. Sunday through Thursday they close at 10pm, Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Be sure to inquire if you have an upcoming event, as their dining area and outdoor deck with fireplace can be reserved without a fee for birthdays, weddings, or virtually any other occasion. 

Crooked Letter Brewery & Restaurant
503 Porter Ave
Ocean Springs, MS
(601) 846-5105

2019 Gulf Coast Parade Schedule - Mardi Gras Beads, King Cakes, and Parades Ohh My! Experience Carnival Season a Gulf Coast Tradition JAN 29, 2019 Tricia McAlvain

Anticipation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Mardi Gras traditions run high with thoughts of bright colored beads, scrumptious king cakes, and magnificent costumes and themed parades dancing in One's mind. Each year Carnival season purples, golds and greens follow right behind the colors of Christmas with elegance as the annual Mardi Gras parade season begins to roll through the streets of the Gulf Coast.


Mardi Gras parades are well organized by a membership of like-minded people referred to as a Krewe. A person must be invited to join a Krewe, with the acceptance of their application being placed before a membership review board. Many Krewes are made of long lines of proud Gulf Coast families creating annual coastal family traditions. Mardi Gras Krewes bring families, friends, and colleagues together in the spirit of Carnival season.


History tells us during French rule, the first ever Mardi Gras parade was held in Mobile, Alabama in the early 1700s.  Pre-Katrina New Orleans would see 60 or more parades rolling through their streets. As time progresses our economy changes and so do our Mardi Gras parades. Dancing clubs and walking troupes are popping up in every coastal city adding a new array of traditions and an eclectic element with their music, dance, and visual performance art. Mississippians truly embrace the Mardi Gras traditions of their own with long running annual Mardi Gras parades in each Gulf Coast city.


Each Krewe hold true to their own unique traditions while keeping the common thread of crowning a new King or Queen each year. These individuals are picked from the respective Krewe membership. Floats are designed around the Krewes particular theme for the year and often reflect current topics and cultural events. Members of each Krewe have the honor of riding the floats and they will toss beads and trinkets to the crowd over the course of the Mardi Gras parade route. The trinkets usually bear the Krewes emblem along with the theme and date. 


2019 Gulf Coast Mardi Gras Parade Schedule

Saturday, February 9

Krewe of the Pearl Mardi Gras Parade

Goodyear Blvd, Main St, W Canal St, Kirkwood St, Goodyear Blvd

Picayune, 2pm

Saturday, February 16 

Annual Ocean Springs Elks Mardi Gras Parade 

Front Beach, Porter Ave, Washington Ave, Government St, and Holcomb Blvd

Ocean Springs, 1pm 

Annual Krewe of Legacy Mardi Gras Parade 

JP Ladner Rd, Edwin Ladner Rd, Vidalia Rd

Pass Christian, 1pm 

Annual Pass Christian Carnival Association Mardi Gras Parade

JP Ladner Rd, Edwin Ladner Rd, Vidalia Rd

Pass Christian, 1pm

Second Liners Mardi Gras Club Parade

Nichols Dr, Division St, Caillavet St to Esters Blvd (end at Doris C Busch Park)

Biloxi, 1pm 

Annual Krewe Unique Mardi Gras Parade

Front Beach, Porter Ave, Washington Ave, Government St, and Holcomb Blvd

Ocean Springs, 2pm 

Sunday, February 17 

Annual Lizana Mardi Gras Parade 

Lizana School Rd, Cable Bridge Rd, Northrop Cuevas Rd, back to Lizana School Rd

Gulfport, 1pm 

Saturday, February 23 

Annual Biloxi Children’s Mardi Gras Walking Parade 

Downtown Biloxi, Rue Magnolia District

Biloxi, 10a,

Annual Krewe of Little Rascals Children Mardi Gras Parade 

Delmas Ave, Canty St, Watts Ave, and Magnolia St 

Pascagoula, 1pm, 

Annual Mystic Krewe of Pine Island Mardi Gras Parade 

John's Bayou Rd

Vancleave, 1:30pm 

Annual Carnival Association of Long Beach Mardi Gras Parade

Cleveland Ave, 1st St, Jeff Davis, E Railroad, Cleveland Ave

Long Beach, 6pm 

Annual Gautier Men's Club Mardi Gras Parade 

Dolphin Rd, Gautier-Vancleave Rd, Highway 90, Dolphin Dr 

Gautier, 7pm 

Sunday, February 24 

Annual Krewe of Nereids Mardi Gras Parade 

Begins at Auderer Blvd & Hwy 90 to Drinkwater Rd

Waveland, 12pm 

Krewe of Barkloxi-Annual Bow Wow PAW-RADE 

Spectators free, $10 pre-registration fee per pet, $15 registration day of event.

Biloxi Town Green, 710 Beach Blvd 

Biloxi, 1pm 

Friday, March 1 

Ocean Springs Carnival Association Night Mardi Gras Parade

Front Beach, Porter Ave, Washington Ave, Government St, Holcomb Blvd

Ocean Springs, 7pm 

Saturday, March 2 

Annual Krewe of Diamondhead Mardi Gras Parade 

Gex Dr, Kalani Dr, Diamondhead Dr, Golf Club Dr 

Diamondhead, 12pm

Annual Jackson County Carnival Association Mardi Gras Parade 

Ingalls Ave, Market St, Jackson Ave, Pascagoula St

Pascagoula, 1pm 

Annual Krewe of Gemini Mardi Gras Day Parade 

19th St, Hwy 49, 14th St, 13th St, 24th Ave, 14th St, 21st Ave, 14th St, 24th Ave, 19th St 

Gulfport, 2pm 

Annual Krewe of Neptune Night Mardi Gras Parade 

Main St, Hwy 90, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Howard Ave, Caillavet St

Biloxi, 5:30pm 

Annual Krewe of Salacia Parade 

Main St, Hwy 90, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Howard Ave, Caillavet St

 Biloxi, 6:30pm 

Sunday, March 3 

Annual St. Paul Mardi Gras Parade 

Second St, St Louis St, Henderson Ave, Scenic Drive, Davis Ave

Pass Christian, 12:30am 

Annual D'Iberville/St Martin North Bay Area Mardi Gras Parade 

Lemoyne Blvd, Central Ave, Rodriguez St, Automall Parkway

D'Iberville , 1:30pm 

Monday, March 4, Lundi Gras

Annual Mystic Krewe of the Seahorse Mardi Gras Parade 

Bookter St, Necaise Ave, Main St, Demontluzin Ave, Bay St Louis, Bookter St

Bay St Louis, 5pm 

Tuesday, March 5, Mardi Gras

Annual Gulf Coast Carnival Association Mardi Gras Parade 

Main St, Hwy 90, Lameuse St, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Reynoir St, Hwy 90, Porter Ave, Howard Ave

Biloxi, 1pm 

Annual Krewe of Diamonds Mardi Gras Parade 

Bookter & Necaise Ave, Main St, N Beach Blvd, Union St, Blaize  Ave, Sycamore St, Bookter St

Bay St Louis, 1pm 

Krewe of Real People the Next Generation Mardi Gras Parade

Bookter & Necaise Ave, Main St, N Beach Blvd, Union St, Blaize  Ave, Sycamore St, Bookter St

Bay St Louis, 1pm 

Annual Krewe of Gemini Mardi Gras Night Parade

19th St, Hwy 49, 14th St, 13th St, 24th Ave, 14th St, 21st Ave, 14th St, 24th Ave, 19th St

Gulfport, 5:30pm


Government Street Cottages. Places to stay in Ocean Springs, MS NOV 20, 2018 Tricia McAlvain

Government Street Cottages is the number one go to spot to stay in the City of Ocean Spring's downtown district.  Named for the street it is located on, it is the main street running horizontal with the coast to the south and highway 90 to the north.  Located amongst the quiet tranquil setting of a church and the Mary C. O'Keefe Museum across the street, the cottages are nestled under huge tranquil trees in a natural landscaped setting.  Recently, I had the wonderful experience of soaking it all up for the sole purpose of writing this article. The City of Ocean Springs has always been a top pick of mine from all the cities along the Gulf Coast. I immediately jumped on the chance for a little staycation.

What I like about Ocean Springs is that it is a coastal/business type of city where the international arts culture meets southern coastal comfort and exudes a vibe all on its own. It is a passionate community full of business owners who are home grown, yet with global cultural experiences they have been able to bring to the Gulf Coast and make an impressive impact in their own way. 
Everyone you come across while staying in the City of Ocean Spring's downtown district seems genuinely happy to see you, share their story and their city with you. Then they take it a step further by embracing your thoughts and experiences, become your friend and welcome you to make the community a place you'll want to be a regular guest.

Staying at the Government Street Cottages allows you to soak up the natural beauty of the coast which is just blocks away. The pristine public beaches are at the end of Ocean Springs Inner Harbor where the views are picturesque and beckon you to snap a few selfies and capture the beauty with your lens. The docks are lined with shrimp boats, sail boats, and fishing boats to take your breath away. Enjoy a walk on the Shearwater Park Trail and check out Shear Water Pottery which are both nearby along with Ocean Springs Harbor. 
Have an urban exploration after dark as all the hip spots are within walking distance.  You will feel the art culture, classy heritage, and the abundance of a wide variety of mom and pop shops where they embrace the cultural traditions and values which make their coastal city a perfect destination.  

Owners of Government Street Cottages, Mr. and Mrs. JJ and Serre Harris are the prime example of a little Gulf Coast Americana family.  Boasting a happy marriage of 10 years, they are proud to have now put a decade or more of hard labor working behind them. They are changing it up a bit by working together and having fun with it.  JJ is that "Top Gun" nice guy meets southern coastal business. He left his days of being a civilian pilot in the oil and gas industry behind to focus on his life and family here on the coast. Serre has a nursing background with a certain spirit of flare and creative soul. She has the beauty of an angel and a business mind.  They have raised their family here, and according to JJ, it just makes sense to re-invest in the place where they grew up, and where they intend to stay. Together they have created a coastal destination for their guest that is unlike anywhere else.
The organic setting of four private, immaculate, and spacious rooms are made from two cottages connected by a natural landscaped yard featuring azaleas along the walk ways. The names of the rooms are a hint of the coastal hospitality in store for you; Live Oak, Lighthouse, Magnolia and Bluewater.  Enjoy the relaxing rocking chairs on the large southern style front porches. The high vaulted ceilings, modern fixtures, oversized showers, fresh luxurious linens, free Wi-Fi, and televisions in the front room and bedroom are understated elegance. One entire unit is completely ADA Compliant being furnished to accommodate handicap guests with wheelchair accessible entry, with a large shower, handicap parking and ramp.
In the front cottage, you could even enjoy catching beads from the porch during one of Ocean Spring's many annual Mardi Gras parades. Or step out the door right into the fun on any given weekend when annual festivals take place in this downtown district. The cottages also provide ample private parking for guests, which is a nice perk during your stay.
If you want to feel at home with a private and luxuriously quaint feel, away from the hustle and bustle, book your room now, at the Government Street Cottages in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  I can say from personal experience, you'll enjoy calling it your home away from home.

Visit their website for more details at: 

Government Street Cottages?1709 Government Street?Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39564?
(228) 447-1559 Property Manager
Call now to book your room!

Recognizing Gulf Coast Outpost Businesses NOV 9, 2018 Connie Raley

The Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area (MGCNHA) recently awarded the Gulf Coast Outpost (GCO) recognition to local nature-based business owners and operators. Businesses such as eco tours, locally owned outfitters, charter boat operators, tour guides, eco-lodges and agritourism entities are encouraged to participate. 

The checklist for recognition focuses on training, sustainability and stewardship. Proper maintenance of equipment and vehicles is a must, ensuring safety, low emission and fuel efficiency. Owners and operators must be knowledgeable about the Coast’s natural environment and tell an accurate story of our resources. It is important to bring awareness to all that we offer here in the way of outdoor activities and learning experiences.

The National Heritage Area partners with stakeholders in the industry, including the regional tourism organization, Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plains, a nonprofit that acquires land to preserve it in perpetuity for conservation, and the USM Marine Education Center. Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast acknowledges that the GCO program gives a layer of security to tourists who can rest assure they will receive an authentic experience that follows mindful practices of conservation and preservation.

This is the first group of nature-based tourism businesses to receive the designation of a Gulf Coast Outpost. Recipients were honored to be recognized. This is a big step for the Mississippi Gulf Coast in promoting protection of resources and values.

Harrison County:

Among other tours, the Betsy Ann Riverboat offers a two-hour historical and ecological cruise between Deer Island and into Biloxi with a focus on our local history, the seafood industry, the Barrier Islands and wildlife that flourish in the Mississippi Sound Estuary. 

Photo provided by Play The Coast

The Biloxi Shrimping Trip offers tours where visitors are educated on the history and culture of the shrimping and seafood industry of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The captive audience experiences first-hand the marine life, birds and vegetation in and around the Mississippi Sound. 


Fisher-man Guide Service out of Pass Christian offers guests nearshore fishing, night floundering trips and sunset cruises. Fisher-man Guide Service has a business plan to reflect environmental management and natural resource stewardship.



North Star Sailing offers sailing lessons, as well as private sailing and dinner charters. An affiliate of the American Sailing Association, North Star Sailing Charters out of Gulfport and is proud to share the beauty, heritage and ecology of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. 

Jackson County:

Eco-Tours of South Mississippi offers a variety of tours, including motorboat swamp tours, kayak trips, photography trips and custom tours. The owners work tirelessly to promote our natural resources and to educate their guests about the ecosystems, wildlife, history, heritage and conservation of the Pascagoula River and the Mississippi Sound. 



Harbor Garden House is an eco-lodge surrounded with native vegetation, wooded walking paths, and excellent bird watching, and is designed to have the least possible impact on the natural environment in which it is situated. 


Hancock County:

Shore Thing Fishing Charters, established in 2003, has seven licensed captains that fish in MS and LA. They also offer eco-lodging on Cat Island and birding trips for nature enthusiasts. The captains are involved in conservation activities and are knowledgeable about our history and culture. 



Rounding out this year’s Gulf Coast Outpost designation recipients is Coastal Ridge Farm, a true gem in the agritourism of South Mississippi. Coastal Ridge Farm is a fresh-cut flower farm in the northern part of Hancock County. They offer u-pick on certain weekends in the spring and fall where locals and visitors spend family time picking their very own big beautiful sunflowers and taking pictures. 


These designations were given on a voluntary basis. The MGCNHA encourages all nature-based tourism to consider making strides to incorporate some best practices, conservation and trainings to better help preserve out natural heritage and plentiful resources. Let’s work together with our communities to ensure that locals and visitors are well informed, educated, and connected to a sense of ownership and pride for the efforts here to preserve our Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage. 

Learn more about Gulf Coast Outpost under the Natural tab at and


Cover photo contributed by Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast