Pass Christian Hotel

     The opening of the Pass Christian Hotel transpired in 1831, not by that name -- nor bearing the grandiose size it would eventually become.  The original two arpent site (400-foot beachfront by 1-mile-depth) was purchased from Edward Livingston by Charles Shipman.  The Hotel set the stride that began in Pass Christian and eventually expanded along the entire Gulf Coast.  It was a magnificent model with elegant facilities that all later hotels attempted to compete against.  
     Regardless, no other facility surpassed it until it burned down in 1877.  During its time, ownership and management changed hands a number of times that were due to financial crises brought about by Yellow Fever quarantines and later, the Civil War.
     During its early years, in 1838, the New Orleans Daily Picayune announced that a wharf had been constructed, large enough to transport horse carriages from landing ships.  The west wing of the Hotel was also completed.
     By 1839, the Hotel added new growth to its complex.  The Main living quarters originally housed 50 families.  Large editions included a main dining room, a ballroom, a billiard room, a bowling alley, and, stables and bathing houses.  To the rear of the hotel was a "Texas" which accommodated bunking quarters for single men.  It was a 300-foot-long, two-story, barracks-like, rectangular building.  Other hotels included such quarters to the rear grounds of their facilities.  The name "Texas" was applied following a visitor's remark of similar designated quarters set aside for hard-drinking, Texan desperados who stayed up the night gambling and being rowdy.
     Originally known as the Pass Christian Hotel, by name change in 1839, it was temporarily called the New Brighton, only to revert back to the Pass Christian Hotel in 1841.  In 1847, the Prince of Inn Keepers, R.H. Montgomery, became its general manager.
     In 1848, a reception and grand-ball was given in honor of General Zachary Taylor, the Mexican War hero who was elected President two months later.  On the following day, thousands attended a barbecue in his honor, as the General sat at a table placed atop an Indian mound in the live oak grove near the hotel.
     In 1849, Montgomery announced the first Racing Regatta on the Coast.  It brought to life the Southern Regatta Club with (next door neighbor) James W. Behan of Pass Christian as its first president.  This was the second oldest Yacht Club in the Country with New York being its first.  Following the founding of this Club it was later moved to New Orleans and renamed the Southern Yacht Club.  
     Racing fever took hold throughout all of the Coastal cities which have continued ever since. The Hotel was often referred to simply as, Montgomery's, it was also referred to as the "Saratoga of the South."
     In 1851, the hotel was sold to Cuthbert Bullitt of New Orleans for $10,000.
     Commencing with 1853, the hotel remained open year long with Summer guests arriving from New Orleans and Winter guests from northern states.  With the Pass Christian Hotel as its focal point, cottages were being built that extended out on both sides along the shoreline.  For this reason, historians have reported that Pass Christian wasn't a town with a Hotel, but a Hotel which possessed a Town.  Montgomery ended his last year with a Yellow Fever epidemic and a Hurricane.
     In 1857 and 1858, the hotel was owned and operated by John McDonnell.
     The Hotel closed in 1861 with the onset of the Civil War.

     Following the War, in 1865, the Hotel was purchased by the Christian Brothers under the auspices of St Mary's College.  It was opened as a foremost Catholic Boy's College known as (St. Mary’s) Pass Christian College enrolling its students from all over the world in competition with Princeton College.
     Brother Isaiah was expedited to supervise a crew of workmen to remodel and renovate the huge structure.  Brother Isaiah also originated the first College Band composed of a 24 member Cornet Brass Group which became a universal trend.  With the scourge of Yellow Fever in 1867, ten of the Brothers died resulting in hampering the schools success.  Its pastor, Father Georget, spent his life's savings attempting to keep the school open, however it finally closed in 1875.

     The College was purchased and reopened once again as a Hotel --
only to burn down in 1877.

Special Note:  The only representation of the complex is a pen and ink sketch of the College (above) which includes the bell-tower installed by Father Isaiah.  This rendition can be found on samples of the College stationary and a song sheet.  Without the bell-tower the building would have been the likeness of the Pass Christian Hotel.

 Hotel at Pass Christian in 1849  
excerpt from
Social Life in  Old New Orleans
Being Recollections of My Girlhood
 by  Eliza Ripley  ---  Chap XX,  pp 140-145

      If there is a more restful spot on earth than a comfortable rocking-chair on a deep veranda, with a nearby view of the dancing waters of the gulf through a grove of tall pines, commend me to it.  A whole month on the Gulf coast, all sand underfoot, pines and oaks overhead, is ideal for fagged-out, tired-out, frayed-out humanity from busy cities.  This is not an advertisement, so I do not propose to tell where six people from six different and widely separated parts of the country last year dropped down from the skies, as it were, upon just such a delightful straight mile of gulf coast.   One halts at a "turpentine depot" and takes a queer little tram to the Gulf, seven miles away.  Tram is hauled over wooden rails by two tired nags whose motions suggest the lazy air of the pines.  It is loaded with the baggage - crates of hunting dogs - (fine hunting abounds), the mail bag, some miscellaneous freight and finally the passengers.  
     The country hotel is pine; ceilings, floors, walls are pine, the home-made and built-in furniture is pine; a big fire, roaring in the open fireplace if the day is chilly, is also made of pine - the rich, red Florida pine, ever so much richer in color and in turpentine than the boasted Georgia article.  With the fish swimming in front of this hotel and the birds flying behind, and rabbits running in both directions, it goes without saying the table is above the average.   Here on the broad verandas, as we rock and dream the lazy days away, visions visit me of the old hotel at Pass Christian in the forties.  
     The oaks and three China trees in front of the veranda, and the view of the near- by waters, the whistle of mocking-birds among the china berries (thank heaven!  sparrows have not found this Elysium) lend additional force to the semblance.  One old lady, who hunts not, neither does she fish, rocks on the sunny veranda and dreams, as is the wont of those who have lived beyond their day and generation.  She brings forth from a long-forgotten corner of memory's closet a picture covered with the dust of years, and lovingly brushes away the dimness, when behold! old Pass Christian, dear old Pass Christian, before the day of railroads and summer cottages, before the day of 6 o'clock dinners and trailing skirts, of cotillion favors and abbreviated bathing suits.   The old hotel was built with a wing or extension at each end, which formed with the main building three sides of a square.  There was no attempt at landscape gardening; not even a rosebush or an oleander decorated the little court.  No plaster Apollos and Dianas such as were seen peeping about the shrubbery of the various cottages (like the De Blancs' and Ducayets') that dotted in those days the old bayou road, and were considered so very decorative, but plain sand and scrub such as meet my eye to-day on this little frequented part of the Gulf Coast.  There was no beach driving or riding of gay people then - none here now.   
     I fly back to the summer of '49, and live again with the young girls who made life one long summer's day.  We walked the pier, the image of one before my eyes now, to the bath-houses in muslin dresses.  Bathing suits were hideous, unsightly garments, high neck, long sleeves, long skirts, intended for water only! The young girls returned under parasols and veils.  How decorous! No baigneuse decolletée to be seen on the beach.  Our amusements were simple and distinctly ladylike.  There was no golf or tennis, not even the innocent croquet, to tempt the demoiselles to athletics, so they drifted more to the "Lydia Languish" style.   
     There was no lack of beaux who came, more than enough to "go round," by the Saturday boats, in time for the weekly hop - danced all Saturday night and returned to weekly drudge (as they called it) in the city.  The bonbons and flowers they brought vanished and faded long before the little boat with its freight of waving hats and handkerchiefs faded in the twilight of a summer Sunday.   Also there come to my dream two dainty Goodman sisters, wonderful and most accommodating musicians they were.  One was already affianced to her cousin, George Nathan.  He was a prosperous business man at that time.  I doubt if even his name is known among his thrifty race in New Orleans to-day.  He carried off his accomplished wife to Rio Janeiro, and made his home in that country, which was as far away to us then, as the North Pole is to-day.
     The younger sister met that summer at the Pass and eventually married E.  C.  Wharton, an attaché of the Picayune,whose articles were signed "Easy Doubleyou." He was soon dancing attendance on the pretty, curly haired girl.  I remember how he wandered around with pad and pencil, and we girls were horribly afraid of being put in the Picayune.No reason for fear, as it was before the dawn of the society page and personal column.  The Whartons drifted to Texas during the war, and at Houston they found already a host of stranded Louisianians; but "Easy Doubleyou" had a government appointment of some kind.  The rest of us were simply runaways.
     There, too, was Dick Taylor, propelled in a wheel chair over that hotel veranda, an interesting convalescent from severe illness, or perhaps a wound, I do not recall which, his valet so constant in attendance that we wondered how the young man ever got an opportunity to whisper sweet nothings into the ear of lovely Myrtle Bringier - but he did! And that was the fourth engagement of the season that culminated in marriage, which signalizes the superior advantages of a hotel veranda, and most especially that of dear old Pass Christian.  Dick Taylor had a magnetic personality, which overshadowed the fact (to paraphrase a Bible text) he was the only son of his father, and he the President (Zachary Taylor).
     In New York some years ago "The Little Church Around the Corner," still garnished with its wealth of Easter lilies and fragrant with spring bloom, threw wide its portals for the last obsequies of this loved and honored Confederate general.  In that throng of mourners was one who had known him in his early manhood on the veranda of that old Pass Christian hotel, and whose heart had followed his career with ever-increasing admiration and veneration even unto the end.  I lay aside my old picture forever.  Alas! it remains "only a dream at the best, but so sweet that I ask for no more."  

Next Page