Decided upon by King Louis XIV that the crown should make a more permanent stake in this vast area, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, was commissioned to plant a colony somewhere near the mouth of the Mississippi. In October 1698, he set sail from France with about 200 colonists aboard. Six months later, he arrived at Biloxi Bay and landed on its East Side. It was then, on April 8, 1699, d’Iberville selected the site of present-day Ocean Springs to build Fort Maurepas for the first settlement by the French for Colonial Louisiana. A replica of this fort was created and may be visited. It is a particularly lively place for the Fort Maurepas Reenactment or the annual Landing of D’Iberville, celebrated in Ocean Springs.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast, once home to the Biloxi Indians and later to d’Iberville’s French, changed hands countless times over the centuries. With each new flag, a new culture was infused. Traces of Spanish rule may be seen—and touched—at the Old Spanish Fort in Pascagoula, built in 1718.
Located on West Ship Island, Fort Massachusetts was one of the last masonry coastal fortifications built in the United States. Construction began prior to the onset of the Civil War and, almost immediately, the Confederates seized the unfinished fort. By late 1861, Federal forces regained control of the fort, and used it as a prisoner of war camp. In 1862, the US Army Corps of Engineers resumed construction of the fort, completing it in 1866.
Although Fort Massachusetts fell victim to advancing military technology, its beauty and craftsmanship remain as symbols of a strong, yet passive coastal defense. An enchanting, seventy-minute ferry ride transports visitors to West Ship Island, where park rangers provide guided tours of Fort Massachusetts.
Beauvoir, built in Biloxi from 1848 to 1852, is a graceful antebellum home on Beach Boulevard that is evidence of the Southern planter society bestowed upon the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Beauvoir, the retirement estate of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, is an exceptional example of the antebellum and Victorian homes that once graced the Coast. The exquisite, recently restored cottage-style residence was completed in 1852 and stands on a spectacular 52-acre site overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Given that Beauvoir is on the National Register of Historic Places and holds designations as both a Mississippi Historical Landmark and a National Historic Landmark, touring the home is essential.