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December 3, 2020
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Longfellow House has Been More Than Legends and History

The other day I was taking one of my frequent beach walks, this time going as far as to the Longfellow House (or, as my friend Dr. Randy Roth calls it, “home”).

Randy, of course, would be the first to tell you that his beautiful abode, built circa 1850, obviously has a lot of history and heritage and will always be known to locals for all the legends and lore attached there. What many may not know, however, is that, a couple of generations ago, the Longfellow House (LH) was the venue for an all-purpose activity center.

In the 1940s, Ingalls Shipbuilding Founder Robert Ingalls purchased the LH and the adjoining property to create a spot to entertain business meetings and out of town guests. What evolved over the next years was a full-service facility named, to the best of my recollection, the Longfellow House Resort and Gardens.

My, oh, my, what a place it was. For members (my family was fortunate to be in that number), the options for entertainment, sports, and activities were myriad. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

  • The house itself was made into a classic mid-century hotel, restaurant, and bar (more on that later), plus there were modern condos spread throughout the property.
  • There was a beautiful swimming pool and lounging area overlooking the gulf. Many of us learned to swim there, and it obviously became a gathering point for all ages during the summer.
  • Seaview Links: a wonderful six-hole, par-three golf course that wound through the eastern part of the property. I’ll do a separate column on this one day, as Seaview was the training ground for quite a few Pascagoula area golfers even to this day.
  • A state-of-the-art clay tennis court, the like of which was very rare around here back in the day (may have been the only one on the Coast). We thought it was kind of funky at the time, realizing later that it was very upscale and that the surface was fantastic to play on (matched many of our skill sets, fun tricky bounces, easier on the knees).
  • The Pier: this structure was on the beach in front of the LH, and went about 300 feet out into the gulf. A great place for fishing and crabbing, boating, and a romantic spot for couples to walk out late at night.
  • Shuffleboard (hey, it was fun).
  • Horseshoes (seriously).
  • Bicycles, including a couple of very cool tandem bikes (“bicycle built for two”).
  • Full-service restaurant: Very nice, upscale establishment. I remember that the seafood was superb and the breakfasts were tasty.
  • The Poet’s Nest Bar: Obviously, this came into play as one got older. Really neat tavern, inviting atmosphere, live music frequently.
  • Field of Dreams: Out in the middle of the property behind the hotel was a vast greensward cut out amongst the forest of stately oaks. Here we played big-time pick-up games of baseball and football in season. The proprietors may not have been in love with that, but they never denied us access.

So, other than the activities and opportunities listed above, there wasn’t much for my friends and me to do while growing up around here. I mean, pretty amazing, right? Just go through that grouping of wonderful options—I’m not sure there was any spot in the area, or few throughout the country, actually, that afforded more choices for entertainment and exercise to kids and adults alike. Let me be clear: we who were part of the Longfellow House scenario back in the day were extremely, extremely fortunate.

As I headed back to the beach to continue my walk the other day, I took another look at what would have been the number one tee box on the golf course. Hey, I thought to myself, what if some enterprising entrepreneur would take the parcel over and create a new, six-hole Seaview Links? That would be pretty cool, but I think it’s just kind of a no-lose situation. If that happens, great. If not, I’ll be perfectly content just having the picture in my mind’s eye of what the Longfellow House Resort and Gardens looked like in the wonderful days of my youth and young adulthood.

Richard Lucas may be contacted at [email protected]

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