It is an almost impossible feat to find the perfect destination for any occasion but that is not so at the exquisite Centennial Plaza in Gulfport. The lovely resort is the perfect location for every member of the family, any event, and even for that beautiful getaway. Want to get away for a last-minute trip before school starts? Planning a wedding, anniversary party, or reunion? Looking for a special place to take your loved one for a surprise getaway? Then the Centennial Plaza is definitely your perfect location.
Known now as “the crown jewel of the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” the Centennial Plaza has a fascinating history that adds to the aura of the resort. The groundbreaking for the plaza officially happened many years ago in 1916 by Governor Theodore Bilbo to celebrate the Mississippi Centennial, but it originally was a homestead back in the 1800s. The land was owned by F.S. Hewes, Harrison County chancery clerk, and was the home where they raised 18 children. One of the Hewes sons, Finley B. Hewes, was even elected as the first mayor of Gulfport but was unable to serve because he was serving Cuba during the Spanish American War.
In 1917, the 92 acres of beautiful beachfront property nestled under the gorgeous canopy of hundreds of Live Oaks was deemed to be the perfect place to celebrate Mississippi’s 100th birthday in 1917. The Mississippi Centennial Exposition campaign, labeled as “The Timepiece of Progress” from 1817 to 1917, was soon launched in newspapers and brochures around the state and nation. Gorgeous postcards displaying the planned exhibition halls were sent out with date of Dec. 10, 1917, to June 10, 1918, but the onslaught of World War I dashed those plans. The Mississippi Gulf Coast hoped the celebration would only be delayed, but that wasn’t the case.
The celebration took a backseat to the war and the Spanish flu that consumed the country. The location was given for the war effort and turned into military training and later the Veterans Administration Medical Center—Gulfport Division. The buildings were later used for medical facilities for veterans and even survived the destruction of the legendary Hurricane Camille in 1969, but it was no match for the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System was closed to massive destruction.
“Many of the original structures were demolished during the site clean up after the storm,” Tessy Lambert, Director of Public Relations, said. “However, the core administrative and health care facilities buildings, including the nurse’s quarters (which is now The Blue Marlin Restaurant), and the chapel withstood the devastation. A study was undertaken by historians of the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, and their report concluded that the property was still eligible for their designation as a national historic site worthy of preservation.”
After almost 90 years later the property was returned to the City of Gulfport by the federal government with the stipulation of turning of location into the best use of Mississippi and the Gulf Coast. Not much later, plans began for the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South in 2017, revealing exciting plans for the area. Those expectations became the beautiful Centennial Plaza which boasts something for everyone and every occasion.
“After the Centennial Plaza was returned to the city of Gulfport, their Leadership always knew something special needed to be done with it—something that would help turn Gulfport into even more of a ‘destination location,’” Lambert said. “A connection was made with Developers Greg Stewart, Robert Lubin, and David Roos, enabling Governor Phil Bryant and Mayor Billy Hewes, and the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission to work closely with them and bring forth that vision.”
That vision is true “The Crown Jewel of the Gulf Coast,” and the Centennial Plaza is an exquisite destination for any event. The 48-acre campus features two gorgeous hotels that feature a total of 152 beautiful rooms: the Grand Centennial Hotel which includes a wine bar and the Oasis Resort. The Oasis Resort was definitely built for the family in mind. The Kids Suites feature exciting and fun layouts with bunk beds while also give the parents a little time alone. Imagine waking in the beautiful and luxurious rooms to be greeted by the view of the gorgeous sandy beaches and the majestic scenery of the plaza grounds.
The resort features two fine dining restaurants: The Blue Marlin and the Oasis Grill, which are sure to delight the taste buds. You simply can’t miss out on dinner at these fine restaurants. The Blue Marlin Bar features overlook the Gulf and white sandy beaches. It offers elegant seafood offerings with only the freshest catches of the day. A breathtaking antique fireplace and marble countertops greet guests as they venture into this fine dining experience. Their brunch and dinner menus are simply divine and you’ll have a wonderful dining experience from your entrée to delectable desserts.
For the wine connoisseur, the elegant lobby at the Grand Centennial Hotel offers wine and small plates bar, featuring 45 wines to choose from. You’ll find a full bar with modern versions of Prohibition-era classic cocktails and delicious small plates on the menu. You can take your pick or try a new wine suggested by the fabulous bartenders.
For a more casual dining experience, you’ve got to check out the Oasis Grill. You’ll have a hard time choosing from the delicious offerings on the breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. Grab a burger, pizza, seafood, or a variety of delectable offerings. If you’re staying at the resort, you can order from the Oasis Grill menu items and enjoy them poolside at the Centennial Water’s Playground.
There are 10 gorgeous restored historical buildings and endless possibilities for the perfect experience. The restored historical buildings give a glimpse of days gone by and the brave military service of our ancestors. A considered “must do” when you venture to the resort is to take in the gorgeous nature that the “Magnolia State” is so blessed with while you stroll among the mighty Live Oak trees that surround the campus and historic buildings. I can envision definitely lots of photo opportunities for this lovely location. A picturesque pond along the eastern edge of the campus is encased by many of these mighty oaks and gives you the perfect view of the beach of Gulfport and the Gulf of Mexico. The campus grounds are open to the public so take my advice and come explore this glimpse of natural beauty.
The Chapel is a charming spot for any wedding or special event. The mission-style chapel features 2,400 square feet and gorgeous high beam ceilings. “Our wedding and event spaces have been very well received,” Lambert said. “We have held several weddings throughout 2020 and 2021 is filling up fast. We have also held events, such as Mardi Gras dinners, retreats for sports teams, birthday parties, and baby showers.”
At the plaza, Guests are treated to mesmerizing 25,000-gallon dancing fountains which is a definite “must-see.” The fountain is one of the Lambert family’s parts of the resort. She loves to regularly bring her family to the Plaza for dinner and enjoy the show. Definitely don’t miss this show. The color-changing water jets dance along in a choreographed symphony to nearly 30 of your favorite songs.
“This is absolutely a great place for everyone in the family,” Lambert said. “With two unique hotels and all of our wonderful features, we truly have something for everyone.”
The resort is already making plans for the future to make the location an even more perfect destination. “Our current vision for the future includes residential living space, additional meeting space, another restaurant, and a family entertainment center,” Lambert said.
The beauty and excitement of the Centennial Plaza have truly become a “location destination” for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Lambert’s invitation for anyone considering a stay at the resort speaks for itself with its ideal location to so many attractions and of course the coastal winds blowing on the lovely sandy beaches. “The perfect getaway is closer than you think!” Lambert said.
Start dreaming that perfect coastal getaway today. More information can be found at https://centennialplazams.com.