All along the coast to the east, fronting the beaches, wealthy people from New Orleans and nearby plantations erected a multitude of mansions, each attempting to outdo the other in majestic architectural performance. Everyone clamored for relaxation and recreation befitting the royalty of the "Champs Elysee". This was advantageous for those who could compress their work week and extend their weekends.
During 1849 and 1850, a renaissance of architectural structures were built along the beach front of Pass Christian. Wealthy people vied with each other in building Antebellum mansions of great splendor. Sixty such homes were built during that period alone. It was also during this period that some of the residents started making their own wines from the grape orchards that they cultivated. By 1860, Pass Christian was recognized as the Queen City of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Numerous wharves were built, extending out from the shore embankments into the Mississippi Sound. These stretched along the coast for approximately a mile on each side of the center of town. The wharfs were built high atop pilings. The oldest location was the old Lighthouse wharf, protruding out from the beach in front of the present day City Hall at Hiern Street. This wharf primarily provided docking for the passenger boats arriving from Mobile and New Orleans.
1859 U.S. Geodetic Map -- viewed at far right is Lighthouse and wharf.
Pass Christian in the 1850s must have been an exciting town with a youthful vibrant population of only about 800 full-time residents, half and half, Black and white. In addition to the local citizenry, there were 40-odd houses along the beach that were lived in during weekends and summer months by the owners from New Orleans. Each house and business establishment had piers running out into the Sound numbering about 100.
For transients, there were at least three boarding houses and one large hostelry called the Pass Christian Hotel which was owned and operated by R.H. Montgomery and his wife Allison, who were in their mid-30s, and had originated from Scotland. To serve the large numbers of hotel guests who arrived by steamers from New Orleans, the hotel's staff consisted of 44 waiters, chamber maids, cooks and kitchen helpers who lived on the premises and were imported mostly from Ireland.
Traveling throughout the city was by horse and buggy along Front Street; or Davis, Market, or Back Road (Second Street). For out-of-town visitors, there were saloons, pool halls, and bordellos. And, there were the professionals and merchants of the community. John Nelson, 34, was a florist from England. Author O'Neal, 24, a shoemaker from Ireland. George and Hannah Brandt, 30, from Germany. 30-year-old John Knost, a shoemaker from Prussia. Madden Stroup, 28, a baker from Germany.
Locally born Pierre Saucier, age 45, a merchant, real estate developer, and public official, built the large home on Beach Boulevard now called the "Union Quarters." John Bordages, a 26-year-old merchant from France married Pierre Saucier's sister, Maria, operated a store next to Pierre. Other persons having been in the area for at least 15 years were: John Henderson, Sr. and his wife, Louisa, and Julia, and Elliot; and his first son, John Jr., age 32 was a law partner with 40-year-old attorney, William Champlin from Connecticut. New Yorker Finley B. Hiern was 39 and had been the first mayor. From Maryland, physician William Calvert was very active in land sales. John Brill, 47, was a tobacconist from Ireland and built one of the first shopping centers along the west side of Market Street where he operated the wharf extending out from the "Market House." The Davis's, Benjamin and Larned made their mark. Native born mulattos having substantial residents on Front Street were Rosalie Benoit and Carmelite Noel
Others were William Manders, a 36-year-old bar-keep from Ireland; and Charles Atkinson, 44, a dentist; and T.H. Duncan, 40, a shop-keeper from Pennsylvania; and Theodule Dubuisson, 37, a carpenter from Slidell.
There were oystermen from Spain and Mexico, fishermen from Greece and Italy, sailmakers from Ireland, boatbuilders, grocers, plasterers, masons, carpenters, tailors, cabinet makers, painters, brick layers, blacksmiths, and gardeners. And remaining shipboard while moored at Henderson Point were 23 sailors and mariners who hailed mostly from New England states who were stationed aboard the U.S. Revenue Cutter "Duane."
The first Catholic Church had been built in 1844 and another replaced it in 1851. To take charge of the Episcopal Church was Thomas Savage, 45, from Connecticut. The birthplaces of his children show that he had served in West Africa and Alabama before arriving in Pass Christian. Another Episcopal clergyman was R.G. Hayes, 40, from Pennsylvania.