The Japanese Gardens of Pass Christian
A Vignette by Dan Ellis
Visits to the Middlegate Japanese Gardens included a tour through an authentic Japanese home resplendent in Oriental majesty. The sojourn was further complemented by being entertained in the adjacent Tea house and waterfall, which was offset by a beautiful sunken garden. By taking the path along the Bamboo Walk, the visitor was confronted by a costumed attendant pulling an imported Japanese jinrikisha.
Ornamental lanterns were attached to cherry trees and wisteria vines. Everywhere below, one would find strategically located bronze or stone lilliputian monuments representing Buddhist shrines. Also, there were granite pagodas, and century old images of oriental idols, and typically and faithfully reproduced Japanese household nymphs.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the gardens was the gigantic bronze statue of Buddha which was imported from the famous gardens of the great Daibutsu in Kamakura, Japan. This Buddha still remains and is recognized as one of the largest in the world as it sits majestically upon a 20 foot pedestal.
The visit was not complete without walking across the Wishing Bridge to peek into the shaded stream below in order to perceive the multitude of white and gold oriental carp. And nearby, one could sit by the Pagoda Fountain surrounded by a multitude of flowers which permeated magical scents which teased and lulled the guest into moods of meditative ambience.
Visitors were left fascinated with a lasting impression, but even more so, were those who sustained a penchant for having a true garden spirit and a love for exotic beauty.
The Japanese Gardens were designed and created by Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Hecht of New Orleans. They developed their love for Japanese culture during their many visits to the Land of the Rising Sun and brought it home to their "Middlegate" estate at 520 West Scenic Drive in Pass Christian. Mr. Hecht was one of the founders of the International House in New Orleans.
The majestic gardens were designed to contain all of the traditional features of an original world famous Japanese garden with exquisite subtleties and delicate beauty. It was replete with tall cryptomeria, giant bamboo, dwarfed trees, azaleas, camellias, japonicas, and other flowering shrubs, all within the limited space of a few acres.
Remnants of these gardens can still be sited from Second Street between Clarence Avenue and Pine Street. Unfortunately, the original charm of the famous gardens was destroyed by the ravishes of Camille.