An important cultural heritage site for African Americans since 1923, Gulfside Assembly enriches cultural diversity and promotes learning opportunities following the Chatauqua principles, designed to bring “a college outlook” to working and middle-class people. In addition to educational offerings, the arts, and public affairs, thousands of residents and visitors attended concerts and social activities.
In 2000, unabridged with EskewDumezRipple provided Gulfside with a plan for stewardship and growth and a master plan document to prioritize building and expansion for worship, education, guest housing and dining, and enrichment activities. The plan was designed with three environmental criteria: to preserve the habitats of flora and fauna extant on the site; to recreate a heritage trail through the pine forests to the beach that led early visitors to the only beach on the Gulf Coast where they could swim; and to discover and preserve evidence of the Native American users of the site. These elements were integrated into the plan to increase awareness of the particular history and environment of this special place. Immediate connections to forest, marsh, and beachfront offered a variety of experiences for learning within an environment that nurtured the spirit.
The first phase of implementation constructed a 22-room guest housing retreat overlooking the Mississippi Sound. It was completed in August 2005, only two weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. The complete loss of this brand-new structure, built to standard building codes, called into question the methods of building along the coastline.
Master Plan: 175 acres
Norris Hall: 20,400 SF
Completed August 2005
Destroyed August 2005