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Creole Architecture Along the Gulf Coast

Updated on January 11, 2012

Circa 1772 LaPointe-Krebs house in Pascagoula, MS

One of the oldest buildings in the Mississippi Valley in existence; it features a tabby wall, which is a combination oyster shell/concrete mix.
One of the oldest buildings in the Mississippi Valley in existence; it features a tabby wall, which is a combination oyster shell/concrete mix. | Source

The Influence

Creole architecture began with the French settlement of the Gulf Coast area as a reaction to the climate and the way people lived. Today, it is still a popular style in the South as it is an economical, somewhat inexpensive way to build a home, while keeping a classic style that most people enjoy. The Creole style is believed to be a melding of several cultures: the Native American tribes of the area and the French settlers. The French came from three areas: French Canada, the colonies in the West Indies, and of course, the motherland.

Circa 1834 Creole Cottage in Mobile, AL

With finely-done Federal influences,  this Creole features a motif of arrows for stair ballustrades inside.  Now open for tours except Monday and Sundays.
With finely-done Federal influences, this Creole features a motif of arrows for stair ballustrades inside. Now open for tours except Monday and Sundays. | Source

The Building Style

The steep roof that characterizes a Creole building style evolved from the extremely rainy Gulf Coast. First French colony, Mobile, AL, is still the rainiest city in the United States at 5 feet of rain a year, and the first homes featured a roof that would quickly slough off the rain from the roof with porch galleries attached (see photo of Pascagoula, MS Krebs house) . Additionally, the French may have noticed the Native American tribes of the area, the Creek and the Choctaw, and their open air shelters built off the ground to catch breezes. The floor plan originally featured four rooms or two rooms with doors connecting all rooms with no interior hallway. French Canadian homes had an extremely steep roof; it is theorized that by joining that style roof with the galleries of the Native Americans of the Gulf Coast and West Indies (see Krebs House roof), we come to the typical roofline when the French first settled. As time went on, a steep roof over a basic square box, allowing for porch galleries, dominated the style( see photo of Portier house).

Circa 1836 Hall-Ford House In Mobile

A raised Greek Revival Creole cottage with attached slave quarters, it is now available as a bed and breakfast that has been renamed the Fort Conde' Inn.
A raised Greek Revival Creole cottage with attached slave quarters, it is now available as a bed and breakfast that has been renamed the Fort Conde' Inn. | Source

Creole Cottages Through The Years

As time went on, the architectural style held through the later nineteenth century. Later, the English introduced an interior hallway to bring more air into the living area. The addition of dormer windows on the second floor along with the front porch area allowed the homeowner's taste to be varied. Raised creole cottages of up to three stories were popular (see Hall-Ford house picture) and allowed more space. Greek Revival architecture, popular during much of the early to mid 1800's, was easy to adapt to the Creole style. Also, as time went on and new building trends became fashionable, the Creole cottage allowed inexpensive changing of the front porch to introduce Victorian style upgrades such as gingerbread woodturning.

The Creole Cottage Today

Today, there are many websites to help you find your own Creole house plan. A quick search on any search engine will help you find the perfect plan for you. The homes are extremely energy efficient, simple to build since it is basically a big square, and pleasantly symmetrical to the eye. As you sit on your front or back porch, sipping some sweetened iced tea, enjoy the cooling breezes and American style.

Gone With Katrina- The Mississippi Gulf Coast

Cities to View Creole Architecture

The term Creole designates a French colonial architecture that is found along the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast as these were the first settlements. The Mississippi Gulf Coast was settled in 1699, Mobile, Alabama was settled in 1702, and finally New Orleans was settled in 1718. Examples are also found in Pensacola, FL and Galveston, TX as well. Although Katrina wiped out some great examples, particularly a high concentration in Waveland/Bay St. Louis, MS, one can still see these styles in Mobile, AL, New Orleans, LA, and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Enjoy the homes and experience the Gulf Coast people's hospitality.

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    • cometdog profile image

      cometdog 5 years ago

      What a beautiful area. Someday I hope to travel to the gulf coast and see the sights for myself. I love to see older homes, and I could go for some creole cooking, also.

    • DemiMonde profile image
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      Demi 5 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

      Thanks for commenting. I would love some creole food too, especially since I just stuck some Stouffers in the oven! Demi

    • Bldg an Architect profile image

      Bldg an Architect 5 years ago

      Fascinating hub. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Ragersjr 5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I like it

    • profile image

      Baboucarr Langley 5 years ago

      I learn a lot about the Creole Architecture. Thank you.

    • DemiMonde profile image
      Author

      Demi 5 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

      I am so glad you have enjoyed it. Thanks for coming by, Ragersjr, Bldg an Architect, and Baboucarr Langley!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      I grew up in Louisiana (not on the Gulf Coast), and have a great affection for Creole architecture. What a great Hub filled with historic info and wonderful images! Well done! P.S., I went to college in Natchitoches, Louisiana -- the city is well-known for its Creole homes and buildings.

    • DemiMonde profile image
      Author

      Demi 4 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

      Thanks so much, Lindacee. I haven't been to Natchitoches, but have read about it in several out of print books. I love those local color writers from the 30's and 40's. I've been to NOLA, of course, many times and have been along River Road in the Destrehan and then over in the Oak Alley plantation area. We always went when I was a teen during Spring Break to MS and LA plantation country. The French colonies of Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast are similar to the colony of New Orleans. I love it down here!

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