Sweeping 300+ year old oak trees and a grand front porch precede 810 Iberville Drive. Enter to find the antebellum home completely restored to its former glory with a few modern touches. Known as the “Bel-Vue” home, it received its namesake due to the beautiful bayou views seen from the classic Southern porch. Listed as the oldest home in Ocean Springs, the property has claims dating back to the 1850s. Throughout the centuries and various owners, the Bel-Vue home has long since been known for its hospitality.
In a 1960’s article in the Daily Herald’s historical column, “Know Your Coast” by Ray Thompson, it is stated that the home is thought to have once been used as a tavern. Styled after ones found in continental Europe, it would have featured a courtyard and tables placed among the large oaks for tired travelers passing through. They would sit and enjoy the food and drink offered while theorizing about the pirate treasure said to be buried under one of the oaks. Another anecdote states that the mansion was used to host many soirees and balls.
Located on Old Fort Bayou, near the early commercial activity in Ocean Springs, the home’s construction date is uncertain. The construction of the house is post and beam - cypress and heart pine were tied together with pegs and nails in order to frame the building. In the early days, there would have been a fireplace in every downstairs room. Originally a 10 room, one and a half story, the colonial-type cottage grew to 18 rooms as it was passed from owner to owner.
The first recorded owner of the home was Andrew Forne, who was granted the property by the US government in 1847. His ownership was followed by George A. Cox who purchased the home and 20 acre property in a tax sale in 1876 for $206.43 ($5,313.17 today). The home passed to Agnes P. Leftwich in 1877 ad then to Mary A. Wing in 1887. Wing rented out the rooms to tenants and called the home the “Spring Hill Cottage.” The wealthy Austin family owned the home at a time in the late 1800’s, while Dr. Austin helped transform the small township into a resort town with the help of the nearby medicinal springs. Between 1905 and 1926, the home was owned by Dr. O.L. Bailey. Dr. Bailey was the L&N Railroad physician at Ocean Springs for 40 years and founded the Ocean Springs State Bank. He operated the local drug store on Washington Avenue with his daughter Beryl, for many years. Throughout his time in Ocean Springs, he owned many houses and property throughout the town, including The Inn and the Frank Bryan House on Jackson Ave.
In 1926, the Bailey home and property were subdivided and sold at auction. Judge O.D. Davidson bought the home for $14,866 ($218,611 today). During this time, the Bel-Vue home was often used for weddings, parties, and “a warm welcome to friends and strangers.” When Davidson was older, he moved into a smaller home and left his daughters to properly care for, maintain, and lovingly restore this relic of the past. By this time, many of the other homes of similar era had been knocked down and demolished for the sake of progress.
In more recent years, the home was sold once again and outfitted into a series of luxury office spaces. Now, in 2020, a full 173 years after the first recorded owner, someone new could add to this line of history with the purchase of the Bel-Vue home! Currently listed for $649,000, the home has been restored and renovated complete with modern amenities such as designer lighting throughout, kitchenette, handicap ramp, solid wood doors installed to mimic the originals, it has the potential to be a unique dining and event space, a beautiful bed and breakfast, or even a home for someone who loves the area as much as the previous owners. All we know is that it will be fun to watch what will happen with the “Oldest Home in Ocean Springs.”
Hines, Regina. “Owner believes Davidson home meant for visiting,” April, 1979.
Thompson, Ray. The Daily Herald, “Know Your Coast, The Birthplace of The Deep South”, July 7, 1960.