The Illing House was located on the northeast corner of Washington Avenue and Porter Avenue in Block 2, Lot 21 of the Culmseig Map (1854) of Ocean Springs.
The Illing House was a large, L-shaped, hotel complex consisting of two main buildings which were wood framed and two stories tall. Large expansive galleries accommodated guests on both floors. There was approximately 7700 square feet of room space and 3668 square feet of gallery area. Additional buildings on the one acre property consisted of a baking house, bakery and confectionery shop, lodge, outhouse, stable, and WC (water closet?).
(east and south elevations)
Courtesy of Adrienne Illing Finnie (1925-2002)
The Illing House was built by Ferdinand William Illing (1838-1884), a native of Regansburg, Bavaria, Germany. Young Illing studied botany in Europe and in 1864 came to North America to design and develop the Palace Gardens of Maximilian, the Arch Duke of Austria and Emperor of Mexico, at Mexico City.
After Maximilian was overthrown in 1866, Illing sailed to New Orleans and settled at Ocean Springs. He purchased land on the northeast corner of Washington and Porter Avenues at Ocean Springs where he planted pecan trees and practiced horticulture.
In 1869, at Ocean Springs, Ferdinand Illing married Rosalie Eglin (1844-1894), a native of Alsace in France. This marriage produced four children: Eugene William Illing (1870-1947), Alice Elizabeth Illing (1874-1876), Edward Ferdinand Illing (1878-1952), and Camilla Louise Illing Kiernan (1882-1960).
With the coming of the railroad to Ocean Springs in 1870, Illing decided to build a hotel on his Washington Avenue property to cater to the influx of tourist and salesmen brought by that vehicle. A reporter for The Star of Pascagoula described the Illing House in June 1874, as follows:
Illing's House located in "the heart" of the village on the principal thoroughfare, is a favorite resort, and no wonder, for Mr. Illing is one of the most popular of landlords and he is ably assisted by an energetic and accommodating wife, and they manage to make a guest feel perfectly "at home".
This advertisement appeared in the The Star of Pascagoula on September 26, 1874:
Apartments for families and single persons.
Boarding by the day, week, or month.
F.W. Illing, proprietor.
By the summer of 1878, the Illing House must have been doing well as evidenced by the following advertisement:
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Apartments for rent for families and single persons.
Board and lodging by day, week, or month. Meals at all
hours of the day at very low prices. Refreshments for la-
dies. The best lager beer, soda water, and liquors of all
kinds. F.W. Illing, Proprietor
The Pascagoula Democrat-Star July 12, 1878 (p. 4, c. 4)
During this time, F.W. Illing was also involved in the sewing machine and office supply business. He ran the following advertisement in The Pascagoula Democrat-Star on July 9, 1880:
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Genuine Singer Sewing Machines Machine Needles, Attachments, Machine Oil, Thread and ready wound Bobbins, with sea Island Cotton, white and black, and
the celebrated. Sloan's Six Wheel Sewing Machine Casters
Agent for the Lightning Copying Books Files and Lightning Letter Binders, etc, etc
(page 1, c. 6).
The Illing House was noted for its excellent table. With his horticulturist training, Illing maintained a large garden at the rear of the hotel where he raised vegetables and fruit. Mrs. Illing was continually asked for her fig and fruit preserve recipes which she prepared for their guests. The Illings also maintained dairy cows for fresh milk.
The 1879 Conflagration
Like most wooden structures of this time, the Illing House faced destruction by fire on a daily basis. During its history, there were several serious blazes. The most fatal occurred in early morning hours of June 2nd, 1879, when a conflagration commenced in the summer dining room, which had a seating capacity of one-hundred fifty guests. After the kitchen went down, flames reached the main building where Mr. and Mrs. Illing were asleep. They and their two children barely escaped the roaring inferno and watched helplessly as the boarding house, bar, bakery, justice office, and older buildings south of the main building were destroyed. The fire was believed to have been set by an arsonist. The Illings had no insurance and estimated their loss at $5000. By August 1879, plans for rebuilding the Illing House were being formulated. The early hour and the weather were blamed for the delay in sounding the fire alarm.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, June 6, 1879, p. 3)
(see JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisor Minute Bk. 1, p. )
A New Hotel
Construction of a new hotel commenced in early May 1880. The two-story structure was planned to be 68 feet long and 40 feet wide. By June 1880, the new Illing Hotel was rising rapidly from the ash stained ground of the former hostelry. A reporter for The Pascagoula Democrat-Star related that “it will be a fine building when finished; quite an ornament to that part of town”. The tourist inundation of Ocean Springs had reached such great proportions in mid-July 1880, that before painters and carpenters could put the finishing touches on the Illing House, it was filled with summer visitors.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, May 14, 1880, p. 3, June 11, 1880, p. 3, and July 16, 1880, p. 3)
After Ferdinand Illing's untimely death in 1884, Rosalie Illing, and her son, Eugene William, continued the hostelry business with success. In November 1891, she built an extension to the hotel. It was necessary to accommodate the increase in business. When Mrs. Illing passed on in 1894, Eugene and his new bride, Emma Judlin Illing (1869-1958), carried on the family business. He became actively involved in local politics and got elected Justice of the Peace.(The Biloxi Herald, November 28, 1891, p. 1)
A new roof had been placed on the main building in April 1891.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, May 1, 1891, p. 2)
Another serious fire struck the Illing House on November 30, 1893. Prompt response from the fire department contained the blaze to the dining room area of the structure. The roof was slightly damaged. The potential was good for a destructive fire as the wind was blowing with enough velocity to spread flames rapidly. Fortunately the response of the firemen was rapid.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, December 1, 1893)
In December 1896, E.W. Illing advertised in The Ocean Wave, the local journal de jour. The Illing announcement read as follows:
E.W. Illing, Proprietor
One of the oldest and best located hostelries in Ocean Springs. Delightful verandas harbored from the rays of the sun by giant rose bushes and other sweet scented flowers. Winter and summer visitors entertained in a homelike way. All conveniences for fishing, boating, and bathing.
The care of families seeking health the main consideration. Write for terms by the day, week, month, of for the season. Address, E.W. Illing, Ocean Springs.(The Ocean Wave, December 5, 1896, p. 1)
Illing House Recalled
In 1990, nonagenarian, Marion Illing Moran (1899-1993) vividly recalled her mother's stories about the old hotel. Mrs. Illing would tell of the summer tourists from New Orleans who would ride the Coast Train to Ocean Springs for one dollar round trip. When they arrived at the L&N Depot, the Joachims and O' Keefes would compete fiercely for the business of transporting them to the various hotels. Mrs. Illing said that many of the guests were very "tight". They would eat healthy servings of her fresh seafood gumbo, fried fish, fried chicken, vegetables, biscuits, and home made pies all for which she charged a paltry twenty-five or fifty-cents. The frugal guests would take leftovers from the table to their rooms to eat later.(interview of October 12, 1990)
Because of the responsibility of rearing her small children, Eugene William, Jr. (1895-1978), Harold Ivan (1897-1959), Marion Emma (1899-1993), and Alvin James (b. 1903), the daily tasks of cooking three meals for hotel guests, supervising servants, and her husband's political carer, Emma and Eugene Illing decided to get out of the hotel business. This fact was noted in The Pascagoula Democrat-Star on August 11, 1905:
The Illing House, one of the oldest landmarks of our town is being rapidly demolished to be converted into small cottages with all modern conveniences. Judge Illing is to be complemented on his enterprise.
The Illing Theatre
E.W. Illing Sr (1870-1947) built an open air movie show at this location between 1910 and 1914. By 1925, an approximately 2500 square-foot theater was located on the site. In the Fall of 1927, Illing remodeled or erected a larger cinema, The Illing Theatre, on this corner. The stucco building had a tile roof and fancy grated windows. In the fall of 1958, the Illings heirs sold their property to the First Baptist Church.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 183, pp. 107-108 and Bk. 183, pp. 109-111)
First Baptist Church of Ocean Springs
The Illing Theater which was an architectural landmark on the corner of Washington and Porter for over thirty years was demolished shortly after the sale to the church by Clarence Galle (1912-1986). The First Baptist Church built a large sanctuary on this site. It was dedicated on May 11, 1969.(The Ocean Springs Record, September 9, 1982, p. 16)
The History of Jackson County, Mississippi, "Ferdinand W. Illing", (Jackson County Genealogical Society: Pascagoula-1989), pp. 242-243.
Box Office, “33 Years an Exhibitor ‘Judge’ Illing Is Dead”, July 26, 1947.
Men and Matters, Volume 4, No. 11, October 1898, pp. 75-76.
The Biloxi Herald, “Ocean Springs”, November 28, 1891.
The Ocean Springs Record, "First Baptist of OS/ The Birth of a Church", September 9, 1982.
The Ocean Wave, "Illing House", December 5, 1896.
The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, "Ocean Springs News", June 6, 1879, p. 3.
The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, August 22, 1879, p. 3.
The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs Items”, May 14, 1880.
The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs Items”, June 11, 1880.
The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs Items”, July 16, 1880.
The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs Items”
The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs Items”, May 1, 1891.
The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, December 1, 1893.
The Star of Pascagoula, "Our Sea Coast", June 6, 1874, p. 2.
The Times Picayune, “Printing Firm’s President Dies”, 1952.
Sanborn Map Company (New York City), "Ocean Springs, Ms.", (1898)-Sheet 2.
Sanborn Map Company (New York City), "Ocean Springs, Ms.", (1909)-Sheet 1.
Sanborn Map Company (New York City), "Ocean Springs, Ms.", (1915)-Sheet 1.
Sanborn Map Company (New York City), "Ocean Springs, Ms.", (1925)-Sheet 4.
Marion Illing Moran - October 12, 1990.
J.K. Lemon - February 17, 1994.