Statement of Significance

Gunston Hall is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places for its local Architetural significance as a rare surviving example of twentieth-century Neoclassical architecture on the Biloix beachfront.

Neoclassical Architecture was a dominant style for domestic building throughout the United States during the first half of the 20th century from approximately 1895-1950 and is best recognized for full-height porches, classical columns and symmetrical facades.

The interest in Neoclassical Revival style stemmed primarily from the 1893 Columbian World Exposition in Chicago and the creation of the "White City." The most notable architects of the day designed classically inspired buildings to house the many exhibits at the fair. Spectacularly, the buildings were lighted at night with strings of electric lights. The effect inspired a generation of builders and architects. Though it was used for residences, Neoclassical Revival was more prominently used for public buildings and banks, institutions where gravitas was expected.

The principal areas of elaboration in Neoclassical houses are porch-support columns, cornices, doorways, and windows. Porch-support columns were typically Corinthian or Ionic capitals, or a mixture of the two in about 75 percent of the Neoclassical houses. Doorways commonly have elaborate, decorative surrounds. Neoclassical houses usually have a boxed eave with a moderate overhang, frequently with dentals or modillions beneath; wide frieze band is occasionally found beneath the cornice. Windows were typically double hung sash with multi-panes or single pane. The presence of bay windows, paired windows, triple windows, transom windows or arched windows differentiate Neoclassical from Greek Revival of Early Classical examples.  

As a prominent family the Folkes selected the neoclassical style for Gunston Hall. Typical of the full façade porch subtype, a colonnaded porch with four colossal Tuscan columns occupies the full width and height of the façade. In this subtype, the porch is not covered by the traditional pedimented gable, but instead by the principal roof.  The main house is wrapped by an unornamented entablature, which has an enlarged cornice and freeze, and is capped by a parapet wall to conceal a very low-pitched hipped roof.

Water drainage from the roof of the main building is routed through interior box gutters and into downspouts hidden inside the columns. Behind each column, pilasters divide the façade into three bays. The South façade is symmetrically balanced about the main entrance located in the center bay.

The understated nature of the classical exterior carries into the interior of the main structure, which is elegant and largely unadorned.  Wide wood mouldings surround the doors and windows.  Interior transoms remain in place on the first floor but are currently painted over.  An open staircase with a delicate balustrade leads to a second floor, which has several paneled pocket doors and a built-in cabinet/shelf combination between the two stair landings.

Architectural Descriptions


The original site consisting of a Main House and a guesthouse is attributed to Thomas J. Rosell, a local builder, originally from Missouri. The home was constructed as a residence for Dr. and Mrs. Hyman McMacken Folkes in 1905. Built with concrete and handmade brick then covered with stucco, Gunston Hall is true to its Neoclassical style. The site / grounds have been altered over the life of the house. The once expansive lawn has been replaced with large asphalt parking lot surrounding the house.  The house retains these identifying features: an arcade dominated by full-height porch with roof supported by classical columns and symmetrically balanced windows and center door.

The main two story rectangular block proportioned in the classical style is divided into three equal parts by four two story Tuscan columns on the main south façade. Behind each column, pilasters divide the façade into three bays.  The columns support a full façade portico under the principal roof structure. The main house is wrapped by an unornamented entablature, which has a large cornice and frieze, and is capped by a parapet wall to conceal a very low-pitched hipped roof. The south façade is symmetrically balanced about the main entrance located in the center bay. The main entrance is a replacement wood double leaf door with flanking narrow single light sidelights (2012) on first floor and two paired single light historic wood casement windows on the second floor.  The other two bays are mirrored about the center and consist of replacement wood double leaf door with flanking narrow single light sidelights (2012) on first floor and two paired single light historic wood casement windows to the corners and a smaller single-light fixed window on the second floor. The proportions of the casement window sashes are one wide to four tall (19.5” X 66”) supporting the tall elegant look of the structure. The east and west elevations feature paired casement windows similar in dimension to those on the primary façade.   

A one-story wing is attached at the northwest corner of the main structure. It has wide bracketed eaves with exposed rafters and squat square columns, originally open now in filled. The bays are in filled (1969) with almost floor length paired single light casement windows on the south side and a double leaf entry door and two floor length paired single light casement windows on the west side. Above the elongated eaves is a flat parapet wall concealing a flat roof. The west wing attaches to the north wing, which wraps around to the north side of the main house to just west of the rear double leaf doors, which are on axis with the main entrance. The north wing is thought to be the original kitchen. The east wall has a single door and four shorter paired single light casement windows two to each side of door and the north wall is solid with no fenestration. 

A two-story outbuilding is situated due northwest of the main structure aligning with the east edge of the one story north wing.  This outbuilding originally served as a guesthouse and features a flat roof and parapet. This portion of the original structure is the most altered but is identifiable from the subsequent additions. The west façade of this building has two window bays at each floor, containing large fixed sash aluminum windows with 30 lights each (6x5).  The north façade features a double-leaf access door at the west end, and a 30-light (6x5) fixed sash aluminum window directly above the entry. There is evidence that windows have been in filled on the east end on both levels. Added later (no date) to the north façade of the guest house is a two story full facade flat-roof porch supported by four wrought iron decorative columns and features dentil molding along the edge.

The original main house has had two major additions. The remains of the first alteration to the site which occurred in 1969, consisting of a one-story wing to the east and a one-story wing to the northwest connecting the guest house to the main house. These additions supported the transition from a single-family residence to an elegant restaurant.

The east addition is set back from the front façade about four feet and extends north along the east façade of the main house. The addition’s one story height allows for the second floor windows to remain undisturbed and minimizes the impact to the front façade.  After clearing the main house and obscured from view the addition then steps up in height transitioning to align with the height of the guest house. The north façade of the building shows the upper portion of this addition is clad in synthetic drop siding.  A single-leaf access door on the north façade serves as the only fenestration for this addition.  This area was constructed to house the kitchen for the restaurant. 

The west one-story addition connects the guesthouse with the main structure (P8).  There is no fenestration in this addition; only large recessed panels – three on the west façade and two on the north.  This addition was constructed to house the lounge area for the restaurant. Both of the additions that remain from 1969 are concrete block covered with stucco. They are simply detailed and have few fenestrations. It is clear as to what is original structure and what are the additions.

A one-story flat roof addition was constructed in 2012 between the two 1969 additions, in an area that formerly served as an interior courtyard.  This area will house additional dining room space for the restaurant.  The roofline for this addition is slightly lower than that of the east addition and slightly higher than that of the west addition.  It does not, however, infringe upon the second-floor fenestration of the original building.


The interior of the main house retains a high degree of integrity. The floor plan of the main house has had minor changes. The elegance and formality of the layout is still intact and original features such as the two fireplace mantels, staircases, wide wood door and window trim, plaster walls, pocket doors, hard wood floors on the second floor and cornice throughout.

The primary entrance on the south façade opens to a formal parlor room with one side parlor to the west, an open staircase accessed by a stepped landing along the north wall, and access doors along the east and north walls that lead to additions. The entrance parlor has original plaster walls and wood trim.  On the west wall, an original ballast stone fireplace is flanked by two cased door openings with interior transoms and replacement beveled glass French doors (2012). Original French doors were divided lights.  On the north wall, a stepped landing leads to the original open wood staircase that provides access to the second floor.  The staircase is largely unadorned and features simple turned balusters and a narrow turned wood newel post with no cap. Directly aligned with the front entrance and the stair landing is the original rear entrance.

The side parlor to the west of the formal parlor features a fireplace with an ornamental rosewood mantel piece on the east wall.  A door opening at the north wall leads to a small hallway that provides access to servant stairs on the east and also to the original one-story west and north wings.       

The one-story west wing, originally open air still retains its character with pilasters supporting exposed heavy timber rafters and bracketed eaves that begin on the exterior and continue along the north transition between this room and the lounge room (northwest addition 1969). The original exterior walls of the north wing still remain (P15).  The original north wing has been divided (1969) into two small rooms: a wine closet and a dessert room.  A narrow set of original stairs in the dessert room lead to a small poured concrete basement that once served as the coal boiler room then as a wine cellar.  The walls in the north wing are plastered and the floor is covered in ceramic tile.

The second floor consists of an open hallway/landing to the north that is accessed by two sets of stairs.  At the center of the hallway, double-leaf pocket doors lead to a modest sized central room that is flanked by small pass-through restrooms.  Two outside rooms are slightly larger than the central room and may be accessed from the restroom or from single-leaf sliding doors that lead to the second-floor stair hall / landing.        

The historic guesthouse has been completely renovated and none of the original layout remains. The second floor is only accessible from a door in the second floor stair hall of the main house, which leads to the roof of the northwest addition. The first floor has been modified to contain a rear (North) entrance and ADA restrooms. The guesthouse is linked in to the west wing of the main house by the northwest addition (1969).  The northwest addition consists of one large rectangular room with a row of French doors along the east wall and a large bar along the west wall; no windows are in this addition.

The east addition (1969) is largely an open space, with the exception of subdivided rooms at the south end, for restrooms and utility closets. The northeast end of the east addition is the kitchen area.  It can be accessed by one of two doorways from the central addition. A single exterior door at the north wall is the only fenestration in this space.

The central addition (2012), the area between the east and west additions that formerly served as an open-air courtyard (1969), is a large open room with a deep-coffered ceiling and four wood Tuscan style columns matching the south exterior columns. This addition extends north and ends level with the north wall of the northeast addition.  Three window bays are being installed at the north wall of this addition.  The south wall of this space adjoins with the north wall of one of the original additions to the structure, when it served as a residence.


Gunston Hall, now known as The White Pillars, is locally significant for its architecture, as a rare surviving example of a Neoclassical structure on U.S. Highway 90 in Biloxi.  Hurricane Camille, in 1969, and Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, both caused significant damage to historic structures along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.  In Biloxi, many structures along U.S. Highway 90 (Beach Boulevard) were completely demolished by the effects of Hurricane Katrina.  Gunston Hall sustained significant damage to the first floor; however, the wind and water did not affect the structure of the main building.  A glass atrium that had enclosed the front portico, likely provided some protection to the building during Hurricane Katrina.  The glass atrium has now been removed, thus exposing the original south façade, which retains a high level of architectural integrity.

The exterior of the Gunston Hall maintains a high level of integrity.  Although multiple additions have expanded the building, its primary façade and a large portion of its west façade, which faces an access street, remain easily viewable with no obstructions. On the interior, largely unadorned yet elegant woodwork remains intact.  Much of the original wood flooring remains in place, especially on the second floor.  The two primary additions that were constructed c. 1969 retain their original appearance and configuration.  The new construction at the north end of the building will not be viewable from any of the public rights-of-way and is adjoined in a manner that does not compromise the architectural integrity of the original north façade.   

 The interior of the house retains a high degree of integrity. Although there have been many large additions to the structure, the floor plan of the main house has barely changed. The elegance and formality of the layout is still intact and the original features such as the two fireplace mantels, staircases, door and window trim, plaster walls, hard wood floors on the second floor and cornice throughout.

One cannot deny the sense of place you feel as you sit in the formal parlor; the view of the Gulf is framed by the large glass doors and sidelights and then the grand Tuscan columns. The sun soaked rooms with their breathtaking view can only remind you of the prominence of the house and family that built it.


  • Gunston Hall/White Pillars National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, prepared by Donna Klee, K2 Architects, PPLC