Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mary Mahoney's Old French House Restaurant -- A Biloxi Landmark and Treasure

The highlight of our recent weekend getaway to the Mississippi Gulf Coast was celebrating Valentine's Day a day early by dining at one of the Coast's oldest and most famous landmarks ... Mary Mahoney's Old French House Restaurant.

A little about the history of the house:  French colonist Louis Frasier built this home in 1737 as an outpost of European culture on the shore of a new world. It is proudly and magnificently French, with the same high ceilings characteristic of the Vieux CarrĂ© apartments in New Orleans.

Frasier built his home of hand-made brick, with wooden pegged columns of cypress. Slate for the roof came over as a ballast in the holds of French sailing ships.

The brick-walled cellar is unusual in this damp region, yet it is so bone dry that previous owners have used it to store books. It now serves as a wine cellar.

The Old French House predates American independence by more than three decades. French Governor Jean Baptiste Bienville commanded the entire Louisiana Territory from his quarters here.

Records are scarce, but we know the house remained with Frasier’s heirs until 1820. Before joining the United States with the Louisiana Purchase, subsequent residents were of varied nationalities as the colony came under French, Spanish, German and English influence.

The Old French House remained a residence until 1962, when it was acquired by Mary Mahoney, her husband Bob, and her brother Andrew Cvitanovich.

Great care has been taken to preserve the charm and character of this venerable landmark, with its exposed brick walls, heart-pine floors, and open fireplaces. 

When Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29, 2005, the Mahoney’s moved everything as high as they could. The 28-plus foot storm surge washed through the entire complex damaging the dining rooms, kitchen, and historical artifacts. 
After Katrina, the most costly and destructive hurricane in U.S. history, the Mahoney’s were able to rebuild and reopen within 9 weeks, even though several family members suffered the total loss of their own personal homes.

Mary Mahoney's is our favorite restaurant on the Coast, and has been a favorite of the locals since it opened in 1964.  It has also welcomed more than its share of world-renown diners, including Presidents Reagan, Carter, and Clinton. 
We arrived early and I spent a few minutes capturing some pictures (with my cell phone) of the beautiful courtyard area ...

[Above photo borrowed from the Internet]

The focal point of the courtyard, which was designed by the Mahoney family to favor New Orleans, is a magnificent live oak tree, known as The Patriarch.

Four tree surgeons were asked to determine the age of it, and all four thought the tree to be over 2,000 years old. The tree is registered with the Live Oak Society and survived Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Katrina in 2005.

I didn't want to intrude on the privacy of the other diners, so I didn't take many pictures inside the restaurant.  I did manage to capture a couple of pictures featuring the plaque on one of the mantels which shows Katrina's water line ... 

It was a perfect way to spend a special evening  ... in a beautiful old house steeped in Mississippi history ... a delicious meal, friendly and impeccable service ... all under the far-reaching canopy of an awesome 2,000-year-old live oak tree.


Judy said...

oh Janie, we love Mary Mahoney's! It's where we introduced our granddaughter Taylor to ketchup when she was still in a highchair. I was so glad to see it survived Katrina. We always try to eat there every time we're in Biloxi!

Dorothy said...

What a wonderful post! Loved reading about this historic place.

Pat said...

What a wonderful way to celebrate Valentine's Day. Would love to visit this old historical site if we are ever in the area.

Thank you for sharing this rich history.

Pat in Tallahassee

Unknown said...

We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary there. It was delightful!!!!! Caroline in Mobile