Fabulous Historic Retreat
Old Town, Close to Beach

We have a whole website now for the 
Webb School House apartment rental!  


This designated Mississippi Landmark was built as an elementary school in 1913. One full side of the upstairs is a private and spacious guest area. Renovated in a NY loft style, the fully private retreat features high ceilings, large windows, wood floors and all the amenities of a fine house - including a fun art collection by regional artists.

The main living area was originally a schoolroom and has an elegant and expansive feel. It contains a living room, dining room and partitioned bedroom. A wall of windows looks out onto enormous live oak trees, while three front doors open up onto a classic Southern veranda.

The bedroom area has a queen-sized bed and the living room is furnished with a day-bed and pull-out trundle. The apartment sleeps four good friends, but is perfect for a couple. A large full kitchen and tiled bath complete the package. The kitchen door opens onto a deck that nestles beneath the oaks. Completely furnished with linens and kitchenware, all you need to bring is your toothbrush!

For more information or reservations, call Ellis Anderson at 228.493.2107 or go to: www.webbschoohouse.com 

Article by Tom Huth

Below are excerpts from an article written by Tom Huth for Conde Nast Traveler magazine in summer 2005.

For the night’s accommodations, we have secured an old schoolhouse. Or half of one, at least. “Your side used to be the first and second grades,” explains Ellis Anderson, the woman who owns the duplex. “My side was the third and fourth.”

We’re in the artists’ hideaway of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, on a quiet residential corner only two blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. We swing open the door, and our schoolroom is dancing with light: sunshine pouring in through the tall paned windows, through the transoms, the ceilings twelve feet high and turning with tropical fans, the white beadboard walls hung with oversized art. Ellis shows us our bed, which is screened off by armoires and bookcases. The unusual headboard, she says, was once the ticket window of the Toulouse Theater in New Orleans. She shows us our kitchen, our own washer-dryer. We have 1,200 square feet to play with, and out every window we can see the bewitching shapes of the live-oak trees in the yard, their enormous arms glowing with Resurrection ferns.

Given this choice, who’d ever stay in a hotel?

My wife Holly and I are in the middle of an old-fashioned cross-country motoring trip, and I’ve lined up home rentals (call them hometels) in three small towns a day’s drive from each other along America’s Gulf Coast. These are communities which seem to offer some character and historical depth. Yet so far they’ve escaped the attention of most guidebooks--and developers, too.

Bay St. Louis, tucked into a peninsula with its back to the highways, has a Nifty Fifties feel. Its 19th-Century mansions and clapboard cottages share a fondness for white columns and sprawling verandas, and just enough of them have been fixed up or prettied out in Caribbean colors to make the ghostlier relics look all the more romantic, if only for their possibilities. Along the back streets, residents hang out shingles announcing what they do: the clockmaker, the attorney, the seamstress. The grass in the yards is that overripe green of the Deep South, and we can hear freight trains bleating day and night as they rumble through town.

Main Street boasts a Gothic Revival courthouse, two churches and two commercial blocks of brick shopfronts and wooden cottages which are occupied mainly these days by galleries and gift shops. Still there’s nothing so advanced as a traffic light or parking meter.

In an age of forsaken downtowns, here is a Main Street that keeps on giving. On a Saturday morning I watch a new tenant put up the lettering on his office window: GRAVITY CONSCIOUS DESIGN. Across the street a carpenter is hanging a sign on the Masonic Temple: MASSAGE...AROMATHERAPY. Two blocks up a painter is restoring a vintage Coca-Cola mural.

That night the town’s galleries host a street party, and a modest number of tourists and townspeople amble around drinking wine and listening to live jazz and R&B. Bay St. Louis has been attracting artists since the mid-1980s, and many of them come from New Orleans, which is just an hour away. The affinity is in the bones: The French settled the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama along with Louisiana, and throughout the 1800s the New Orleans upper crust came here, by steamboat and railroad, to escape the summer heat. Today you can’t find a restaurant in town that doesn’t serve gumbo and ettouffe. The paintings on display tonight likewise pay tribute: the wrought-iron cityscapes, the jazzmen, the Spanish moss. Outside, the piano player sings, “Son of a gun we’ll have great fun on the bayou!”

Ellis also drifted over from New Orleans, where she had a gallery in the French Quarter. She declares, not knowing I’m a writer: “This is the sweetest-natured community I have ever seen in my life! Kind. Generous. Tolerant of eccentricities. It’s not like the cities. Some day it might be, but right now it’s stellar. You don’t have to have that big-city wariness, that alertness.”

When she bought the landmark 1913 schoolhouse four years ago (2002), friends pitched in to help her restore it. Sometimes she traded her jewelry for their labor. Now that it’s finished, she has only one problem. Couples who rent from her are so smitten with Bay St. Louis that in the last year four of them have bought their own properties.

So on my walks through the neighborhood--when I size up the lumberyard that’s now an arts center, the Mission-style train depot that’s humming with cultural events--I fancy the thought of reinventing that abandoned bank building down by the railroad tracks, or the old Rainbow Theatre.

Most travelers, I guess, would stay here for one night on the way to somewhere else. They’d pay Ellis Anderson her $100 and move on. But Holly and I can linger a while. We lay in some groceries for breakfast and lunch and fall into our routines. I find myself gazing out the schoolhouse windows like I did when I was a boy, looking for the action. In the evenings we go out to eat, and there are just enough restaurants in Bay St. Louis to last for a week.

After dinner, driving home through the dark streets, I like to turn the corner and see our lights twinkling through the treetops. In the mornings I like to open my eyes to the embrace of those granddaddy live-oaks: to take comfort that we’re still in Mississippi.

About Bay St. Louis

LinkBay St. Louis is a sturdy arts colony with galleries, shops and fine restaurants. New Orleans and the French Quarter are an easy one hour's drive to the west, while Ocean Springs/Biloxi are 30 minutes to the east. The Bay beach - is pleasantly uncrowded and just a short walk from the house. For the Hancock County Tourism site, which contains a full calendar of local events, click here!
Click here to read how this house survived the storm and some remarkable stories of our town, from the owner's upcoming book "Under Surge, Under Siege, the Odyssey of Bay St. Louis and Katrina." The book is being published by University Press of Mississippi and will be released in early summer 2010.

Sun Herald Article about the Webb School


Class is in

By Tammy Smith

If you listen very quietly, you can almost hear chairs scraping on the hardwood floors, erasers clapping outside under the Live oak's canopy or the clamor of tiny voices echoing in the large rooms.

But come back to the present, and you are in the home of Ellis Anderson. This is the former Webb School, built ca. 1913, where scores of little Bay St. Louis first- through fourth-graders clambered up the steps to class for decades.

Today, Anderson occupies one side of the Mississippi Landmark stucco structure's upstairs and rents the other side to vacationers on a weekly or monthly basis. The rent side once held the first and second grades, and her side was home to the third and fourth grades.

The wide porch tempts the visitor to sit for a while and enjoy cool breezes, but there are other treasures to explore inside.

Enter Anderson's home, and the eye is drawn upward to the 12-foot ceilings as well as the bed nook, which serves as the "winter bedroom" as well as a reading retreat. Small transom windows provide views of the neighborhood and the treetops outside.

"I wanted a reading nest upstairs," she said. "It's the most wonderful place to read in bed. And it's like sleeping in a treehouse. It fulfills all the kid fantasies. And when the moon is out, you can follow it across the sky."

The built-in bed table has an unusual top.

"The school was closed in the '60s, and the city took this over as a civic building. It was used for art classes, civil defense - a lot of different things, I'm told. In the '90s, they sold it to a nonprofit for 12-step meetings, and I bought it from that organization." Anderson said. "We found this wooden sign that had the 12 steps, and now it's the tabletop. It just seemed like a great way to honor them."

The main classroom is also the great room, a combination of Anderson's dining and living rooms and summer bedroom. The dining room is defined by an Oriental rug which also covers small holes in the wood floors where desks were once bolted. Large windows and more transoms open to welcome breezes that let air circulate through the room.

Antiques that reflect Anderson's eclectic interests are found throughout the home, but the living room area especially holds examples. An Art Deco-period table topped with blue mirrored glass hides a secret in its half-moon legs: two small bar areas revealed by pressing on the flat sides.

The kitchen is remembered by one of Anderson's acquaintances who attended Webb School as "the paddling room," but today it's cheerful and welcoming. Cabinets, crafted by Tommy Lewis, are made from heart pine, salvaged timber that was originally part of a 150-year-old house destroyed by Katrina. The countertops lend simple elegance with a budget in mind.

"They're really monster-sized floor tiles cut to size," she said.

The master bath was originally the boys' bathroom. Beaded board plays a big role here as well as throughout the home, including the vanity made by cabinetmaker Mark Carl.

The small powder room in the foyer has an adorable fixture that captures everyone's attention, Anderson said.

"Well, I said I needed a sink out of a boat," she said, explaining how she chose the tiny fixture that fits the compact space perfectly. Friends went antiquing, found the sink for her and gave it to her as a Christmas present.

In the front yard, a boat that serves as a large flower bed has a poignant history. The boat had been in a neighbor's yard for years after her son was killed in an accident in it. During the height of Katrina, the boat came loose and floated up to the neighbor and three others who were close to drowning. They climbed in the boat, and it came to rest in Anderson's front yard where it stands today as a memorial to the young man who died and a tribute to the four lives the boat saved.

Currently, it bears vinca, small zinnias, shrimp plants, sunflowers and lantana. In cooler months, bright snapdragons and pansies bloom there.

Katrina's waters did not reach the living area of her home, although the kitchen sustained damage and the roof was damaged. The Webb School weathered the storm to remain a Bay St. Louis, as well as Mississippi, landmark. And Anderson appreciates her responsibility in helping it survive for more years.

"Owning a historic building is stewardship," she said, then smiled. "It's also just a really neat place."

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