The city of Gulfport, Mississippi was a lumber and port city before it was incorporated on July 28, 1898. The city is the county seat of Harrison County and it is considered as part of the metropolitan area of Biloxi-Gulfport-Pascagoula. It gains as the second largest city in Mississippi with a land area of 62.37 square miles with a recorded population of 71, 127 in 2003.
Gulfport’s founding fathers William H. Hardy and Joseph T. Jones’ vision, financial investment and concerted effort opened the doors of economic opportunity to the city.
William H. Hardy’s vision was to build a town along Gulf of Mexico’s coastline near the Ship Island Pass. He saw the potential of using railroad in transporting millions of acres of pine in the southern part of Mississippi. However, he was hindered by financial problems which prevented him to complete the railroad project.
In 1880, Hardy revived the railway project and through London bankers he arranged financing. He founded a town when he tried to connect the north-south and northwest-midwest railroad. The connection started from Gulf of Mexico to Jackson, Tennessee to the northwest-midwest railroad. The town was named Hattiesburg in honor to his second wife.
In 1886, Hardy became the president of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad. In the following year, he signed a contract in the same company that will construct and equip a railroad to Hattiesburg. Commission was also formed selecting the southern station of the new railway line. The commission was approved after several months of waiting by the G & SI Board of Directors. Hardy chose the Mississippi Gulf Coasts’ most neglected area for the fulfillment of his dream.
On the other hand, Joseph T. Jones drilled oils for 20 years bringing him a large fortune. With the fascination in trains and its operation, he pursued his interest in the railway industry. He invested a railway venture in Mississippi. The G & SI Railroad was unfinished at that time thus the Bradford Construction Company he formed bought the company. This leads in the merging of the two companies to form the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad Company. In 1902, the harbor was completed and the port of Gulfport was developed. Jones earned the title “The Grand Old Man of Gulfport" for this project.
Today, the city still enjoy its title as the "World's Largest Fishing Rodeo" although it was hit and damaged by Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The city is known for its man-made white sandy beaches and its four distinct seasons.
Tourists can visit several attractions like Great Southern Shopping Center, Harbor Square Park, Bayou View Golf Course, Gulf Islands Water Park and Mississippi Sound Historical Museum. Every year, Gulfport hosts numerous festivals including Cajun, Country, Swamp Pop Music Festival, Highlands and Islands Scottish Games and Celtic Festival and Fall Muster. Casino gamers will also find a number of casinos within Gulfport.