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Turkey Creek

Turkey Creek

Rippy Road
National Register of Historic Places, 2009
Mississippi Heritage Trust 10 Most Endangered Historic Places, 2001

 

The Rippy Road Community near the Regional Airport in Gulfport is a rarity in Mississippi. It is a post-Civil War African-American community created by freed slaves that retains much of its original architectural integrity. Many descendents of the original founders still live in their ancestral homes. As Gulfport grew in the late 19th and early 20th century, African-Americans were drawn to the area in search of jobs. They were largely segregated from areas near the Gulf, so the community of North Gulfport was established, and a neighborhood grew in nearby Rippy Road. Over the years the old character of North Gulfport has been lost, but the small Rippy Road community has managed to hold true to its origins. Nearby Turkey Creek served the community as a recreation area since the African-American residents were not allowed to use the beaches. Both of these tiny areas are threatened by encroaching development pressure.

Since its 2001 designation on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi, the Rippy Road community has experienced mixed success, with some victories and many setbacks and unexpected challenges, like the wanton destruction of Turkey Creek’s historic cemetery and Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters in 2005. One of the homes, the Benton House, is now individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Turkey Creek community was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district in 2009. At its announcement, the congregation of Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church was said to have raised “thunderous applause” in celebration of a hopeful future for the community.

Nevertheless, escalating threats of urban sprawl, de-forestation and environmental problems continually must be faced. Twelve acres of wooded wetlands abutting to the south have been slated for a rental car parking and car wash facility for the airport. Even worse, a proposed connector road between I-10 and the airport would bisect Rippy Road as well as run through both the historic “Colored School” grounds and the cemetery. The proximity to active and inactive chemical plants like the EPA-cited Gulf Coast Creosote Company pose additional obstacles to community survival. However, hopes have been lifted by support from historic preservationists and environmental justice advocates who learned of the plight of the area largely through MHT’s timely concern and 10 Most publicity. A generous grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History after Katrina helped to bring back seven homes with substantial storm damage. The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain is actively pursuing conservation easements to protect the Turkey Creek watershed and provide public access to this natural treasure.  While much remains to be done, Save My Place has designated this righteous community of spirited preservationists “saved.” Hallelujah.

You May Also Enjoy:


Turkey Creek,” a website by Leah Mahan Productions whose film “Come Hell or High Water” is slated for release in 2013
Turkey Creek: Preview and Q&A with Filmmaker Leah Mahan,” an article by PBS
Turkey Creek Bridges the Gulf,” an article by the San Francisco Film Society
Mississippi Heritage Trust 10 Most Endangered Historic Places, 2001
Turkey Creek Achieves Historic Designation,” WLOX

Visiting:

Turkey Creek is a community that flanks Rippy Road in Gulfport. Because it is a neighborhood of private homes, please only drive through if you choose to visit.

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