United States of America, Mississippi, Harrison County, Pass Christian
Middlegate Japanese Gardens (Pass Christian, Mississippi)
Located on three acres in the town of Pass Christian, Mississippi is the site of Middlegate Japanese garden. Its original owners, Rudolph and Lynne Watkins Hecht were inspired by a 1924 trip to Japan and began cultivating their own Japanese-style garden upon their return. Middlegate was opened to the public in the mid-1930s. In addition to public visiting hours, the Hechts frequently held private family events and even hosted dignitaries from abroad in their sunken garden. Private family events included an annual Easter egg hunt, weddings, and 4th of July celebrations.
An azalea lined path at the entrance of the garden led to a Torri gate, revealing a Shinto temple and a jasmine covered arbor. A bamboo walk featured a fountain, two monumental Japanese stone lanterns, and Japanese sculpture. A small red, lacquered "wishing" bridge led to a blue-tiled tea house with a Buddha sitting on a lotus blossom elevated twenty feet in the air sittings opposite the bridge. A large sunken garden with a fountain, fronting a guesthouse included lotus blooms, shrubs and trees. Traditional Japanese garden features and furnishings included stone lanterns, a Torri gate, a Buddha shrine, a rickshaw, sculptures, bridges, and stone pagodas. Other garden features included gazebos, arbors, terraces, a guesthouse, two teahouses, and a bath house. Water features such as waterfalls, a swimming pool, lakes, fish and lily ponds, and reflecting pools were scattered throughout the grounds.
In August 1969, Middlegate Japanese garden suffered damage when Hurricane Camille struck the Gulf coast. In August 2005, Middlegate Japanese garden was extensively damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The garden possessed a variety of trees, shrubs, and vines, both native and imported. Plantings included forsythia, boxwood, weeping willow, English ivy, white and yellow jasmine bushes, timber bamboo, giant bamboo, Japanese cherry trees, Japanese maple, Mediterranean fan palm, Japanese plum trees, magnolia trees, pine trees, peach trees, almond trees, pecan trees, live oaks, lotus blossoms, azaleas, and Camellia japonica.
Persons associated with the property include: Mrs. Lynn Boyd Watkins (former owner, 1911-1923); Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph S. Hecht (former owner, 1923-1961); Rathbone DeBuys (architect, 1920s-1930s), Obata Takumi (sculptor, 1735)
This folder includes: photographs, correspondences, drawings, invoices, purchase orders, garden designs, newspaper articles, magazine articles, a thesis, and party invitations.
This property was featured in Country Life magazine, March 1935, New Orleans States Item newspaper, November 1946, Around the Face of the Globe, published in October 1952, Pass Christian Discovered published in 1997, and a 2004 thesis, "Middlegate Japanese Gardens: Preservation, Private Property and Public Memory"