Southern Agenda

All Shook Up

The Gulf Hills Hotel & Resort in Ocean Springs has been a secluded escape for the famous—and infamous—for nearly a hundred years. Established in 1927 by two brothers from Chicago, its shaded lawns and frontage along Fort Bayou granted cover and a getaway route for mobsters like Al Capone. During its second life as a dude ranch in the fifties, Elvis Presley became a regular. Now a major renovation campaign has given the resort yet another new life. “We’re trying to bring back that country club feel from when it was built originally,” says co-owner Roxy Condrey. The history of its famous guests still enhances the allure—choice rooms are named for stars like Judy Garland and Jayne Mansfield, while pictures of Hollywood’s midcentury elite frolicking at the pool, lounge, and ranch adorn the walls. But they saved the best for the King himself. The Elvis suite features original wood paneling from his beloved villa #9, marked with the waterline from the hurricane that destroyed the structure in 1969, plus archival photos of Presley entertaining guests on the piano and learning to ski on the water just beyond.