In November 1870, the railroad line from Mobile to New Orleans was completed and tourists returned to utilize the spas at Ocean Springs. The central business district shifted to Washington Avenue near the L&N depot. In time, several hotels and tourist homes, the Van Cleave Hotel, Illing House, Shanahan House, Vahle House, Eglin House, Bayou Inn, and Pines Hotel developed on Washington Avenue, now the main street of Ocean Springs.
The railroad became an integral part of the economy of Ocean Springs as many of the laborers, both black and white, were employed by the Bridge and Building Department of the New Orleans-Mobile Division of the L&N. Antonio J. Catchot (1864-1954) headed this department for thirty-six years. He also served as mayor of Ocean Springs from 1917 until 1933, and was fire chief for nearly sixty years.
In addition, large estates were developed on the Fort Point peninsula, front beach, and east beach by affluent families from New Orleans and the Chicago area. The mild climate, pace of life, excellent fishing and hunting, and ambiance of the general area attracted many. Escape from the summer yellow fever epidemics at New Orleans and the relatively cool sea breeze off the Bay of Biloxi were other reasons to locate here, at least temporarily, during the 19th Century.