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Many Historic Buildings on the Mississippi Coast in Danger
By Isabelle Taft, Sun Herald
Published November 15, 2021

The stories of the Mississippi Gulf Coast can be found in its historic sites. But many of these places are at risk.

Over the years, buildings have been lost to the push for development, to simple apathy and, especially, to hurricanes. Hurricane Katrina, for example, destroyed many of the state’s oldest structures.

The Mississippi Heritage Trust hopes its list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in the state, published every two years, will energize preservation efforts and highlight the stories behind these sites.

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The 2021 list was announced in October and includes two Coast sites:

_ For decades before and after desegregation, the old Broadmoor grocery store served as a crossroads between the Black neighborhood Soria City and the white neighborhood Broadmoor.

_ And the Barq’s House in Biloxi is where the famous root beer was created and first bottled.

Lolly Rash, executive director of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, said she is always hoping for “a save,” in which a historic building is restored to serve its community. The new purpose may differ significantly from the original purpose, like the old Pascagoula High School that was converted to apartments for seniors in 2012.

“`Saved’ is one that is in good hands,” she said. “It’s been restored to a long-term viable use, and somebody cares about it.”

The history of the list includes many such saves, like the Phoenix Naval Stores Office in Gulfport, now restored as a memorial, community center and repository of Turkey Creek history. But it also includes losses like the Moss Point Central Fire Station, demolished in 2015.

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LIST OF COAST HISTORIC SITES

Here are a sampling of other Coast sites that have been named to the lists over the years:

2015: Jourdan River School, Kiln. The one-room schoolhouse, built in 1929, served African American students in Hancock County. After decades abandoned to the elements, it was found by loggers in 2013.

2015: Phoenix Naval Stores Office, Gulfport. Part of south Mississippi’s timber industry, the company employed many African American residents of historic Turkey Creek. The office is the only structure that survived a 1943 plant explosion that killed 11. Restored by community activist and sixth-generation Turkey Creek resident Derrick Evans, it will serve as a memorial, community center and local history repository.

2013: 33rd Avenue High School, Gulfport. The school educated Black residents from across Gulfport and as far away as Bay St. Louis and Wiggins. It closed with integration and was used as a Job Corps Center before Katrina. It is now being renovated to again house Job Corps and a museum about the history of the school.

2013: Moss Point Central Fire Station. Built in 1926, the fire station served as a city hall, jail, library and fire station during its lifetime. It was demolished in 2015.

2013: West Pascagoula Colored School. Built in 1921 with funding from the Jackson County Board of Supervisors, the one-room schoolhouse served African American students until 1946. It was then used as a community center and voting precinct. It has been vacant since the 1980s, but the city of Gautier plans to restore and reopen it as a museum.

2011: Lewis House (Oldfields), Gautier. The 1845 Greek Revival cottage served as the home of planter, merchant, politician and Civil War officer Alfred E. Lewis. Artist Walter Anderson lived there with his family for several years. The Mississippi Heritage Trust bought it in 2020.

2011: Austin House, Ocean Springs. Built in the 1850s by a New Orleans physician, the Austin House is one of the oldest houses in Ocean Springs. It was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

2009: Front Street Historic District, Pascagoula. The five homes of the district showcased different architectural styles popular on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. But the district is no more. “The Pascagoula Historic Preservation Commission diligently tried to work with property owners to save two of the city’s oldest homes from demolition but were unsuccessful and the houses were demolished in December 2014.”

2007: Mississippi Gulf Coast. “When Hurricane Katrina slammed into Mississippi’s Gulf Coast on August 29th, 2005, many historic landmarks disappeared. Gracious beachfront mansions, simple Creole cottages, bungalows and shotgun houses were lost to the storm. Many historic downtowns including Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport and Pascagoula were also ravaged by wind and flood waters.”

Old Pascagoula High School (Wikipedia)

2005: Old Pascagoula High School. “When it opened in January of 1939, Pascagoula High School was hailed as the `most modern and complete high school unit in the state.”’ The building was converted into senior apartments in 2012.

2003: W.J. Quarles House, “Greenvale,” Long Beach. After moving to Long Beach from Tennessee in 1884, W.J. Quarles established the town’s first post office and school. The house was vacant when Hurricane Katrina’s winds removed its roof. A restoration is now underway.

2001: Rippy Road and the Turkey Creek community, Gulfport. Turkey Creek was founded by formerly enslaved African Americans in 1866. When beaches were closed to Black residents under Jim Crow, Turkey Creek served as a community recreation space. “Threatened by encroaching development, the residents of Turkey Creek have fought to preserve the character of their neighborhood, including placing the community on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.”

2000: Round Island Lighthouse, Pascagoula. The 1849 lighthouse off the coast operated until 1944. It also served as a quarantine facility for yellow fever patients. After Katrina, the lighthouse was moved inland to U.S. 90 and restored.

1999: White House Hotel, Biloxi. In the early 20th century, the hotel was a popular beach resort on the “Riviera of America.” After sitting vacant for 30 years, it was restored and reopened in 2014.

Categories: History | National | News
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