Preserving East Biloxi

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Some community leaders hope the city of Biloxi will help rehab some of its historic properties. Several homes and businesses in ward two are in serious need of repair. Leaders say restoring the properties will help revitalize the community.

"If we're going to hold on to our history in East Biloxi, we've got to do something to preserve facilities," said James Crowell.

Crowell is the President of the Biloxi NAACP. He remembers a much different East Biloxi.

"This was a very busy avenue when I came here in '71. Main Street was the place to be," said Crowell.

Crowell remembers when Main Street was the center of the business district in the East Biloxi Community. And he says with a little grant money, some help from the city and community support, Main Street can once again be revitalized.

"When people come here to visit and to tour, they are looking for the historic places here in Biloxi," said Crowell.

Historic places like the office of civil rights activist Dr. Gilbert Mason. The landmark is being restored thanks to a $64,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

It's grants like those and other funding, leaders hope will save many more East Biloxi landmarks.

"What the community needs to do is come together and lobby city hall to come and start taking an interest in the historic preservation of all cultures," said Bill Stallworth.

But will the city want to pour money into a community that was once known more for its crime instead of its charm?

Councilman Bill Stallworth thinks it will, and he wants restoration to continue with the former home of Principal Fannie Mae Nichols and her husband Professor Marshall Franklin Nichols.

"They really got most of the public high schools started in the area for African Americans," said Stallworth.

However, after years of neglect, the place they once called home does little to preserve the Nichols' legacy.

"We need to do something to save that building," said Stallworth.

Leaders want to form a historic preservation committee in hopes of restoring East Biloxi properties.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.