GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A historic landmark left on life support after Hurricane Katrina is being revived in central Gulfport. The Masonic Lodge is coming back to life in a community known as the Quarters, a historically black community dating back to the early 1900s.
"This is something that's been here a long time," said Gayle Tart, a member of the Quarters community group. "It's like an old friend coming back."
Tart reflects fondly on the old Masonic Lodge, Rectitude 323, off 32nd Avenue in Gulfport. It's a place Louis Carl Whittle also knows well. Whittle recalls the library which use to sit on the bottom floor of the building when he was a child.
"I would come over here in the morning time and get a book to take to school," Whittle said. "I had to recite a paragraph out of there in order to take it with me."
The building, which was badly damaged in Hurricane Katrina, is more than a century old. At one time, it was a hall for union workers, but its legacy doesn't stop there.
"It was like a community center," Tart said. "Before 19th Street Community Center was here, this was a building for the community. We came over here had parties, dances and all the events were here."
The Quarters community group is working to reclaim a bit of history and rebuild for the future by restoring the building. The group is named for the historic black community central Gulfport knows as the Quarters. The organization got the Mississippi Heritage Foundation to stabilize the building. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History also stepped in to provide the grant money needed to rebuild the lodge.
"One of the fantastic things about this structure is all of the wonderful wood that is still left in it, so we have the ability to clean up the wonderful wood paneling that's here, the floor and the ceiling," architect Donne Klee said.
Tart said it's time for this historic landmark to reclaim its rightful spot in the Quarters community.
"This is a beautiful historical neighborhood and we want it to achieve all the possibilities that it can," Tart said.