Biloxi Lighthouse will shine brightly once again - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi Lighthouse will shine brightly once again

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS  (WLOX) -  It's been a coast landmark since 1848, it's been featured on a commemorative stamp, and it has certainly weathered many storms and hurricanes. Now that the $400,000 post-Katrina restoration of the Biloxi lighthouse is complete, the city is celebrating its re-lighting.

This familiar landmark has come to symbolize both the strength of Biloxi and its people. 

"After the storm, it became a symbol or our resilience and our coming back," said Bill Raymond, who oversees historic properties for the city, "You can't come to Biloxi and miss it. It's right in the middle of U.S. 90."

Visitors and locals have long been fascinated by the 61 foot cast iron tower that's come to represent the very essence of Biloxi.

The Biloxi lighthouse dates back to the year 1848. That's the year giant cast iron sections were shipped from Baltimore, then bolted together to form the impressive, stoic tower that stands guard along the seashore.

Four years earlier, the state legislature took formal action to create the enduring icon.

"Made a petition to Congress to have a lighthouse built in Biloxi, so that resolution went to Congress. And in 1847 they,, by acclamation went and did a law to put it in for $12,000. Of course, that's $12,000 of 1847 dollars," said historian Edmond Boudreaux.

Generations of lighthouse keepers made certain the light burned brightly. After all, this was a working lighthouse, depended on by maritime traffic. Women served as lighthouse keepers for 74 years, when firing the light meant burning lard.

"Basically, animal fat, as the oil to keep the light going, with a wick of course.  They had to carry it up by buckets in the stairway. Later on, they put in a pulley system and allowed the pulleys to bring it up from the outside," said Boudreaux.

Cast iron plates bolted together around a brick interior served the lighthouse well against countless storms and hurricanes that would threaten it over the years.

The extensive post-Katrina restoration has beautifully restored the landmark that's so symbolic of the strength of Biloxi and the character of its people.

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