Historic buildings getting restored in Biloxi

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Restoration work is underway on a trio of historic structures owned by the City of Biloxi.  All three were damaged by the hurricane.

Biloxi has a proud, rich history that is reflected in so many of its historic buildings. Biloxi City Hall, The Magnolia Hotel and the Old Brick House are three such structures undergoing a post-Katrina makeover.

The Old Brick House on Back Bay took quite a beating in the hurricane.

"It's been damaged by hurricanes before, but nothing to the extent that Katrina did to it," said Bill Raymond, the historic administrator for the city. "But the building is coming back together. We probably had 75 percent damage to the structure, but we had enough of the building left we could rebuild it."

One of the challenges is finding the right bricks.  The originals were made in the 1850's and few companies make a brick that same size any longer.

The city's historic administrator said blueprints for the work involve a bit of detective work.

"Using pictures and historic documents, we've been able to rebuild the house to exactly the way it was," said Raymond.

Workers are also busy restoring the Magnolia Hotel to its former glory. Richard Fullmer works downtown and has admired the progress from across the street.

"Kind of broke my heart to see the Old Magnolia look the way it did. I'm very happy to see it coming back and that it's going to be restored," said Fullmer.

"The last surviving antebellum hotel along the coast, so it's an important reminder of the coast's earlier days in tourism," Raymond explained.

One of the most visible and most costly historic restoration projects can been seen in the heart of downtown. Work on Biloxi's historic City Hall began last October. The project will cost nearly $1 million.

The building voted in one poll the "most beautiful" city hall in Mississippi almost didn't survive.

"In the 1950's they were actually going to tear that building down, the federal government was going to tear it down 'cause they thought it was obsolete and not needed any more," says Raymond.

Several other historic restoration projects are in the works and close to construction. They include the Slay House on Rue Magnolia, the Swetman House and the Firefighter's Museum downtown.

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