Biloxi homeowners want their houses designated as landmarks - - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi homeowners want their houses designated as landmarks


By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – Just about every room in Oliver Lancaster's house offers a view of the water, and the vintage architecture is just as breathtaking.

"I put a lot of my life into this house, working on it, trying to restore it back to what I thought it should look like," said Lancaster.  "I'm still working on this place. You don't own an old house.  It owns you."

The historic beach front house was built between 1830 and 1870. It served as a tourist camp during World War II, and was once the home of former Biloxi Mayor Russell Braun.  Lancaster believes the house was built on the site of an old fort, because there's a brick bunker underneath the living room area.

"Because one of the piers was down in the bunker, indicating the bunker was there when the house was put over it," said Lancaster.

The two-story house and its valuable antiques were ruined when Katrina's winds knocked the house from its foundation and water seeped in.

"Everybody told me I needed to tear it down, that I could never get it back leveled. I didn't believe that," said Lancaster.

After years of determination, hard work, and $450,000 spent on renovations, the house is almost fully restored.

"All the materials under the house, in the walls, everywhere, are old materials.  Most of the old houses that were blown down during the storm, I got the materials out of them," said Lancaster.

The house is one of only five on Biloxi's beach front to survive Katrina.  Although it's on the National Register of Historic Places, Lancaster is asking the city to designate his house as a Biloxi landmark.

"It will put a protection on there, that anybody in the future that comes and wants to destroy the house or do something that would be inappropriate for the structure, the Architectural Review Commission gets to review that and say 'yes' or 'no' whether that could actually happen," said Bill Raymond, Biloxi's Historic Administrator.

"This old house deserves to be a landmark.  These old houses are part of Biloxi. Trying to restore it and keep the history of Biloxi going," said Lancaster.

"We actually had to come through and take 69 structures off the landmark list because they were gone, and we had 160 structures.  That's a significant number, especially here on the beach front.  So it's important that we do try to protect what's left," said Raymond.

A public hearing will be held on the landmark request at next Tuesday's city council meeting.   The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m.   The other house that's being considered for the designation is on Seal Avenue and it's owned by Clay Stoddard.

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