GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A federal grant program to restore historic public and private properties after Katrina is now almost over. The $26 million has been spent on nearly 300 properties all around the coast. One of those many places is the Masonic Lodge just off of Gulfport's 32nd Avenue.
"We had a major problem," the lodge's Joel Birdsong said. "First of all, we had no money, no insurance, didn't know where we would get our help from."
Their building, first built in the early 1900s, was literally leaning to the north. Birdsong thought it would have to be demolished, but then his lodge members heard about the Mississippi Department of Archives and History's federal grant program.
"Without them, our hands would have been tied. We appreciate their help tremendously," Birdsong said.
Now, the building is almost ready to open again to members.
The program is the largest historic preservation grant program in the country. In all, some 300 historic Katrina damaged properties have been rehabbed. They include the old Carnegie Library, just off the beach in Gulfport.
It was very heavily damaged by Katrina with water washing through it from the storm surge. Other properties brought back to life include The Bond House in Biloxi, which is currently being used at the city's temporary visitor's center, The Walter Anderson Family Shearwater property in Ocean Springs, Hundred Men Hall in Bay St. Louis and the Historic Waveland School Civic Center building.
Through this work, a part of our history, a part of who we are, is whole again.
The leaders of Archives and History, as well as the Mississippi Historic Trust, told us they wish they could have done more, but said they get great satisfaction when property owners tell them how much their help has meant.