Blues Hall in Bay St. Louis joins Mississippi Blues Trail

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Bay St. Louis is celebrating the recognition of a landmark. The historic 100 Men D.B.A. Hall on Union Street is now an official stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

A couple from California that shared a vision to restore the hall, has even bigger plans for the venue.

Blues legends passed through the Bay and played the small hall back in the day.  The 100 Men D.B.A Hall was a stop on the "chitlin circuit."

"In Bay St. Louis, supposedly James Brown and Ray Charles and Etta James and Ike and Tina Turner and the Isley Brothers," said owner Jesse Loya.

Loya appreciates the musical pedigree of this place and has much respect for the integrity of this old building.  He did much of the restoration work himself.

"Initially, I walked in and was like, 'Oh my god, it's a dance hall.' I was like, 'Wow, this is the coolest thing I've ever seen,'" he remembered.

Before the blues filled this hall, orators took to the stage here. D.B.A. stands for "Debating Benevolent Association."  A group of 100 free black men formed that fraternal organization back in 1894.

"I feel like the building has this soul and wants to be important again," said a smiling Kerrie Loya.

She said the hall's addition to the Mississippi Blues Trail will take the historic spot to another level.

"It is a major tourism draw for the state of Mississippi and it is heavily promoted, particularly to Europe. People come over on junkets and do the whole trail," she said.

Black and white pictures share a portion of the hall's rich history. Katrina blew the roof off the place, but sturdy wood and old fashioned nails held the structure together.

"We had a little racking on the side, so the building kind of sits a little like this. But other than that, it's really, really tight," said Jesse Loya.

"You saw some of the pictures of what it looked like before. It's been a labor of love and a love-hate relationship at times. But like I said, it's a dream come true," Kerrie explained.

The Loyas are thankful for all the community support that helped make that dream a reality.

"Most people thought we were just insane people from California," she said.

They don't think that any longer. The Loyas now have a non-profit group that plans on hosting blues concerts and other musical events. They also hope to develop an interactive music education program for children.

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