GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The City of Gulfport celebrated the rebirth of a landmark on Friday. A dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony was held at Grass Lawn. Gulfport built a replica of the historic home after the original one was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
"This is the $1.6 million rebirth of this fine structure," said Mayor George Schloegel, as he addressed the crowd prior to the ribbon cutting.
The resurrection of Grass Lawn has been a long time coming. But Mayor Schloegel made only a brief reference to a dispute with a contractor that delayed the re-opening.
"As you probably know, from the time it took from the storm until now, there have been some complications getting this project finished. And we'll leave it at that, complications," he said.
Historic Preservation Director Ken P'Pool with Mississippi Archives and History said historians usually discourage reconstruction of lost, historic buildings. But support for Grass Lawn was overwhelming.
"When the calls persisted for many months, it became apparent that Grass Lawn occupied a place of iconic importance to many, many residents of Gulfport," he said.
Construction of the original Grass Lawn dated back to 1836, making it one of the oldest Southern homes in South Mississippi. Originally built and owned by a surgeon from Port Gibson, Dr. Hiram Roberts, it changed ownership in 1906.
"Grass Lawn was purchased at that time by John Kennedy Milner. J.K. Milner. Mr. Milner later became owner of the Coca Cola bottling company," said the mayor.
A descendent from that family, Robin Milner, was honored to help cut the ribbon.
"Children and young people can see a part of early Gulfport. That they can actually experience physically and not just have to read about it in books," she said.
"The Department of Archives and History salutes you and thanks you for your commitment to preserving your history," said P'Pool.
The cost to rebuild Grass Lawn was paid for with insurance proceeds, a grant from Mississippi Archives and History, and money from FEMA and MEMA.