Developer to spend $7 million to save historic White House Hotel

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Repair it or tear it down? The ongoing debate over the fate of a long-time eyesore in Biloxi is finally over. On Tuesday, the city announced that the White House Hotel is being sold and crews are already on site, working to save the historic structure.

A Ridgeland, Mississippi, company is purchasing the property from Jay Love. The company will spend $7 million on the entire project to restore the decaying landmark to its original glory.

"This is an important day in Biloxi's history to see that this historic structure is saved. Think about all the structures we lost on the front beach. The fact that we are able to save this one is exciting," said Biloxi Historical Administrator Bill Raymond.

It is the resolution Biloxi officials had hoped for, after hearing so many complaints about the White House Hotel. The treasured landmark sat vacant and dilapidated on the beach front for 24 years, and ended up on the city's blighted properties list.

"We'll have another jewel here on the coast. We would have saved another historic property, and we're just really excited about seeing this happen," said Biloxi Community Development Director Jerry Creel.

The restoration plan includes renovating the exterior of the building, using as much of the salvaged materials as possible. For instance, nearly 500-windows will be sent to New Orleans to be refurbished.

The first phase also involves landscaping the property, including preserving the oak trees, and installing a fence around the site that will match the time period.

"This is the last surviving hotel structure from that 1920s tourism era," said Raymond. "It was significant that this building be saved and know that it's going to be saved, and it's going to look exactly like it did back in the '20s when it was built is exciting."

"This is great that we're going to be able to retain the building and keep some of the history of Biloxi on this well traveled street corner, the gateway to Keesler Air Force Base. Such a beautiful view also. I'm excited that the building's going to get to stay," said Gary Lechner, Chairman of the Architectural and Historical Review Commission.

The attorney for Barrington Development said plans for the interior of the building, as well as its use, are still in the works. He said once the project is finished, it will make South Mississippi proud.

"It's something that's been needed to be done for years," said Joel Blackledge. "To preserve such a piece of history, especially in light of our devastation after Hurricane Katrina where we lost so many buildings, it's just wonderful to be a part of bringing back one of the old buildings."

"I can tell you it's going to be a project that everybody's going to be happy about," said Creel. "We see this as a win-win for the administration, for the city residents, and for the entire Gulf Coast."

Creel said there will be some minor changes to the building, including adding a drive-through porte cochere on the west end. The façade renovations should take from ten months to a year to complete.

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