Saenger Theater in Biloxi needs restoration attention - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Saenger Theater in Biloxi needs restoration attention

The Saenger Theater in Biloxi opened in 1929. After decades serving as a movie house, it was deeded to the City of Biloxi in 1976. (Photo source: WLOX) The Saenger Theater in Biloxi opened in 1929. After decades serving as a movie house, it was deeded to the City of Biloxi in 1976. (Photo source: WLOX)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

The historic Saenger Theater in Biloxi, needs some restoration attention. Water leaks and crumbling plaster are taking a toll on the city landmark.

For decades it was the place where residents enjoyed their first movie or went on a date. In more recent years, the Saenger has been home to countless community theater productions, concerts and dance recitals. But it's beginning to show its age.     

Generations of coast residents have fond memories of the Saenger Theater.  It's been called the "gem of the gulf coast."

"For a quarter, we could come in and get popcorn and Coke and watch the movies," said Pamela Jones, "And it's always been a part of us, a part of this coast."

Jones also participated in community theater productions at the Saenger. But attending the most recent show over the weekend, she was saddened to see crumbling plaster and water leaks inside this landmark structure.

"It hurts my heart to see something so grand, that was once this grand lady, crumbling down to her knees. And when I walk in there, I feel like she's screaming, 'Help me!'" she said.

"Most of the damage is going to be around the doors and in these areas," said Bill Raymond, as he gave a tour of the damaged areas inside the theater.

Raymond is the historical administrator for the City of Biloxi. He said water leaks are the biggest issue causing the most damage to the theater. And repair estimates are costly.

"The exterior work to repair the building, just to get it waterproof, is going to be around $400,000 according to the architect's estimate. And then we probably need about another $100,000 to do the cosmetic repairs inside," he said.

Various plaques outside the theater tell of the most recent restoration work. There were repair projects in 1976, 1984, 1995 and the most recent in 2011 for Hurricane Katrina repairs.

"We have a group that is called SOS, Save Our Saenger. And we are trying to get together to help restore the Saenger," said Jones.

Raymond said it will likely take a combination of grant money, city funds and private donations.

"It's a big project and I think it's one the community will get behind. One they know is important and they will contribute to," he said.

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