Bay St. Louis Moves To Create Historic District

Business is perking up for a new coffee shop in Old Town Bay St. Louis. "Mockingbird Cafe" opened exactly a year after Katrina hit.

"We came home and there weren't any of our coffee shops open. Everything was destroyed," said Alicein Chambers.

Alicein and Martin Chambers bought the pre-Civil War house on Second Street, and restored it.

"We wanted to make sure that this building in particular was protected, and not torn down and turned into condos or whatever else people might have planned," Chambers said. "There are so few buildings left."

"Some of the buildings in Old Town are probably 100 years or so," said Councilman-at-large Bill Taylor.

Taylor wants to encourage more property owners to preserve the character of the old buildings. That's why he supported an ordinance to create a historic district.

"I believe the people in the district will be able to benefit by grants and things like that, to help repair their homes," Taylor said.

Taylor believes a historic district will also increase property values and stimulate tourism.

"With people coming in here to dine and to party and to just tour the old buildings, and go through them and see what some of the old history was like and how some of the old homes were built. I think that will bring people in here," Taylor said.

There are a number of other steps the city must take before a district is formed. Over the weekend, the council started running ads, asking for volunteers to serve on a nine-member commission. That commission will be in charge of recommending the boundary lines. Property owners in the proposed zones will get to vote on the matter. The city council will make the final decision.

"I think that's a wonderful idea," Chambers said. "We need the protection, and I think it's important that we preserve what we still have."

The Chambers aren't just preserving their cafe, they're expanding it. Extra space in the back will allow the restaurant to offer gourmet pizzas, European style bread, and meeting rooms.

"We're up for the challenge," Chambers said. "We're dedicated to Bay St. Louis and this shows that we're staying, regardless."

You can learn more about the Historic Ordinance. A Bay St. Louis resident is hosting an open house at the Old Webb School at the corner of Citizen and Third Street. It takes place Saturday, April 21st, from 1:00 until 5:00 p.m. Staff from the state Department of Archives and History will be on hand to answer questions.