Biloxi Begins Search For New Landmarks

So many of Biloxi's most recognizable homes and museums are gone. To restore that piece of Biloxi's history, the city is about to begin an initiative that will ultimately turn surviving homes into Biloxi landmarks.

However, before Biloxi designates which properties will be added to its landmark status, the city must purge its landmarks list. Sixty homes and museums that are no longer standing will likely lose their landmark designation.

Bruce Stewart owned one of those properties. In Stewart's arms on Tuesday were two pictures of the historic house he called home until Katrina wiped it off the back bay. As he looked at what he once owned, he got a bit emotional.

"You know, there's just a big desire to sit down and cry," he admitted.

That home was built in the 1880s. Consequently, it was designated a Biloxi landmark. But when the home, and its plaque disappeared, Biloxi realized that designation no longer fit.

"There's just nothing left of the one's that's gone," the Biloxian said.

Stewart happens to sit on the Architectural and Historic Review Committee.

"It's pretty hard to keep something on a historical register that's not there," he conceded, realizing that meant his home was no longer a landmark.

Nearly 60 other Biloxi properties have the same problem. Before Katrina, they were Biloxi landmarks. But now that they're gone, they're nothing more than memories. So, the city council is about to consider an ordinance that strips those homes, museums and businesses of their landmark status. As Bruce Stewart said, it's hard to call something a landmark when it no longer exists.

Leaders at the Church of the Redeemer were recently told they have the same problem. Rev. Harold Roberts heads up the church. "My first response was, well we still are a historic place," he said.

The Church of the Redeemer sanctuary and its bell tower were both on Biloxi's list of landmarks. But they also got washed away by the hurricane. However, because they were so significant to the city's rich history, and because the Camille memorial remains at that location, the new ordinance up for debate designates the entire property as a landmark site. Rev. Roberts says whether the word landmark is associated with the Church of the Redeemer really doesn't matter. "This is holy ground. And it will continue to be holy ground," he said.

The Tullis Toeldano property, the Dantzler House location, and the town green may also get landmark site designations.

On the back bay, Bruce Stewart applauded the mayor and the city council for beginning the task of making Biloxi's history a priority again. "I think we need them. I think we need to bring our history back as much as we can," he said.

According to the ordinance presented to the Biloxi City Council on Tuesday, 24 current buildings may become Biloxi landmarks. The city council is supposed to vote on the designations at its next meeting.

Click here to see list of landmarks lost, and the properties that could become landmarks.