Historian urges immediate repairs to save rare Pascagoula landmark

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) -  Its early date, rare French Colonial architecture, and location all contribute to the significance of Old Spanish Fort. Today, the Pascagoula landmark bears the scars of old age, termite damage, and Katrina's rage.

"Part of this roof collapsed and fell down. And unfortunately, some of the rafters that broke are some of the original rafters. We want to preserve them," said Dr. Thomas Taylor.

Taylor is the conservator of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Since Katrina, he has brought several teams of historians and architects to the historic site to inspect it, and come up with a plan to save it.

"Immediate need is to get the repairs done and develop a maintenance program so as damage occurs, there are people here looking for that," said Taylor.

Grant money from several agencies will help pay for the repairs to the house. It was built in 1718, and it's believed to be the oldest standing building in the Mississippi River Valley.

"This house is one of the kind, and even more so after Katrina, because we lost so much of our history," said Jennifer Baughn, with the state Department of Archives and History.

For decades, the property has been known as Old Spanish Fort, but it has never been a fort. And the cannons on the grounds were placed there, as a gift from the U.S. Navy. Dr. Taylor recommends changing the name of the site to the La Pointe-Krebs House, in honor of the French families that settled there.

"It's overwhelming to have someone not only of his stature, but with his great wealth of knowledge," said Liz Ford, Chairwoman of the Pascagoula Historic Preservation Committee. "Oh, eager to get the project going is a mild understatement. We can't wait."

Dr. Taylor also suggests removing the fence around the property that separates it from the adjacent cemetery.  He also recommends inviting the community in to help restore the national treasure, and promoting the property as a great place for educational activities, social events, and national tours.