BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Jessica Bowman – email
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi's maritime history and heritage is coming back to life. Thursday, the Fresnel Lens of the Ship Island Lighthouse returned home for the first time since 2005.
For two decades the lens was displayed in the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum. When Hurricane Katrina struck, the lens was thought to be destroyed. However, some dedicated men in Orange Park, Florida managed to restore the lens and it has been returned to its home in Biloxi.
The 250 pound glass lens was lifted from the carrying crate Thursday, and is once again on display for thousands to view.
"It's just so exciting to have it back all in one piece and completely restored," Robin Krohn David said.
As Executive Director for the museum, David said she gets choked up every time she thinks about the lens. She said the beautiful artifact that sits in the doorway of the museum could have been just a memory.
"When we got to the museum, I guess it was the next day after the storm it was, I still get a little upset. But there was a brick wall on it and we had enough guys with us that day we pulled the brick wall off, took the pieces of the frame and the pieces of the lens we could find at the time during that hour, put in the back of the truck and took it to my home," David remembered.
"At that time much of the glass they had found was in an ice chest," said Joe Cocking of Lighthouse Lamp Shop.
Cocking restores lighthouse lenses and wanted the City of Biloxi to one day have their piece of history back.
"We went down to where the museum site was and we were digging around and found a few more pieces. We crated everything up and took it back to St. Augustine."
Cocking said the damage on each piece was so extensive they had to recreate many of the corners.
"The metals were challenging because they were so bent and broken that we had to try and figure out how we were going to take and bring all this back in shape," Cocking said.
David said one year and $3,000 later, every piece was found. The lens that was originally built in 1820 in Paris, France is whole once again.
"It still shows its scars, but we're very pleased with it that we were able to bring it back and put it on display," Cocking said.
The lens has been on display at the St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum in Florida since its restoration in October 2008.