GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Built in the 1920's, the old West Pascagoula Colored School House is undergoing renovation.
The school operated as an educational center for African-American children before closing in 1946. Out of use for more than 15 years, city leaders say they are intent on bringing the historic structure back to life.
"What's happened here on the Gulf Coast, you see so many of these buildings and stuff are demolished or gone away as a result of hurricanes," Gautier Mayor Gollott explained.
The history inside the walls is significant.
"It was a one room school and had one school teacher, and there was about 25 to 30 kids that went to school here off and on," said Gautier councilman Hurley Ray Guillotte
Contractors with Twin L Construction are salvaging every piece of material they can.
"We used the old bricks real carefully and broke them up into pieces, and took the mortar off and tried to use everyone we could," said project superintendent Flint Gutweiler.
According to some, not saving the school would have been tragic.
"This thing has got a lot of history for Gautier, and I think it would have been a disaster or terrible to lose it because of neglect," Guillotte added.
Once the project is complete, the ultimate goal is to turn it into a cultural center that can be enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike.
"We're lucky enough to have this one here. We want to provide it so people can visit, find out what the history our city, the history of the Gulf Coast is," added Gollott.
Phase one, which is stabilizing the building, should be complete by the end of the year and is being paid for with a $146,000 grant from the Department of Archives and History. Phase two will cost around $350,000, and will restore the building to its original design.
City officials say they plan on applying for additional grant money for that part of the project.