Savannah Students Work To Save Coast's Historic Treasures

Students from The Savannah College of Art and Design walk through what's left of a historic home in Ocean Springs.

"It was built by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright when Wright was Sullivan's apprentice," says one young student. "I think Wright was about 20 or 21."

They wonder what will become of it, as the owner weighs the cost of rebuilding verses demolition and starting over.

The group of about 25 volunteer faculty, staff, and students is teaming with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, to provide professional assessments of historic structures to help their owners make those tough decisions.

"They're facing the FEMA deadlines and the lack of flood insurance and so money is a huge issue and we understand that," says Jennifer Vaughn with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. "But we're doing what we can to try to get the information they need to make the decision."

More than 600 historic structures are already gone because of Katrina. The group's leader, professor Brian Robinson, says now is the time to assess and, where possible, encourage the preservation of what's left.

"The scale of what's happening here is just massive and people just really don't have a good idea of it," says Robinson. "I think it's just a great opportunity to kind of promote to the preservation community nationally what the needs are here in Mississippi."

Needs that can only be met through the help of volunteer groups like this.

"It's a great encouragement to us and I think it's a great encouragement to the homeowners as well," says Vaughn. "There's a lot of things saying tear down and were just trying to take a second look and say, 'If you want to save it, here's how you can save it.'"