BSL Historic Preservation Commission Makes History With New Website
The Bay St. Louis Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) made state history itself this week when it launched a new website, www.HistoricBSL.com. The website is apparently the first of its kind in Mississippi.
According to the Commission’s chairman, Kevin Fitzpatrick, the website is a effective way to raise awareness about the economic benefits of historic districts.
“Historic buildings are an extremely limited resource,” says Fitzpatrick. “They keep getting more valuable every year. And it’s been proven in multiple studies that historic districts like ours in Bay St. Louis preserve our community’s heritage, while attracting new residents and businesses, fueling tourism, and fostering community pride.”
Fitzpatrick is an architect with extensive experience in historic restoration. He points to the historic district as one reason Bay St. Louis has become the national poster child for desirable small towns, garnering such recognitions as recently being one of a dozen “Best of Mississippi” towns.
The town’s historic assets also played a major role in being tapped as one of Budget Travel’s “Coolest Small Towns in the County” and one of Coastal Living Magazine’s “Top Ten Beach Towns in the Country.”
The website was built by the Commission’s volunteer members at no cost to the city or taxpayers. Member donations are covering the domain name and hosting costs for the website, while HPC volunteers will keep the site updated.
The HPC’s website offers conversational language, a friendly tone, and a helpful resource section. Applicants who want to renovate historic buildings or build new ones in the historic district are walked step-by-step through the permit process in “How the Process Works.”
According to the “History” of the organization’s page, Bay St. Louis lost over 600 historic structures during Hurricane Katrina. In the sad aftermath, “dozens of irreplaceable historic buildings that could have been saved were bulldozed because of expediency and economic hardship.”
The loss spurred a new appreciation of the value of historic buildings and a growing recognition of how preservation could help fuel the economic recovery of the town, while offering a solid sense of place to storm survivors as they worked to rebuild their lives.
Barry White, who works in MDAH’s Historic Preservation Division, believes the website can be used as a template for other Historic Districts across the state.
White says, "Working primarily with local governments across the State, I often encounter communities that face challenges building public awareness about preservation efforts in their area. The new Bay St. Louis Historic Preservation Commission website is an excellent resource for the public, as well as elected officials, to explain and promote historic preservation and its benefits."
Local commission members agree that the web page likely to be the most popular is “Success Stories.” Website visitors will find stories and photo essays of renovated historic houses within the district , alongside new buildings that mesh with the district’s character. The page also has a photo gallery of past Historic Preservation Awards winners.
Fitzpatrick believes that the website can be a tool for savvy realtors and economic development agencies like the Hancock Port and Harbor Commission and the Hancock Chamber, which are working to bring new residents and businesses to the area.
“The charm of Old Town Bay St. Louis is an exceptional economic and cultural resource,” Fitzpatrick says. “Our commission volunteers want to preserve and enhance that community character for future generations. The website will help us do just that.”
To see the new Historic Preservation Commission website, go to: www.HistoricBSL.com