Mississippi Heritage Trust
- by Rebecca Orfila, photos courtesy MHT and Ellis Anderson
The day after Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a satellite image was taken of Mary Helen Schaeffer’s home on East Scenic Drive in Pass Christian.
The overhead shot showed the home still standing with only a scattering of oak limbs in the yard. Was it possible that the home survived the storm and surge? Not a chance. The home’s first floor was open to the backyard and the second story, roof, and foundation were heavily damaged.
Yet, determined to restore her beloved home, Schaeffer sought the advice of the Mississippi Heritage Trust (MHT), along with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. With counsel from both groups, a strategy for repairs was set.
The last thing needed were the materials for the skilled workers. Schaeffer contacted MHT and a group of volunteer architects arrived to prepare a materials list. When the contractors arrived in April 2006, materials were on site and repairs began. The house stands today as one more success story of the Mississippi Heritage Trust.
History and preservation are important to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Many of the Coast’s historical landmarks and structures have been pounded by hurricanes and gales, resulting in historical homes left twisted and pushed off their foundations. Some damaged structures were abandoned.
Lolly Barnes serves as Executive Director of MHT, which is supported by the MHT Board of Directors led by Doyce Deas of Tupelo. Along with Director of Programs Amber Lombardo and Special Projects Coordinator Erica Speed, Barnes is an active leader and contributor to the identification and preservation of historical properties and at-risk structures. Her team also develops educational materials and holds workshops throughout the state for preservationists, architectural historians, and historians.
In recognition of her work with the Mississippi Heritage Trust, Lolly was recently awarded the Presidential Citation from John Beard, President of the Mississippi Chapter of American Institute of Architects (AIA). The award is given at the discretion of the AIA-MS President for exceptional work performed on behalf of AIA-MS.
One of MHT’s biennial activities is the naming of the Top Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites in Mississippi. Barnes said, “The goal of the program is to raise awareness about the many threats facing our rich architectural heritage.”
The first site identified on the Save My Place Program was the Biloxi Lighthouse, which was damaged by Katrina’s storm surge and high winds. It took over a year and $400K $400,000 to restore the structural and electrical components, plus the lookout windows. The restoration of the tower was complete and ready for tours in March of 2010.
Other schools on the MHT list of recognition and preservation projects include the Randolph School in Pass Christian, West Pascagoula’s Colored School, 33rd Avenue School in Gulfport, and the old Pascagoula High School.
The Heritage Award of Excellence for Restoration/Rehabilitation has recognized the Hancock Bank Building (Pass Christian), 513 E. Scenic Drive (Pass Christian), Beauvoir (Biloxi), Bay St. Louis City Hall, Dantzler-Fabacher-Franke House (Gulfport), and 139 Seal Avenue (Biloxi), and 123 Seal Avenue (Pass Christian), to name a few.
On Saturday, November 19, MHT will present “Delta Drive-In” at the Burrus House in Benoit, Miss. The event celebrates the 60th anniversary of the filming of the cult classic “Baby Doll." There will be an open house to explore the exemplary restoration of the antebellum Burras House from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., followed by a screening of the film. Tickets are $75 a person, with proceeds benefiting the Burrus Foundation and the Mississippi Heritage Trust. See the Facebook event page for more details.
Are you interested in attending the Delta Drive-in event or becoming a member of the Mississippi Heritage Trust? Contact MHT by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at (601) 354-0200.