Mayor speaks about appreciation of history, culture

Here are Mayor A.J. Holloway’s comments at a reception to kick off “Thursdays in May,” a celebration of preservation and culture in Biloxi, on May 1, 2008 at the Bond-Grant House on Howard Avenue in Biloxi.

Let me begin by returning the spotlight to Ken P’Pool and the folks from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

On behalf of the people of Biloxi, I express our sincere gratitude for the long, hard hours you put in with us after Hurricane Katrina to save some of the Coast’s most significant historic resources, including the Old Brick House, Beauvoir and, of course, the Bond-Grant House.

Thank you for working with us here locally as well as at the State and federal levels to lobby for, to secure and to administer the grants that allow us to be here tonight… to celebrate preservation efforts in Biloxi.

I’d also like to acknowledge the work of Larry
Albert, with Albert & Associates Architects, who is lead architect for the Old Brick House project, as well as Beauvoir, and

Leigh Jaunsen with Dale & Associates, who is leading the design of the new Lighthouse Park and Visitors Center.

The exhibits that you will see inside depict our plans for city projects that will support our ongoing efforts to tell the story of Biloxi … and to educate new residents and visitors about our rich cultural heritage.

Another exhibit you’ll see inside features the Westergard Boatworks, which operated at the foot of Lee Street in Biloxi from 1941 to 1947.

Thanks to the almost single-handed work of JB Richmond, this important part of Biloxi’s history is being documented.

Probably the most valuable ships built at this shipyard were 10 all-wood British York Mine Sweepers. They were sent to Great Britain for use in the English Channel before the Normandy Invasion.

There’s no telling how many thousands of lives were saved thanks to the skilled work of 1000 or more Biloxians who worked at this one local boatyard.

I’ve heard too many people say that Katrina destroyed our history. These exhibits should help reassure you that this is not so.

The reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated. The fact is, we are MAKING history every day.

To mangle a Faulkner quote, “the past is never over – we’re still living it.”

When you see the architectural renderings of Biloxi’s public structures, you will see that we are carrying our past — our history — with us into the future. Our past is guiding our future.

Yes, we lost many architectural treasures, but the end of the story hasn’t been written yet and we’re determined to make this chapter in Biloxi’s history have a happy ending.

People are going to remember us not so much for the tremendous destruction of Hurricane Katrina, but for how we recovered, and how we incorporated our past into our future.

Let us continue to work together to preserve and celebrate Biloxi’s high quality of life and our sense of place. Today, we are building our future on the strong foundation laid by our fathers and forefathers.

At this point, I’d like to turn the podium over to David Preziosi, Executive Director of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, for an overview of their exhibit inside.

God bless Biloxi, and God bless all of you.