White House to present interactive Biloxi history lesson

Principal photography was completed this morning at the White House Hotel for a month-long BTV presentation premiering in September, a 90-minute special involving the 1950s documentary filmed in Biloxi called “Social Change in a Democracy.”

The presentation, which will be multi-media and interactive, will ask viewers to help identify people and places in the nearly 70-year-old, half-hour documentary. It will air on BTV twice daily in September, as well as Coastwide, on Sparklight Channel 70, thanks to underwriting by The White House Hotel.

“This is an educational and interesting project,” said White House Manager Miranda Rogers, “and what caught our attention is that it’s a celebration of our community and its history, using rare footage from yesteryear. Of course, we’re all about history at the White House.”

The White House began back in the 1890s when Cora White, the wife of Gulf Coast lawyer and later Circuit Court Judge Walter White, began accepting boarders into their home on the Biloxi beach while Walter was establishing his new law practice. Business was so good, she and Walter bought the house next door. Soon, Cora’s popular rooms were in a row of seven Victorian homes. In 1910, two of the buildings were joined to create a lobby, a dining room and a ballroom. The White House Hotel today was the result of Cora, her sons Walter and John, and architect George B. Rogers working together to build two additions that are now the center and east wings.

The White House Hotel sat vacant for 30 years and survived Hurricane Katrina. In 2013, restoration began and was completed in 2014, with 76 rooms in the boutique hotel now available.

“Social Change in a Democracy,” which the City of Biloxi acquired from the National Archives, discusses the values of the democratic way of life and how citizens can work to have laws enacted to protect their way of life.

Producers of the documentary chose Biloxi to serve as a backdrop for a typical community. A number of locals – students, fishermen, and city leaders of the time – make cameo appearances in the documentary, which, in a page ripped from today’s headlines, tells the story of the community rallying to enact laws to protect local water quality and the livelihoods of local fishermen.

“Social Change” offers glimpses of downtown Biloxi at the time, along with several since-demolished landmarks, including the old Biloxi City Hall. You can go inside one of the halls and a classroom at a Biloxi public school that had been on Howard Avenue.

Well-known Biloxian Susan Hunt will host the 90-minute special, which includes two airings of the vintage video. And thanks to the White House and Sparklight, the program will air Coastwide on its Cable Channel 70.

It will be interactive, too: Midway through, viewers will be asked to post their insight on the city’s Facebook page as a time-stamped version of the documentary as it airs.

“It’s fascinating to see video of old Biloxi and the people of old Biloxi,” Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said. “What we want to do now is identify as much as we can and in a few months unveil a ‘pop-up’ version of the documentary, with informative subtitles to identify people and places from our past. It should be a fun and educational little project.”
Video: See the “Social Change in a Democracy” trailer
Gallery: See White House filming this morning
See the advertisement for the production
Visit the White House online