Lighthouse shines again

Hundreds watch landmark’s relighting

BILOXI

As it did for 162 years, the Biloxi Lighthouse shines again over the city.

The expected two or three dozen people to observe the relighting swelled to a crowd of 200 to 300 Friday night at dusk. With the sun setting pink into the Mississippi Sound and a sliver of a moon overhead, Mayor A.J. Holloway led the countdown and the light blinked on.

“Isn’t that beautiful?” said Judy Petterson, who attended the ceremony with her husband, Dave. They live nearby on Suter Place and said the lighthouse becomes part of your life when you live in Biloxi.

Speakers at the ceremony called it “Biloxi’s most beloved landmark” and “a radiant sign of renewal.”

The Rev. Roger Morin, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, prayed it would be a beacon of hope for residents and a symbol of welcome to visitors.

“Come back tomorrow and you can climb it,” said Bill Raymond, Biloxi’s historical administrator.

Free tours of the lighthouse today will allow visitors to go inside and see the watermarks from Katrina and other hurricanes, and climb the 55 steps and eight-rung ladder to the light room.

The $400,000 restoration was funded by FEMA and insurance money after Katrina damaged the lighthouse. The brick lining was repaired, the light rewired and the lighthouse repainted inside and out.

“It’s been through many transformations and restorations,” said Leigh Jaunsen with Dale & Associates, the Biloxi firm that oversaw restoration. The cast-iron panels were an innovation in lighthouse engineering in the 1800s, she said. They were fabricated at a factory in Baltimore, shipped to Biloxi and assembled. The panels were designed so they could be disassembled if the lighthouse was threatened by beach erosion.

“The Biloxi Lighthouse has remained in its original location,” she said, and is the only one remaining of 10 lighthouses that marked the Mississippi Coast.

“This is another milestone in our recovery process and it’s an important one,” Holloway said. “Fasten your seat belt,” he told the crowd as he invited them to the upcoming dedications of other restorations and new buildings. They include the White House Fountain, Magnolia House, the Old Brick House, Swetman House, Saenger Theatre, the Fire Museum, the Lighthouse Visitors Center and the new library. 

If you go

What: Free tours of the Biloxi Lighthouse

When: Today, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: U.S. 90 at Porter Avenue, Biloxi

By MARY PEREZ – meperez@sunherald.com

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