Gulfport Group Fights for Pre-Kiatrina Library

Article excerpt

Almost three years after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf of Mexico, a determined group of architectural preservationists in Gulfport, Mississippi, is fighting to save Harrison County (Miss.) Public Library's devastated Gulfport Public Library from the wrecking ball.

The activists, who have formed We the People, got a reprieve May 8 when they persuaded the state Department of Archives and History to table a decision on approving the teardown until at least mid-June. "The demolition can't take place now, or at least not until Archives and History makes a decision, so we're very happy about that," We the People attorney Henry Laird said in the May 9 Biloxi Sun Herald. Laird believes that officials should take no irreversible actions before clarifying all the options for receiving FEMS funds. "Since we don't have an answer [about FEMA regulations] in writing, why demolish the building until we do?" Laird told the Sun Herald April 24.

The initial vote in December by the Gulfport City Council to tear down the 1966 structure, which had served as HCPL's main library, came as a shock to the community. "We need to keep something of what we were," area resident Betty Bittner told ABC-TV affiliate WLOX March 1 during a daylong save-the-library petition signing outside the damaged building, noting that the facility has "stood through two hurricanes" (the first being Hurricane Camille in 1967, which hit 13 months after the library opened). However, it was precisely because the library has suffered hurricane damage twice that made FEMA lee i'y of insuring it a third time as a public building. …