A stop at the Visitor Center on the Biloxi Town Green was the perfect way to get acquainted with the city's sense of place. The center comprised the architecturally intricate Brielmaier House in front and in back, the minimalist Foretich House. Both were moved to the Town Green and restored in the late 1980s.|
At least 50,000 locals and visitors came to the center every year to ask questions about the city; find out about lodging, hotels and attractions; or attend one of the festivals or holiday events.
"Those houses were two cherished landmarks," said Vincent Creel, Biloxi's public affairs manager. "After Katrina, it was so depressing to see nothing but the substructure. In some cases we got debris at our building sites and in some cases, nothing. There was no sign of the Visitor Center."
The small Brielmaier House was built about 1895 by a woman who sold it to her brother, Paul W. Brielmaier. He turned it into a woodworking masterpiece.
He was foreman and mill superintendent for the T.J. Roswell Manufacturing Company before he took over the business. The house, including unusual porch lattice, was a testament to his skills. The Foretich House's simplicity of style reflected the attitude and values of Biloxi's 19th-century working- and middle-class culture.
"No firm plans have come forward," Creel said. "There were concepts in the charettes (of the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal), but for now we don't know what the future holds for the Visitor Center."
- KAT BERGERON