Living

Biloxi Tourist Club members vowed to promote the Coast

The Biloxi Community House stood on the north side of U.S. 90 just east of Main St.
The Biloxi Community House stood on the north side of U.S. 90 just east of Main St. Courtesy Paul Jermyn

The officers and members of the Biloxi Tourist Club posed in front of the Biloxi Park and Community House for this 1930s photo.

The tourist club, founded in 1905, consisted of Northern visitors who wintered in Biloxi. The club added greatly to the social and economic life of the city. During one its first meetings a resolution was adopted that every member would sound the praises and advertise Biloxi, and the Mississippi Coast in general, at their northern homes.

The club’s bi-monthly meetings offered planning activities, literary readings, singing and talks by invited guests, which were open to all. Before the passage and ratification of the 19th amendment, women’s suffrage was often a subject of discussion. The club’s activities included concerts, picnics, dances, and other ventures. New members were enrolled at every meeting, and at its peak there were 600 participants.

Club members wholeheartedly embraced Biloxi customs, including their own Mardi Gras ball. Periodically, a group from the club, mostly veterans of the Union, visited the Confederate veterans at Beauvoir.

Their differences were put aside as the old soldiers from the North and South shared wartime memories, sang the old songs and prayed together. The tourist club remained active for many years, but during World War II the membership dwindled drastically. A 1953 attempt to reorganize was unsuccessful.

The Biloxi Park and Community House (later known as simply the Community House) was built in 1925. It had a tennis court on one side and a park and pier south of Highway 90. It proved to be one of the city’s best assets as hundreds of people gathered at the park each week. Over the years, the house hosted many varied events, including teenage dances at which the rock star Fats Domino performed in the late 1950s. The house fell to Hurricane Camille in 1969.

Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast’s distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and phone number to Flashback, Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; call 896-2424; or email living@sunherald.com.

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