The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum will host an opening reception for the Isle of Caprice exhibit from 5-7 p.m. Thursday.
The island 12 miles off the mainland of South Mississippi was a popular tourist attraction in the mid- to late 1920s before a fire claimed the buildings and the island disappeared below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. The exhibit at the Seafood Museum,115 First Street at Point Cadet in Biloxi, will be continue through Nov. 15.
Guest speakers for the opening will be Susan Hunt, whose family still owns the submerged land on which the resort sat, and Louis Skrmetta, whose family operates Ship Island Excursions, which got its start ferrying passengers to Isle of Caprice.
Walter Henry “Skeet” Hunt and two other men pooled their resources to open the Isle of Caprice.
For many years, it was believed the resort opened the summer of 1926, but documents found at the Local History & Genealogy Department of the Biloxi Library show it actually opened July 5, 1925. There were no sand beaches at the time in Biloxi and Gulfport and the first season the island resort offered surf bathing along with a dancing pavilion, restaurant, barbecue and music by the Buena Vista Orchestra. A power plant with a 20-horsepower engine and a 5-kilowatt machine supplied the electricity and water.
By the second season in 1926, a new lighting plant doubled the lighting system on the island, and a new 250-foot boat landing pier was built. The resort was called “Biloxi’s Monte Carlo.” An article in the Daily Herald said most of the locals had been to the island for the ride and surf bathing.
“And some have even come back feeling complacently wicked over trying the roulette and crap games,” the article said. It was during Prohibition but the Daily Herald reported that some returned from the island, “grouchily, disappointed because they could find no strong drink for sale on the island.”
By 1927 conventions started being held at the island and 2,000 people were there for the Fourth of July. The first Biloxi marathon swim was so successful it was decided to make it an annual affair. Boardwalks were built on the island and water swings and chutes were planned.
By 1930 business was booming but the island was shrinking. In the fall of 1930, fire destroyed the entire resort and soon after the island disappeared beneath the water.
The exhibit is made possible by sponsors Susan Hunt and Martha Hunt Tripp, granddaughters of Skeet Hunt, the Skrmetta Family and Ship Island Excursions, the Department of Marine Resources and Tideland Trust Fund Grant.