Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities ...

Old Town
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

When planning our recent trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, one of the places we were looking forward to visiting was Old Town Bay St. Louis. Prior to Katrina (as shown in the photo below), Old Town was home to more than 40 unique galleries, boutiques, and restaurants and was featured in the book The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America.

Post Katrina Old Town was a different story, indeed:

I had no idea what to expect as far as the recovery process of Bay St. Louis, but I was saddened by what I saw. This poignant sign says a lot ...

There are several shops and art galleries that have reopened, but the majority of them are literally no longer there (as in, "blown away") or have been boarded up.

I took these two pictures of Main Street, looking toward the Gulf:

On a more positive note, Old Town has resumed its traditional "Second Saturday Art Walk," featuring extended shop hours and live entertainment. It was the first city event to reestablish itself after the storm and has remained an economic and psychological anchor for the community. Just twelve days after the storm, a small group of artists gathered at the foot of Main Street (flashlights in hand) and celebrated the survival and strength of the city's spirit.

The mayor of Bay St. Louis, Mr. Eddie Favre (yes, he's a distant cousin of Brett), sees a vibrant future ahead: “The people here have gone through so much. But that hasn’t taken our pride in our city, nor our ability and will to work. We’re going to bring this city back - better than ever.”

Note: The "before" photos shown above courtesy of the Mississippi Heritage Trust website.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi ...

In sharp contrast to the fate of Bay St. Louis is the story of the town of Ocean Springs. The beachfront was destroyed by Katrina, but the quaint shopping district with its charming galleries, art studios, boutiques, and restaurants was miraculously spared.

It reminds me of the stories of tornado victims who find a crystal vase without a scratch on it sitting amidst a pile of rubble. One shop owner said, "We didn't even have a limb down."

I hope you enjoyed my stories about our trip. I've created a slideshow of my photos which you'll find below, if you'd like to see them.

1 comment:

Rue said...

The devastation is unreal, isn't it? I haven't been there, but I know people that have and also some that live there. It makes me sad to see what was once there and what it is now. I hope one day it will be just a distant memory.