The devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed many communities along the Gulf Coast. The damage was inclusive, but not limited to residences and personal property. Countless community and public spaces received extensive damage that took a back-burner to the overwhelming need for reestablishing private residences. The recovery process has begun to expand its efforts towards these community spaces that once thrived as important social centers for the citizens and neighborhoods of the Gulf Coast. Hands On Gulf Coast has adopted the John Henry Beck Park in East Biloxi, MS, (amongst many other rebuilding projects), to restore and provide a place for community celebrations, after-school children’s programs, and senior citizens’ social events. These efforts have included planting grass and trees, building a state-of-the-art playground, and developing a community garden program.
The most recent project in the JHB Park has been a partnership with the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, and Architecture for Humanity for renovations and restoration of the Red House in the center of the park. This creole cottage marks the last vestige from a housing project that occupied the site in the Sixties and remains on the Historical Registry for the City of Biloxi. The plans for the house include a complete restoration to the interior and exterior, and its transformation into a Police substation and community meeting room. These new functions will allow the city to host community meetings and monitor the park and surrounding neighborhoods. The design also incorporates an addition of a farmer’s market platform on the North façade linking the community garden plots. Biloxi currently has a market that meets under the highway bridge that allows local farmers to sell their produce and goods. The completion of the Red House in the center of the park will be the final stages of a long restoration effort for the John Henry Beck Park and the East Biloxi community. Funding for this project is made possible through the City of Biloxi, the Outback Steakhouse Disaster Relief Grant, and the Hands On Gulf Coast Network.
Submitted by: Karissa McLane and Scott Emison