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History on the web: Bay St. Louis uses website to foster historic preservation

historic preservation logo_rgbBy LISA MONTI

The Bay St. Louis Historic Preservation Commission believes its new website is a unique tool that can show residents locally and elsewhere the economic benefits of caring for historic districts.

The new site, www.HistoricBSL.com, was unveiled at this week’s City Council meeting by architect Kevin Fitzpatrick, the HPC chairman, and Ellis Anderson, a commission member who was among volunteers who created the site at no cost to the city or taxpayers. Startup and hosting costs for the website are covered by HPC member donations. It’s believed to be the first website of its kind in the state.

Bay St. Louis lost more than 600 historic homes and other structures to Hurricane Katrina, making the remaining historic buildings even more valuable to those interested in preserving them.

“Historic buildings are an extremely limited resource,” Fitzpatrick said. “They keep getting more valuable every year. And it’s been proven in multiple studies that historic districts like ours in Bay St. Louis preserve our community’s heritage, while attracting new residents and businesses, fueling tourism, and fostering community pride.”

The website uses laymen’s terms to guide applicants who want to renovate historic buildings or build new ones in the city’s historic district. One feature on “Success Stories,” highlights historic home renovations and new construction that blends into the historic district.

Councilwoman Wendy McDonald called the new website “a great resource for our community and makes it easy to access information and get ideas.”

Al Lawson, a new member of the Historic Preservation Commission and owner of The Lawson Studio, an interior design firm in Bay St. Louis, said the website will help residents navigate the unfamiliar processes involved in dealing with historical properties.

“Many times individuals feel like they do not understand the building and permit process,” Lawson said. “Another problem that this website will help address is the special vocabulary that architects and designers use. Words like ‘proportion’ and ‘context’ are easily misunderstood by the general public.This website will allow people to figure out on their own the building permit process and the vocabulary that the committee uses.”

Bay St. Louis, known for its Old Town arts district, has long been a favorite of New Orleanians for their vacation homes and weekend getaways. The city often appears on best-of lists among small coastal towns and the HPC points to the town’s historic assets as the reason for its appeal.

The Commission also believes that Realtors and economic development agencies will use the website to pitch the city to potential residents and businesses.

“The charm of Old Town Bay St. Louis is an exceptional economic and cultural resource,” Fitzpatrick said.  “Our commission volunteers want to preserve and enhance that community character for future generations.  The website will help us do just that.”

To see the new Historic Preservation Commission website, go to: www.HistoricBSL.com


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