The city of Biloxi has had quite a colorful past, with everything from changes of ownership, to air bases, to hurricane warnings, to tourism. This city has seen and experienced it all.
Let’s delve into the history of Biloxi, and see where it’s come from, and where it’s going.
Biloxi was founded between 1710 and 1725. Some historians state that it was founded in 1699, but that settlement is now referred to as “Old Biloxi.”
The city was founded by the French during the European rush to colonize the New World, and it was even the administrative capital of French Louisiana for a time before the French moved the capital inland due to fear of flooding and storms. However, the French ownership of Biloxi didn’t last. After the Seven-Years War between England and France, Biloxi was given to the British, and they ruled it from 1763 to 1779, after which the Spanish had their chance to claim ownership over it. Despite that, the French roots remained strong, up until Biloxi joined the United States in 1817.
Even back then, Biloxi was starting to make a name for itself as a tourist location, with many people making the journey from New Orleans for their summer vacations. It was shortly after joining the United States that the famous Biloxi Lighthouse was built, and it is still standing to this day.
During the American Civil War, Ship Island was captured by Union Forces, which meant that Biloxi was a Union City early on. Thankfully, no major battles took place in or near Biloxi, so many of the landmarks were left undamaged.
During World War II, the Keesler Air Base was built, which was, at the time, simply called Keesler field. It was meant to be a base for training, as well as a site for air maintenance. The other benefit of Keesler Field was that it brought a lot of new faces to Biloxi, and in a tourism city, new faces meant more tourists.
The downside to Biloxi being a coastal city is that it runs the risk of being battered by storms. Although storms are commonplace in most coastal regions, Biloxi has had bad luck taking the brunt of the storms.
The two major storms were Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The devastation from Hurricane Katrina was massive, with 90% of the coastal buildings in Biloxi being damaged from the gale-force winds. Even now, 12 years after the damages first occurred, both the residents and government of Biloxi are still repairing the damages. Much of the waterfront was destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
Because of the extent of the damage and trauma, the government of Biloxi erected monuments to memorialize those who lost their lives and loved ones during Hurricane Katrina. They also erected a monument designed to show tourists how high the waves reached before they came crashing down on the sea front.
The city of Biloxi is an incredibly popular tourist destination. As it’s located along the Mississippi gulf coast, there are scores of beachfront hotels and casinos. However, casinos have been running in Biloxi since the 1940s, where illegal gambling took place at the Broadwater Beach Resort. Thankfully, gambling has been made legal since then, and Biloxi is now one of the leading gambling centers in the Southern United States.
There are more reasons than gambling for why you may have heard of Biloxi, however:
The movie “Biloxi Blues” starring Mathew Broderick was an American drama film, which first aired in the late ‘80s. This film focused on the lives of soldiers at Keesler Field. Thanks to the film, the tourism industry in Biloxi grew exponentially.
However, Biloxi’s fame doesn’t just come from that one film. Many of John Grisham’s novels are based in Biloxi, which also increased tourism as avid readers traveled there to “feel the environment” for themselves.
With beachfront hotels, museums, casinos, and offshore islands to explore, Biloxi is a must-see city that all tourists should visit at least once in their lives to experience it for themselves.