The Broadwater Beach sign, which popped up on the grounds of the Mississippi Coast's premier resort in the mid-1960s, was an icon of color and light. |
It beckoned people to the Biloxi Strip and to a resort that boasted golf courses, both hotel and motel rooms, fountain swimming pools, a dance band and a marina.
When the Broadwater Beach Hotel opened in 1939 its ambitions were not so grandiose, although it intended a bit of class along with a bit of illegal gambling. The main stockholder was Pete Martin Sr. of Biloxi, admitted rum-runner and gambler and one of the colorful characters that put Biloxi on the map in the days of wink-wink.
After Martin's death and after a kibosh was put on open illegal gambling in the 1950s, hotel owners tried to make the Broadwater all-tourist. When it floundered financially, Joe Brown bought a second mortgage on the Broadwater to help.
Brown, a Texas native, made his millions on oil/gas, Vegas casinos and Louisiana's famed Jai Alai Club. When the hotel went on the auction block Brown bought it outright to save his investment.
When he died shortly afterward, in 1959, his widow, Dorothy, tackled the Broadwater, renovating the art deco building, adding a sweeping front arched canopy, more rooms and all the other amenities.
Under her '60s tutelage and with her wide-open purse, the Broadwater became the region's flagship resort. That's when the iconic Broadwater Beach sign appeared.
The old Broadwater closed its doors on July 31, 2005, with plans announced by new owners to tear down Dorothy Brown's work and build a new kind of resort and casino.
Katrina took away the sign four weeks later.