When St. Mark's Episcopal Church was founded in 1846, members met at the Tegarden Hotel in what is now Gulfport, then Mississippi City. By 1855, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who'd retired nearby, and other noted men donated land and money to build a proper church.
In 1969, after the original building was gutted by Hurricane Camille, St. Mark's restored it and added even more to the original structure. Katrina was even worse to the 600-member congregation, but before the storm, they'd removed altar hangings, silver, vestments, old pictures and prayer books.
"We didn't get everything but we saved a lot that will preserve our history and give us a tie to the past in our new circumstances," said the Rev. James "Bo" Roberts.
In the rubble, they found several original beams and the bell. Preliminary thoughts, Roberts said, are to build a memorial, perhaps a small chapel at what will become a secondary site for St. Mark's. The beachfront land stretches from U.S. 90 to 16th Street, and discussions on what to do with the land will depend on new building codes and insurance rates.
"We bought nearly four acres on the northwest corner of Cowan and Taylor roads, anticipating that will be the principal site," Roberts said. "We've ordered double-wide trailers for worship and also for offices-Sunday school. We'd hoped to be in them by Christmas, but now it looks like January."
For now, the congregation is meeting at Anniston Avenue Elementary cafeteria. "We're grateful to the School Board and administration," Roberts said, "for stepping up like they have for us and other churches for places to worship."
- KAT BERGERON