I had occasion to visit Waveland this week and saw that the old Waveland School, a brick building built in 1920, is completing finishing touches before its grand re-opening. As many of us know, Waveland took a straight shot from Katrina, and being lower in elevation than neighboring Bay St. Louis, the storm surge washed all the way over the railroad tracks that run parallel to the shore about a quarter of a mile inland.
Waveland School sits just to the south of the railroad tracks, and just as Katrina was coming in, it was about to open as a renovated community center. The building was badly damaged by the surge, which reached levels almost to the ceiling, but unlike almost every other structure south of the tracks, it still stood after the water washed back out. Many questioned whether it could be repaired, and in the frenzy of demolition that took hold on the Coast after Katrina, when major landmarks like Gulfport’s East Ward School and Biloxi’s Tivoli Hotel were torn down with FEMA footing the bill, its future hung in doubt for a while. But Waveland’s city leaders recognized the importance of this building to their town, not only as a landmark in its own right, but as a survivor when so much else was gone.
The Lathan Company has done a great job rebuilding the one-classroom section that had collapsed, and the removal of that gable roof has done wonders for the looks of the building (I’m told the building exhibits the “Elementary Gothic” style rather than the more familiar Collegiate Gothic. Isn’t that a nerdy joke?). To top it all off, the pressed-metal ceiling in the auditorium has been restored–in the previous renovation, it had been left hidden behind a dropped ceiling. It’s an amazing transformation. Let’s celebrate with the Wavelanders and all the other survivors on the Coast–it’s been a long, hard struggle to rebuild, and much more of the same remains, but here’s one success story. Congratulations to everyone involved in making it happen.