1. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, artists turned a number of dead live oak trees into sculptures.
TRUE. Before the storm, live (evergreen) oaks lined the median of Highway 90 along the Gulf Coast. Once the water receded and things dried out, the live oaks died. Rather than tear them out and replant, the City of Biloxi commissioned noted sculptors Dayton Scoggins, Marlin Miller and Dayle Lewis to craft a series of imaginative and beautiful works of art. There are about 50 sculptures.
2. The Biloxi Lighthouse was painted black after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.
FALSE. A persistent urban myth. Biloxi Lighthouse, arguably the city's most well-known landmark, was already painted black. Two years after Lincoln's death, it was painted white in order to be more visible. The Biloxi Lighthouse is also the only lighthouse in the world situated in a highway median.
Hwy 90 & Porter Avenue
Tours Mon-Sat 9AM, 9:15AM, 9:30AM
Adults $5, students $2
3. The city painted blue lines on utility poles around town to note the high-water mark from Hurricane Katrina's storm surge.
TRUE. It's testament to the amazing power of nature and human resilience that a city could literally be under water for some time and still survive. Biloxi took a beating to be sure, and while it's hard to imagine now, the blue lines around town serve as a visual reminder of just how high the water came.
4. Root beer was invented in Biloxi by Edward Adolf Barq, Sr.
FALSE. Of all the possible Biloxi mythbusters, this is perhaps the most heavily debated.
Although alcoholic and herbal tea versions of the drink were in existence for at least a couple of centuries, Charles Hires, a pharmacist from Philadelphia, was the first to sell the beverage as "root beer," at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial celebration. He did not bottle the prepared drink until 1893; previously, customers purchased a packet of dried ingredients, adding sugar, yeast and water at home to brew their own root beer. Biloxi resident Edward Adolf Barq, Sr. started selling "Barq's" in about 1898. This was a beverage similar to root beer, but with caffeine and less sugar.
5. One of the city's most famous artists was once known as "The Mad Potter of Biloxi."
TRUE. During his lifetime, artist George Ohr (1857-1918) was something of a Biloxi urban legend, considered by the established art community as something of a no-talent rogue, possibly even a lunatic. His pots were oddly shaped and usually served no obvious function, his personal style was flamboyant and eccentric, and he simply did not fit in. Not until many decades after his death was Ohr's abstract work appreciated. Today, his talent and technical skill are marveled at, and many have attempted to replicate it.
See Ohr's works at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum's Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center. The museum, part of a Frank Gehry-designed campus, opened November 8, 2010.
Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art
386 Beach Boulevard
Biloxi, MS 39530
6. The state of Mississippi's tallest building is located in Biloxi.
TRUE. Mississippi's tallest building is the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. The building measures 347 feet tall, with 32 floors. One of Biloxi's biggest tourist attractions, the Beau Rivage has a casino with more than 2,100 slot machines, dozens of table games and a poker room, along with a full-service spa, shops, a pool, a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, 10 restaurants, and 1,700-plus guest rooms.
Beau Rivage Resort & Casino
875 Beach Boulevard
Biloxi, MS 39530
7. Actress Jayne Mansfield was decapitated in a car crash in Biloxi in 1967.
FALSE. This is probably one of the most enduring Biloxi mythbusters. Here's the real story: Jayne Mansfield was performing at Biloxi's Gus Stevens Supper Club. After her 11PM performance, Mansfield, her three children, boyfriend Sam Brody and driver Ronnie Harrison left for New Orleans. On a notoriously dangerous stretch of Highway 90, their car collided with a tractor-trailer, and Mansfield, Brody and Harrison were killed. Mansfield did suffer severe head trauma, but contrary to popular belief, she was not decapitated. Her three children survived the crash.
One other interesting bit of trivia: one of those children was Mariska Hargitay, who has gone on to achieve fame in the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
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