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Biloxi Okay's Use of the Historic Glenn L. Swetman House for Temporary Ohr-O'Keefe Museum

From: City of Biloxi            Filed 9/27/06

Mayor A.J. Holloway of Biloxi has donated the use of the historic Glenn L. Swetman House just off Beach Boulevard to the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art as a transitional location as the museum Board of Trustees continues plans to rebuild the new Frank Gehry-designed museum campus in East Biloxi.    The Swetman House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a city property formerly used by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and other area non-profit organizations.

The museum is talking with local volunteer groups about cleaning the House before moving in, hopefully by Thanksgiving.  Full operations will be held out of the house, including exhibitions and classes.  For the past thirteen months, a reduced museum staff has been operating out of a 28-foot trailer and at offices at the Jefferson Davis Campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.  The former home of the museum, in the Biloxi Library building downtown, is still awaiting renovation, including electricity, and the opening of phases of the new Gehry-designed museum on Beach Boulevard are still at least one or more years away. The Swetman House has full utilities in place and “just needs a bit of gentle cleaning and a few cans of paint in public rooms”, according to museum officials.

The museum’s valuable collection of George Ohr pottery will remain in an “undisclosed location” in north Mississippi for awhile yet, but other community-based exhibits are under way during this transitional period.  In recent months, demand has returned   for the museum’s broad scope of exhibits, competitions, outreach and classes.

The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum, (photos right and below) which was under construction prior to Hurricane Katrina, was severely damaged by the hurricane.

The Swetman House was built circa 1927 by the renowned founder of Peoples Bank, the late Glenn L. Swetman, who also happened to have known and supported the work of the “Mad Potter of Biloxi”, George E. Ohr (1857-1918). The House at 1596 Glenn Swetman Drive in central Biloxi just off Highway 90 is a Colonial Revival-style home that sustained less than two feet of water damage in Katrina.   Generations of the Swetman family and their friends grew up playing in the house and enjoying the antiques and items of local interest collected by the family.

In addition to the support of Mayor Holloway, the museum acknowledges the efforts of Biloxi Senior Planner Bill Raymond, a long-time member of the museum Board, in securing the House for the museum.   This will be the second historic-house effort by the museum since the hurricane, when the Pleasant Reed House was lost to the storm:  the museum also recently received the donation from the Imperial Palace, Key Largo Holdings and additional funding from the Historic Preservation Task Force of the historic Creel House, an 1895 Biloxi cottage that has been moved from Reynoir Avenue to Meaut Street just to the north of the new museum construction site.  Museum officials estimate that restoration of the Creel House, which has been raised to new floodplain requirements, may take a number of months, and they are pleased that community groups are also enthusiastic about assisting with the Creel

More Information:

Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Website

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