The City of Biloxi could easily be dubbed one of America’s most resilient towns – in part because its location requires it. Situated on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, Biloxi has endured many hurricanes throughout its 300-year history, including the catastrophic storms Camille (1969) and Katrina (2005). But every time tempest winds bluster through Biloxi, residents and businesses steel together and rebuild.
Biloxi was home to Native Americans for thousands of years. The French settled the area in 1699 in their quest to find the mouth of the Mississippi River. Biloxi soon became capital of the French Louisiana territory – a title it held until New Orleans earned the distinction in 1723. In 1817, Mississippi became a state, and the city began to grow into a summer destination and later a fishing and seafood cannery center. Today, it also home to Keesler Air Force Base and shares the role of Harrison County seat with its neighbor, Gulfport.
People have long flocked to Biloxi and Gulfport to enjoy the white-sand beaches and calm waters of the Mississippi Sound, which separates the cities from a string of barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico. In the early 1990s, the state of Mississippi legalized casino gambling. Biloxi built several permanently docked casinos along its main highway, and tourism in the county really began to boom. After Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, 90 percent of the buildings along the county’s coast were destroyed. Several casinos were thrown off their footings and blown inland as the battered coast endured 17 hours of hurricane winds.
Despite the devastation, Biloxi has moved quickly to rebuild. Today, 11 casinos in Harrison County are back in business and tourists are back in town for a little sand, sun and casino fun.