Updated Oct. 31, 11:45 a.m.
This article originally reflected an incorrect amount for the historic markers.The Gabber Newspaper regrets the error.
History is the most important part of what makes cities unique. At least, that’s what Gulfport Historical Society board member Cathy Salustri Loper believes. Because of this, Gulfport Arts and Heritage (Gulfport Historical Society), along with the City of Gulfport, a grant, and an anonymous donation, purchased and installed three new historical markers across Gulfport. One of the markers is placed in front of the City’s first library (now Pia’s Trattoria). The other two markers are at Williams Pier, and along the historic trolley line at the Tangerine Greenway.
Gulfport Historical Markers: A New Twist on Tradition
Traditional markers that feature a metal sign on a post have two main drawbacks. They are susceptible to high winds; during tropical storms and hurricanes, they can come off their posts and sail through the air as a projectile. They also create a visual break to the landscape, and stand out compared to the background. While on a road trip, Salustri Loper drove through Florence, Alabama. There, she saw a historical marker carved directly into the sidewalk. She was so impressed with this design she brought the idea to the GHS board, who agreed to start working towards implementing it in Gulfport.
Seven years later, that work has paid off. With support from the Gulfport City Council, a Gecko World Grant from the Gulfport Merchants Chamber of Commerce, an anonymous donor, and Gulfport Historical Society funds, the markers are in place. Former Gulfport History Museum curator Joey Vars researched the history for each of the markers, made of granite and inlaid in the sidewalk. The interesting part? They are made by monumental masons, or companies that make headstones.
“Headstones are built to last,” said Salustri Loper. “The markers don’t require much maintenance, and are resistant to wind and rain.”
Gulfport City Council has worked closely with Gulfport Arts & Heritage to make this happen. Council Member Christine Brown (Ward II) is particularly excited about this partnership.
“I wholeheartedly applaud the Gulfport Historical Society’s leadership and members, and their continued efforts to identify, sustain, and recognize the importance and significance of the locations where the markers will be placed,” said Brown. “I look forward to the dedication and future unveiling.”
City support makes this all possible, even with the grant and donor. The City of Gulfport bought one of the markers, and staff installed all three.
“We’re really happy to work with them (GHS/GAC),” said Tom Nicholls, Gulfport’s Director of Public Works. “Cathy (Salustri Loper) is leading the charge, but this benefits all of us.”
Because of the specific and detailed needs for the markers, the search for a mason lasted from 2016 to 2022 and involved several different companies. Now, a year later, the markers await only an official unveiling.
“We put the date on the stones as October of 2023, because a few years back Mayor (Sam) Henderson declared October as the unofficial Gulfport History Month,” said Salustri Loper. “The company we finally found who could bring these markers to fruition told us it could take up to a year to complete all three. That’s why the board guess-timated when they’d get delivered.”
GAC will have an official unveiling at a later date.
While each marker cost varied slightly, based on the number of letters, they averaged between $1,200 and $2,500, Salustri Loper told The Gabber Newspaper. Traditional markers average between $2,500 and $3,000, according to estimates from the Florida Department of State.