Saturday, September 30, 2017

Old Spanish Trail Renaissance Conference

The three-day Old Spanish Trail Renaissance Conference was held in Pass Christian, Miss., on September 28, 29 and 30, with a wide range of speakers telling about the building of the Old Spanish Trail and its impact on the communities it passes through. The purpose of the conference was to bring together representatives from across the Gulf Coast to rejuvenate interest in promoting tourism along the Old Spanish Trail, which in many parts coincides with U.S.Hwy 90.

Speakers from Louisiana and Mississippi, and as far away as Kansas and Florida, addressed the various issues that characterized the massive highway construction project that started in 1915 and ended in 1929, with 2743 miles of paved highways and bridges, all part of the "good roads" initiative active in America at that time. 

Dan Ellis, Conference organizer, speaking to the assembly.

The Old Spanish Trail starts at St. Augustine, FL, and stretches all the way to San Diego, CA, with one of the most scenic parts winding through the marshes and swamplands of Louisiana, including the most southeastern part of St. Tammany Parish. New car owners were anxious to hop in their motorized chariots and explore America, and the Old Spanish Trail (and its various side roads) invited them to visit the towns along the southernmost stretch of the United States.

Speakers at the conference included several that spoke of the challenges of running the Old Spanish Trail from Bay St. Louis, MS, to New Orleans, which was a key attraction on the entire stretch of highway. It opened up access to New Orleans for travelers and also gave New Orleans residents easy access to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. That segment included the part from Pearlington to the Rigolets, which featured four bridges and the famous White Kitchen Restaurant (and neighboring Snake Farm tourist attaction.)

The conference was organized by Dan Ellis of Pass Christian, and among the speakers were Charles Sullivan, Jim Miller, Allison Anderson, James Stege, Keli Rylance, Kevin Miller and Ron Barthet. The event took place at the Pass Christian Municipal Center, with exhibits set up in the conference room of the Pass Christian library. Plenary sessions took place in the City Courtroom. 

Ron Barthet talking about the Pearl River swamp highway crossing

Dan Ellis

Mayor Chipper McDermott, second from left, welcomed the group to Pass Christian at a Thursday night reception at Bacchus on the Beach restaurant. 


See also:

Town of Pearl River, Gateway To Gulf Coast

The Old Spanish Trail