by Dan Ellis
The 1940-highway plans for a new four-lane Highway 90 on the Gulf Coast were designed by the Mississippi Highway Department that would follow the course adjacent to the seawall in Harrison County. However, in Pass Christian, it was first intended to use the two-lane existing (Old Highway 90) as its northern east-to-west route and the new southern (west-to-east) route would hug the seawall and it was this plan by which property owners had given easements.
Plans were revised in the early 1950s that would construct two new two-lane ribbons that would run adjacent to the seawall leaving the “Old” Highway 90 untouched.
This decision caused great furor among the Beach residents which resulted in a grand fight that was lead by Col. Bluford H.J. Balter of New Orleans whose residence was located at 849 E. Beach Boulevard (later renamed Scenic Dr.). Balter placed many advertisements and wrote many Letters to the Editor in newspapers, as well as letters that were written to Mississippi Governor Hugh White and Commissioner of Highways John Smith.
The placement of the four lanes along the seawall was based on a new survey that revealed that 203 trees would have to go under the ax, making the area barren. Regardless, Balter and his following continued their battle stating that the five miles of East Beach Boulevard, considered one of the most scenic parts of the highway, would be lost to Mississippi. Further, “If you put your east-west highway ribbons on the seawall, no one will be able to see the beautiful homes. Since the right of way is not costing the state of Mississippi one penny, we believe that the property owners should receive some consideration.”
“The property owners anticipate damages to their property by making East Beach Boulevard, regardless of how it would be fixed up, a Second Street property,” continued Balter.
The Pass Christian Chamber of Commerce stepped in to endorse the plight of the East Beach property owners. It was stated that, “Commissioner Smith planned to put all four lanes south of the existing (Old) Highway 90 and convert it to a ‘SERVICE’ road. Some property owners feel this would considerably depreciate property values.”
The new two-ribbon, four-lane Highway 90 was celebrated at is completion in 1954. Since then, the name was changed to Scenic Drive and some of the folks still use East Beach Boulevard for their mailing address. In fact, it has become quite serene and colorful, used almost as a private drive. The property owners took steps to stop Tour Buses from accessing the road, thus ending tourist sightseeing of the magnificent homes and thereby reducing downtown visitor traffic.
And after all is said and done, the trees were saved and Scenic Drive is a unique street that can only be found at the Pass.