The Picayune Gymnasium
The Picayune Gymnasium served as a recreational and entertainment center for the African American community. George Pickett and William “Bo” Sewell built the gymnasium in 1930. These local businessmen constructed an establishment that would serve as a vital entity to the African American community in Picayune for over 60 years. In the first two decades post construction, the building housed the only full-sized basketball court and indoor recreational facility that was open to the African American community. In 1946, the building became the home base for the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams at Picayune Colored High School. In addition to basketball, the sport of boxing was also a prominent affair here. Boxers even trained with infamous Picayune native, Freddie Little, a WBA and WBC Junior Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World. Little went on to be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
The building also housed a stage and pool tables, providing a space for social gatherings for young people. The gymnasium was a two-story building constructed of cinderblocks, and it was the longest surviving structure that provided successful business ventures in the African-American business district in Picayune.
In 1960, the nature of the business changed when it was converted into a nightclub. Decades later it sat as a vacant building, and in 2005, the structure suffered extreme damage from Hurricane Katrina. In 2015, the old gymnasium was demolished, yet the history behind the structure is one that will continue to thrive as an important landmark for the African American culture in Southern Mississippi.