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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Return to Beauvoir

When I first retired in January of 2003, we drove south and discovered the charm of the Gulf coast in Mississippi and Alabama. We though about buying a place in the area but opted instead for a purchase in Egypt. Two hurricanes and an oil spill versus one revolution. Well, every area has its pluses and minuses.

We returned to some of our favorite areas on the Gulf, Sunday to see what they look like now. One of the most beautiful areas in 2003 was a ten or twenty mile stretch of historic homes between Pass Christian and Gulfport, Mississippi. This status report from 2008 describes the situation in Pass Christian following Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005:
A Federal Emergency Management Agency accounting later found that of 2,300 homes, only 200 survived, including most of the old homes on East Scenic Drive.

"We lost 100 percent of our businesses, " Mayor Chipper McDermott said. "Every public building was damaged or destroyed. Every church. Every school. We were damn near annihilated."

...Teacher Ella DeDeaux, who recently moved back into her home, said her insurance premium is about $5,000 per year. She used to pay about $1,500.

Town librarian Sally James' total jumped from $1,500 to $6,000.
For obvious reasons, there are many "Lot For Sale" signs along the scenic drive. We were surprised at how many of the sturdy oak trees had survived. Brick houses on high ground had survived or been restored, otherwise the homesites are mostly vacant.

We stopped by Beauvoir, site of Jefferson Davis' home and Presidential Library that we had visited back in 2004.

Here are a couple of photos from 2004. First, this was the home, named Beauvoir.

This is the writing pavilion where Davis wrote his memoirs.

And finally, here is the presidential library.

This FEMA photograph shows the extent of the damage to the home.

This screen capture from the Beauvoir Website shows the extent of damage to the Writing Pavilion. It was completely destroyed except for the brick stairs.

The library lost almost all of the exhibits located on the first floor.

When we visited the site this week, the home and writing pavilion had been restored.

A few things to note. The large tree in front of the home that survived. The stairs on the writing pavilion are no longer made of brick. The writing pavilion now has a chimney matching the home.

The Presidential Library has a long way to go before being finished.

In many ways, the area actually looks more attractive than before the hurricane. The white sandy beaches are very inviting. People were enjoying them as they finished watching an afternoon Mardi Gras parade in Gulfport. The removal of numerous casinos and businesses from the Gulf side of the highway makes the whole waterfront much more inviting. The economy must still be devastated, however.

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