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Katrina-Damaged Beauvoir Showing Major Progress Toward Restoration

by Keith Burton - GCN  12/14/07

With the care of building on their own homes, contractors and professional historic restoration experts are making serious progress on restoring the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis at Beauvoir in Biloxi.

The historic home and museum was severely damaged from hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005. History took note that the home survived the worst natural disaster ever to hit the United States. but in the immediate days after the hurricane, it was not certain the home would be rebuilt. That uncertainty has been answered as the home itself is now nearly 70 percent restored.

Over the last year, work crews have been working hard to bring the old home back to its former elegance and serious progress is being made. The exterior structure is largely back, but much more sturdy, with concrete support pylons and a concrete sub-foundation that should help the home survive any future storms. Hurricane Katrina tore off the home's stately porches and severely damaged the roof, interior and rear section. (Photo Right: Beauvoir in Sept. 2005)

The original builders knew of the Coast's hurricanes and build the home well above most storm surges. The home had survived over a 155 years of storms, but it barely made it though Katrina. Beauvoir's much more modern presidential library, that housed civil war artifacts and Jefferson's personal items was also severely damaged with the ground floor completely demolished.  While the second floor survived, the building will eventually be torn down and a replacement built just immediately to the west on slightly higher ground.

Work crews are expected to finish most of the home this spring and the site is expected to open again to the public in June. Not everything will be completed. Much of the intricately painted ceilings and frescos inside will still be undergoing restoration, which visitors will be able to see.

The restorations are being paid for by a combination of contributions from individuals, companies and federal Katrina restoration funds. The historic home is among the few surviving historic structures on the Coast as many were lost during the hurricane.

The 50 acre site is also undergoing major work. A new brick wall that runs around the property is nearly rebuilt, landscaping work is underway and the historic Confederate cemetery at the rear of the property is being restored. When the new Presidential Library and museum is rebuilt, the first floor will house offices and a new gift shop. In the meantime, two trailers on the property will be refitted as a temporary office and gift shop when the property opens.

There is still a considerable amount of work to be done, but progress is being made, and a unique part of Biloxi's history will return.

More Information:

Beauvoir Official Website - (Has many more photos)

Biography of Jefferson Davis

The Papers of Jefferson Davis

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