Revisiting Hurricane Katrina Damaged Beauvoir
Listed on the National Register of Historic places, and designated both a National and Mississippi Landmark, Beauvoir has a storied history. The home was built by Mississippi planter, James Brown, in 1848 and completed in 1852. She sits immediately on the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, a forever dynamic and saline environment.
The estate was purchased from Brown by Samuel and Sarah Dorsey in 1873. Samuel died a few short years later. His widow Sarah, a novelist and biographer, learned of the financial woes that had befallen former Confederate States President, Jefferson Davis. Dorsey reached out to Davis and invited him and wife Varina Davis to join her at Beauvoir. They accepted.
Later, as Dorsey discovered she was dying of cancer, the author bequeathed the estate to the Davises. Jefferson and Varina moved into the home. Davis died in 1889. In 1902 Varina sold the property to the Sons of Confederate Veterans to be used as a veteran’s home and later a memorial to her husband.
The grand home has witnessed many storms over its nearly 175-year existence. In 1969 it survived a battering by powerful hurricane Camille. But in 2005 Beauvoir’s lucky streak ran out. On August 29th hurricane Katrina, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the Gulf Coast pummeled the old house with a 20 foot plus storm surge and punishing waves. Several structures on the campus were completely destroyed. The storm devastated the home opening its face to the gulf waters and ripping the old growth heart cypress exterior galleries off of the wood frame structure. That home survived, beaten, but standing.
In time, efforts came together to restore the historic home. Structural and interior restoration took place first. Later the broad gallery was replaced, but this time with modern, pressure treated lumber. Fast forward nine years and in that very saline environment, the pressure treated galleries began to twist and pull up to the point of becoming a safety hazard to visitors.
The Goodwin Company was called on by General Contractor JO Collins to mill 3,112sf of 1×6 River-Recovered ® Antique Heart Cypress to restore the Beauvoir galleries and the grand front staircase. Afterall, virgin, old growth bald cypress is what the hoes stairs and galleries were milled from originally. The tight growth rings and heavy concentration of naturally occurring, wood preserving cypresene oil in the River-Recovered ® material made it the perfect, stable choice for the restoration.
Any well-done restoration is historically accurate. And while the beauty of River-Recovered ® Heart Cypress is one of its significant charms, this project was all about stability and so the galleries and stairs were painted with porch paint as they had been originally.