New information on Beauvoir, from the Wednesday, September 7, 2005 Newark (NJ) Star Ledger By Suleman Din, Star-Ledger Staff: BILOXI, Miss. -- Beauvoir, the seaside retirement estate of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, stood for more than 150 years as a great example of Southern architecture and antebellum lifestyle.
With lawns shaded by tall oaks, cedars and magnolias, Davis' cottage was simple in design but elegant in detail. A tapered staircase led to the center of its extensive wrap-around porch. The front door was cut glass, the windows covered by louvred green shutters. The building was painted bright white with green trim.
Just nine months ago, the historical society that maintains the grounds finished repainting Beauvoir's numerous chimneys and shutters, reattaching the shutter frames, and installing a lift in the back for disabled visitors.
"It was looking its best in 50 years," said Patrick Hotard, the historical director of the house, a state and national landmark operated by the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "Now I feel like we are even before square one. I've been working here six years, and you get attached to a place. It's very trying on the emotions. It is one of the last great old houses of the South."
Early reports out of Biloxi said the cottage, which houses Davis family furniture, art, and archival items such as letters and artifacts, had been leveled, but Richard V. Forte, chairman of the Sons, was happy to paraphrase Mark Twain, noting such reports of Beauvoir's demise were greatly exaggerated.
"I am confident that it will be rebuilt," Forte said. "It's just a matter of cleanup and restoration."
The winds and storm surge of Hurricane Katrina did damage the home heavily: The porchline and front steps are entirely gone, part of the roof is torn away, windows are smashed, and the back portion is crumbling. Floodwaters water pushed many of its artifacts out into the mud, where some of them were stolen.
Other buildings on the 52-acre site fared worse. The war veterans hospital next to Beauvoir, which had been converted into a museum, was flattened, along with two matching pavilions that stood in front of it. A marble monument that framed the brick walkway to the home was broken. The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library, built for $4.5 million in 1998, had its first floor washed out.
Davis holds the distinction of being the only president of the Confederacy, but the West Point graduate was also known as a hero in the Mexican War of 1847. He was a congressman and senator, and was secretary of war under President Franklin Pierce.
He was captured by Union soldiers in 1865 and jailed for two years. He moved to Beauvoir in 1877 and lived the last years of his life there, writing his memoirs. He died in 1889.
Beauvoir -- French for "beautiful view" -- had been built in 1851 and went through the Civil War unscathed. But Hurricane Camille damaged the home extensively in 1969. Forte said the cottage's raised design is what saved it from being washed away then, and now.
"They knew what they were doing back then," Forte said. "The way they built that cottage, it lets the water and air go right under it."
Still, the place is a wreck, and Forte and Hotard had no estimate on the cost of repairs.
"It's going to be very substantial," Hotard said.
Forte said that because Beauvoir is a historical landmark, there will be grants available for reconstruction. Private donations also will be solicited, he said. The Friends of Beauvoir have set up a fund for those wanting to help reconstruction efforts.
Architectural experts have been brought in to examine the building and see what can be recovered.
Many valuable pieces inside the home, such as portraits of Davis and his family, are still intact, Hotard said.
The hospital museum, now in rubble, housed a priceless collection of military artifacts from Confederate soldiers, including uniforms and weaponry, and much of that was stolen when the walls came down.
Forte said that the historical society has provided a list of missing items to eBay, so that if any appear for sale, they can be confiscated and returned.
"There is a market for these items," he said. "That's just an unfortunate human trait, and I don't understand that why someone would steal from a home, especially this one."
To prevent further theft, the grounds are now guarded by Beauvoir's own security people and the army.
Bertram Hayes Davis, the great-great-grandson of Jefferson Davis, said the family is relieved that enough of the structure remains for restoration efforts.
But right now, he said, the family is more concerned for the people in Biloxi and along the Gulf Coast who have lost their homes and their loved ones. It's what Jefferson Davis would have felt, he said.
"He would have put the needs of others first," Davis said. "The home can be reconstructed. Beauvoir will be a part of the Gulf Coast for hundreds of years to come."
Suleman Din may be reached at email@example.com.
This, according to a report published in the Baltimore (Md.) Sun, September 1: Regarding damage to Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library in Biloxi, Mississippi, John Hildreth of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says: “It’s maybe 500 yards from the beach, Ground Zero in Biloxi. We’d heard at first that it had been destroyed, but I found out today that it’s still standing on its foundations. The galleries (porches) are gone, and there has been significant damage to the house. We don’t know yet how all the papers in Davis’s presidential library have fared.”
An illustration of Beauvoir is shown in my previous post.
There has been much news coverage of the wanton looting, rapings, muggings, shootings and other crimes being committed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Upon observation, most of these incidents have been allegedly perpetrated by a majority of blacks (or African Americans, if you prefer.) Upon investigation, I note that most of the people left in the city are not the well to do. They had no real way to escape. No car. No public transportation. No cabs. No money. They are stuck until some entity arrives to help them. The escape routes are limited. These "refugees" have been held captive in the wake of Katrina. I watched the news footage of all types of people looting stores and stealing everything not locked down. Food and water I can understand. Certain other items necessary to sustain life, of course. Medications, for example, if one suffers from diabetes or other maladies. For the life of me though, I can't understand someone stealing TV's. To watch what? You will not have electricity for a long time. Where would you take these items? Your house is no longer there or isn't livable and you certainly cannot walk out of the city with it, nor take it on the bus. The TV stations were knocked off the air. It sort of reminds me of an Eskimo stealing an air conditioner to take to the North Pole. There are always idiots out there who haven't got a clue.
Caches of guns and other weapons were stolen. There were reports of gunshots fired at helicopters. I think I can understand why this would happen. With little or no police protection, the thugs and gang leaders are attempting to control what's left of the city. The police and military are threats to them. They want control and will use whatever means they have available. The authorities must act fast and mobilize. In the meantime, how does America's society look at the rest of the populace stuck there? No one is going to be extremely rational when placed in this type of scenario. Look at what just happened. They lost about everything. Many of their loved ones could be missing. The sweltering heat is unbearable. There is no water and nothing to eat. Where can they make their next bathroom run? Next to the dead, floating or lying in the streets? They feel cornered, as if there is no way out. They are watching their relatives, friends and neighbors slowly drift away to an untimely death. Most are just fighting to stay alive. Faced with impending plagues, what would you do?
Not all people are born leaders. Many like to follow, not out of weakness, but it's just not their nature. You've witnessed now the strong who have risen up the ranks to bring about order. These are deserving souls and should be remembered. The hooligans trying to disrupt this broken down society should not be represented as the whole. They are losers of the world grasping at their last hurrahs in their own little world of freedom and they'll take down anyone who gets in their way. This has nothing to do with race. This is how the human race reacts when faced with catastrophes.
Just wait and see what happens when and if we ever start nuking each other.