Beauvoir Clean-up Continues
— Hurricane Katrina cleanup continues at Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library. The storm washed out the lowest level of the home, blew off the front and side porches and damaged the roof. It washed away the first floor of the Presidential Library. The other five buildings on the 50-acre site were destroyed.
Curator Richard Flowers says about 65 percent of the artifacts in the Confederate and Jefferson Davis museums have been recovered. Research volumes and archives that were on the second floor of the presidential library were not undamaged. However, paper items and paintings in storage and on display in both museums were damaged or destroyed. The destruction was so complete that the largest pieces of the 10-foot by 20-foot painting of the battle at Brice’s Cross-roads measured only 6 inches by 6 inches. Flowers describes frames and canvases in “bits and pieces.” The storm also washed out the collection vault in the Confederate Museum, damaging or destroying everything in it. The artifacts that survived were the “hardware” — the guns, swords and metal items — and they will need con-servation since many are rusty and damaged. Some of the lost items were on loan to Beauvoir. The Louisiana State Museum had loaned the catafalque from Jefferson Davis’ funeral. Flowers says pieces of it, including five of the six ornate wooden cannon and some decora-tion, have been found.
All that was found of the Davis saddle on loan from the Museum of the Confederacy was a stirrup. Flowers is happy to report that Davis’ Dragoon sword from when he served in the Indian Wars after his commis-sion from West Point was recovered in good shape. Because of the time frame and the number of items, it was impossible to remove artifacts before Katrina hit. Flowers says some things, such as valuable flags, were moved from the Confederate Museum to the second floor of the presidential library and they survived. More than half the furniture in Beauvoir belonged to the Davis family and virtually all of it survived Katrina. Flowers says some furniture sustained damage, such as broken legs, from blowing and floating. When part of the roof came off with the front porch rain and salt water damaged furniture that was in Winnie’s room and the front parlor. The furniture and artifacts that survived the hurricane have been moved off site to secure climate-controlled stor-age.
Director Patrick Hotard, whose house at Beauvoir was destroyed, says heavy debris — remains of Biloxi build-ings — has been cleared from the site. General cleanup continues. The property is closed to the public for safety reasons. Both the home and library had roof damage as well as destruction of the lower levels. “We’ve done some tempo-rary repairs to those buildings to try to keep the elements out until we move into the complete restoration process,” Hotard reports. An architect is working on plans for reconstructing the house, which was built in 1852, and the 1998 library. Ho-tard says there’s discussion of rebuilding the two antebellum pavilions, including the library where Davis wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. While the hope is to have Beauvoir restored in time for the 200th anniversary of Jefferson Davis’ June 3, 2008, birth, Hotard says a timetable is hard to develop until the architect’s plans are completed.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, Del., “have been very helpful to us in many ways,” Hotard reports. Beauvoir is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Beauvoir’s restoration has added significance due to Katrina’s devastation. Flowers says it is the oldest antebellum house left on a 35-40 mile stretch of Gulf of Mexico beach. Katrina destroyed the other historic houses in Biloxi and Gulfport. Thanks to the friendship of National Trust President Richard Moe and developer Donald Trump, Trump recently donated $25,000 to the rebuilding fund. A couple of hundred thousand dollars has been contributed so far, Hotard says. Between its years as the postwar Davis home and a memorial to Jefferson Davis it was a home for Confederate veterans and their widows.
The December 1929 issue of Confederate Veteran reported formation of the Beauvoir Memorial Committee to fur-ther memorial purposes and to locate and authenticate family articles. Davis’ widow Varina deeded the house to the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1903. They voted in 1930 to restore the house to its status when Davis lived there “as a perpetual shrine” to his memory.
Donations may be sent to Beauvoir Relief, P.O. Box 7, Meridian, MS 39302-0007
. The online gift shop is at www.beauvoir.org
.(The Civil War News, http://www.civilwarnews.com/news.cfm)