Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mississippi's Gulf Coast: Beauvoir and the Biloxi Lighthouse

Beauvoir the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Our trip to Mississippi had to include a visit to Beauvoir, the last home of the only President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.
This part of Mississippi sustained such damage by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that we weren't sure what we would find. I had seen this stately old home once before on a Girl Scout trip and Fred had spent some time at here in the Air Force but that was a long time ago.

We stopped at the Visitor Center on Beach Blvd to get some information about hurricane recovery. We wanted to know how Biloxi, Gulf Port and Beauvoir had fared. My Mom Ella served as a Red Cross volunteer for many years. She was in this area working for several months after Katrina and had told us of how little was left.

Beach Blvd is US-90 that runs right along the gulf coast in Biloxi.
The cast iron Biloxi Lighthouse
In front of the Visitor Center on the median between the divided 4 lane highway stands the Biloxi Lighthouse. We were told that after hurricane Katrina the 64 foot cast iron structure was the only thing standing on that portion of the waterfront. One of the most iconic photographs of the post Katrina recovery effort is one of the lighthouse draped in an American flag.
You may climb the Biloxi Lighthouse but only at 9 AM. The docent at the Visitor Center assured us that no one wanted to be inside the brick lined cast iron tower once the sun got hot.
We believed him.
The Biloxi lighthouse was placed into service in 1848 and was tended by keepers until its automation in 1960. Notably most of the keepers of the light were women. One of them Maria Younghans tended it for 51 years.

We headed west to Beauvoir a few miles West of the lighthouse. Interestingly the construction of the Biloxi Lighthouse and Beauvoir were completed the same year, 1848.

Beauvoir meaning "beautiful view" was named for it's expansive and unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico.  Mr. Davis had been staying in Hayes Cottage on the grounds while writing his book The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. He later made arrangements to acquire the plantation.
Beauvior was his only post war home. It later became a museum and housed his Presidential Library.

Jefferson Davis' funeral carriage. Note the crossed swords and rifles.
The Confederate museum lost many of it's exhibits to Hurricaine Katrina. There was a major archaeological undertaking in the hurricaines wake to identify and restore the museums artifacts  It is estimated that 35% of the library collections were lost. Many items were damaged and some are still awaiting repair like the antique piano on the museums upper level that was totally submerged in salt water.

We learned that Beauvior had survived hurricane Katrina due to it's superior construction. The structure was saved by it's 6 large brick fireplaces, 3 inch thick heart of pine floors and a slate roof with sealed edges designed to be pushed down by the wind instead of being lifted.
It's porches were destroyed and part of the roof was gone but other buildings on the property were completely demolished. The Presidential Library, Hayes Cottage, and the detached kitchen have been rebuilt.

Beauvoir is built in the Antebellum raised cottage style
Beauvoir is an impressive home. It's antebellum architecture is described as "raised cottage" but it is like no cottage I have ever seen.

Front gate of Beauvoir overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
The front of the house faces the Gulf of Mexico and is wrapped in a wide porch that provides plenty of room for sitting and enjoying the view. The 8 foot tall doors and windows on front and sides open completely to let in the sea breezes. That breeze also blows under the house cooling the floors.
You enter into a wide central reception hall. The formal living room, a library, one bedroom and a parlor can be entered from the hall. There are 2 wings in the back. The left wing has 2 bedrooms and the right a butlers pantry and 2 dining rooms, one designated for children.

Beauvoirs wide porches and tall windows allow maximum airflow.
You must access the rooms in the wings from the back porch.
The most impressive thing to me about Beauvoir is the painting. Walls, ceilings and woodwork are all painted in the trompe l'oeil manner meaning "fool the eye". The original paintings of the home were completely restored after Katrina. The home survived the 180 mph winds but nothing could protect it from the black mold that followed a 24 foot storm surge.

These ornate looking moldings are all paint.

Frescoed ceilings and faux window surrounds beautifully restored.
Walls and ceilings are ornate and beautiful. The door which are made of cyprus have been given details of solid oak, and fireplace mantels are paint rather than marble.
Several of these details were discovered during the restoration effort.

Solid Cyprus doors painted to look like oak.
The docent that led our tour was knowledgeable and answered our questions with southern charm.
He reminded us to visit the farm animals stroll through the rose gardens before leaving.

One of many blooms in the rose garden.
Biloxi Lighthouse
1050 Beach Blvd
Biloxi, Mississippi

2244 Beach Blvd
Biloxi, Mississippi


  1. I passed by Beauvoir while in town on business, Bonnie. Having seen the way the coast was swept free of all structures, it was amazing that the home survived Katrina.

    1. The after pictures from the storm showed almost nothing else intact. Beauvoir was built with solid workmanship.