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I grew up in New Orleans and returned to the Gulf Coast for a tour of duty at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS.  I am very familiar with Beauvoir House and can picture Beach Boulevard and the plethora of historic homes clearly in my mind’s eye.  Unfortunately at the time, however, I did not appreciate the historical value of Beauvoir House and thus never toured the site.  When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in August 2005 I prayed for the cities and friends that still lived there (I had moved to Colorado in 2000) and watched helplessly as the news crews showed the destruction of the places that I knew so well.  Turning at the last minute, ever so slightly, Katrina directed her fury at Biloxi, MS which sustained the worst damage from the storm.  Beauvoir House is located within walking distance of the Gulf shore.  While the main house and the Presidential Library suffered severe damage, they survived.  Five other buildings on the property were decimated.[1]

Beauvoir House was once the retirement home of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  The house was originally built in 1851 by James Brown, a Mississippi plantation owner.  Because of the sand mixed into soil, it was deemed infertile and the property was never turned into a plantation.[2]  When Brown died in 1873, the house was sold to Sarah Dorsey, a long time friend of the Davis family.  Three years later, when Jefferson Davis was visiting the Gulf Coast looking for a place to retire and write his book The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Davis visited Dorsey who offered to let him stay at Beauvoir House in one of the cottages for $50.00 a month.  Several years later, when she found she was dying of cancer, Sarah Dorsey offered to sell the entire property to Davis for $5500, over the course of three payments.  The first payment was made, but Dorsey died before the remaining could be made.  In an act of goodwill, Davis used the remaining balance to pay off the debts incurred against the Dorsey estate.[3]

The Davis family lived at Beauvoir House until Jefferson Davis’ death in 1889.  Davis had bequeathed the house to his daughter, Winnie.  When Winnie died in 1898, the house was left to Jefferson Davis’s widow.  Just five years later, the property was sold to the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans under the condition that it be used to create a Confederate soldiers’ home under the care of the state, with the main house established as a memorial to her late husband.[4]  From 1903 until the last two Confederate widows left in 1957, Beauvoir House operated under the conditions established by Mrs. Jefferson Davis.  The state constructed twelve barracks with six rooms per building for the soldiers and their wives for a total of 288 beds.[5]

I am extremely relieved to find that restoration efforts have restored the main house and parts of the property to its original splendor and efforts continue to rebuild the rest.  Now that I appreciate its historical significance, I do not intend to miss another chance to tour Davis’ home.


[1] Lynda Lasswell Crist, “Beauvoir,” Mississippi History Now (June 2007).  http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/2804/beauvoir (accessed June 20, 2012).

[2] “History of Beauvoir.”  http://beauvoir.org/history.html (accessed June 20, 2012).

[3] “History of Beauvoir.”

[4] “History of Beauvoir.”

[5] “Beauvoir Confederate Soldier’s Home.”  http://beauvoir.org/vetshome.html (accessed June 20, 2012).