Home of Confederate President Jeff Davis
Jefferson Davis was a man not blessed with a lot of luck. He was a bona-fide President in the United States, but you won't find his name on a battleship or his face on Mt. Rushmore. There's a statue of him in the Capitol rotunda, but, then, every state gets a statue in the rotunda. (Utah chose Philo Farnsworth, the guy who invented TV).
To be frank, Jeff Davis doesn't need recognition in Washington. His capital was Richmond, Virginia. He was President of the Confederate States of America.
Southerners love a good, sad story, so they have a soft spot for Jeff Davis. And for many years his memorial Shrine in Biloxi recognized this, and emphasized his tragic life.
His house, "Beauvoir," was not well lit, reinforcing the feeling of a "lost cause." The museum in its basement exhibited Davis's death mask and the Catafalque that carried his body to his grave. You could see his pocket watch, his communion set -- and hair from his son, who died at age 11. True, his rebel spirit lived on in an adjacent small museum of the Confederacy -- with its Stars and Bars gift shop -- which proudly referred to the war as "an experiment in nationalism." And even the mailbox for the Shrine had replaced its little red flag with a Confederate one..
But this state of affairs only lasted until August 29, 2005, when hurricaneKatrina paid a visit to Biloxi.
John Hildreth, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, reported that Beauvoir was under up to 30 feet of water at one point. Yet, amazingly, after the storm had passed, the house was found still standing on its foundations -- defiantly. But the porches were gone, as were the doors, windows, columns, and everything below the second floor -- which didn't bode well for the exhibits in the basement. Perhaps they had been moved upstairs in time?
Beauvoir eventually was reopened to the public -- after a $4 million restoration -- on June 3, 2008, Jeff Davis's 200th birthday. But visitors could no longer see the Stars and Bars gift shop, or the mailbox, or even the granite monument that once stood in front of the Shrine. They were all blown to smithereens by the storm.
It's all very sad.