Historical Society: Pass Christian historic homeowners restoring

Schaeffer's house in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina
Schaeffer's house in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina
Schaeffer's house in 2009 after restoration
Schaeffer's house in 2009 after restoration

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Through the years, what has made Pass Christian's Scenic Drive so scenic is the large number of historic houses that line the street.

According to the Pass Christian Historical Society, Katrina destroyed about 60 percent of the historic homes along Highway 90, and many others received major damage.

Now some homeowners are deciding to write a new chapter in the history of Scenic Drive.

After Katrina gutted the first floor, Mary Helen Schaeffer was told her historic house couldn't be saved. Shaeffer said every time she and her husband would give up hope of restoring their home, something wonderful would happen. Take for instance, the time they couldn't find a contractor.

"This man came off the street, parked his pickup and said did I need help," said Schaeffer. "I looked at him and thought, He may be a serial killer, but I am desperate. So I got him to help me. He ended up being a master carpenter."

Alicia Ellis of the Pass Christian Historical Society said it's encouraging to see how many people are choosing to restore their historic beachfront homes. She said the benefits of giving these houses back their glory extend throughout Pass Christian.

"It's really saving our city in a way," Ellis said. "Because we are very fortunate to be one of the areas on the Gulf Coast where people say Pass Christian is noted for its homes. It's beautiful homes. Right now, we're extremely fortunate to be building back our city."

Schaeffer decided to restore her house exactly as it had been before the hurricane. The house is on the National Registry of Historical Places. She said it does her heart good to see so many of her neighbors also working to save the town's heritage.

"It takes so much courage and guts and craziness to restore," said Schaeffer. "So I'm really proud of my neighbors to the East because so many of them have gone through the process of saving their house. It would be much easier to walk away."

Pass Christian Historical Society officials said some residents who are restoring their homes are choosing to keep the houses the same on the outside, but modern inside. Also, officials said some people whose homes were destroyed are choosing to build houses that have the historic look, but are smaller than the original houses.

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