Fire Restoration Work Begins At Beauvoir - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

06/25/04

Fire Restoration Work Begins At Beauvoir

Artifact experts began the delicate task of removing 60 oil paintings that have decorated the walls of Beauvoir.

Blake Vonder Haar is with the New Orleans Conservation Guild. 

"Most of these objects need to be cleaned. They have layers of soot and residue from the smoke damage. Fortunately, the house managed to escape any water damage."

Beauvoir Director Patrick Hotard said, "It's very odd when you're used to coming in and seeing these dominating portraits like Jefferson Davis. All of sudden, it just changes the whole complexion of those particular rooms. It just looks very bare."

The artwork will make the trip to New Orleans, where specialists will cautiously restore them.

"We'll do a dry cleaning, remove the surface dirt and whatever is sitting on the surface. Then we'll go through processes of using various conservation soaps. Sometimes water can be used. Sometimes solvents can be used. It really just depends on each individual item," Haar said.

Everything inside the historic landmark, from carpeting and bed linens to vintage furniture, are getting a deep cleaning. They were damaged June 5th when a fire burned the front door and broke the glass, allowing smoke and ash to pour into the house. Now, a temporary door is in place while the original is transported to a master carpenter in central Mississippi.

"He will take some of the charred wood off, replace that with the appropriate type of wood. Once the door has been re-pieced together, they will bring it back. They will re-attach it to the house, and then the glass people will come install replica glass," Hotard said.

It may take several weeks to repair and return Jefferson Davis' house to its original shape.

"It's a good thing for Beauvoir in the end, because things will come back in a little bit better condition then they were before," Haar said.

"I'm looking forward to having the house back open. I'm looking forward to having everything back, and the house being whole again," Hotard said.

Insurance will cover the entire cost of the restoration work. The house remains closed, but it should be open by the July 4th holiday.

As for the investigation, Biloxi police say they are waiting for lab results and they have no suspects at this time.

by Trang Pham-Bui

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