Mary Helen Schaeffer says restoring her historic home in Pass Christian requires fortitude, determination and "perhaps a little craziness." Despite some setbacks, the beachfront home owner is confident her labor of love will be worth the aggravation.
"Columns and pieces. We're putting it back together. Trying to make it the way it used to be. We're not trying to change anything," said Mary Helen Schaeffer, as she gave visitors a tour of her storm damaged home.
Katrina changed plenty. The challenge now is restoring this piece of history.
"It looked a lot different in the beginning," she said, looking at photos. "Our favorite room in the whole house is the front porch, right here. And it's totally gone."
Volunteers work to replace the missing porch and restore extensive damage.
"It used to be really beautiful. And I do have a picture of what it's supposed to look like," said Schaeffer.
Such pictures inspire the owner to restore and reclaim what Katrina washed away.
"This is the dining room. My chandelier is still here... but the water pushed the floor up. That's how I lost a lot of my floor."
The constant sounds of progress inch this home built in 1888, slightly closer to completion.
"We've been using volunteers. And every time we get discouraged, another team comes and they pitch in and they make us feel like we can do it again," says the owner.
Restoring the historic home is a bit like putting together some giant jigsaw puzzle. Many of the original pieces, like door and window frames, have been recovered and will be reused in the restoration.
"Take the things out of the yard, clean them up and put them right back on the house, including the columns and the railings and the post," Schaeffer said.
She'd like the project finished by June first, the start of hurricane season.
"We're had our ups and downs and we've almost given up many, many times. But it's a wonderful old house."
And the old house will be wonderful once again.
The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The three story structure has 9,300 square feet, including eight bedrooms and six and a half baths.