The grandeur of the Blue Rose on Scenic Drive in Pass Christian has created a book of memories for many South Mississippians and tourists who have walked the halls of the historic home built around 1848.
   Known as an exquisite venue for wedding receptions, proposals and special events, the Blue Rose also was acclaimed for its five-star restaurant serving secret-recipe dishes for more than 50 years.
   Owner Philip LaGrange calls his relationship with the home a "labor of love," and that must be true, as he is now having to renovate for the third time.
   When he bought the Blue Rose in 1990, it had been vacant for several years and was in the process of foreclosure.
   LaGrange invested $200,000 to open his new restaurant, which he said was an immediate success after having such a loyal following from past customers.
   In 1998, the Blue Rose was closed while LaGrange tended to personal matters and worked on a half-million-dollar overhaul, but in 2004 it was business as usual once again.
   "The cuisine was upscale - lemon fish with lump crab meat and a lemon-cream sauce... a lot of specialty desserts like our chocolate-orange tort, crusted baked Alaska and an apricot cake," he said.
   "We also had a Blue Rose salad with romaine, pecans, blue cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette. We still guard the secret behind the dressing and no one has been able to duplicate it to my knowledge."
   After Katrina blasted through the home, the building was on the verge of collapse. But LaGrange felt obligated to continue with the project he started 16 years ago and invested $1 million to rebuild.
   When it reopens this winter, the Blue Rose will focus first on providing a "premier wedding center." A second phase will be a bed and breakfast, followed by the restaurant.
   LaGrange spared no expense in the décor of the Blue Rose - gold-leaf moulding, imported tile, marbleized hand-painted walls, state-of-the-art kitchen, Brazilian teak flooring and Swarovski crystal chandeliers.
   "It was one of the oldest historic structures and I couldn't let it go," he said. "I decided it wasn't a financial thing to restore it, but to restore a legacy for future generations."
- DANA SLEGER