As a child, Russell Gill regularly bicycled past the little house at 638 Howard Ave. on his way to school. He bought the house years later for his law office, and was pleased to see it spared the fate of many other Biloxi landmarks during Hurricane Katrina.|
The heart of pine and cypress house is twice as old as Gill and enjoys a place on the National Register of Historic Places and the Biloxi city registry. It's elevated about three feet, and Gill said more than two feet of water rushed underneath and around the building. The white picket fence was washed away and windows were blown out. The bulk of the damage, however, came from a large section of an oak tree that punched through the roof.
"I was afraid the place was gone," he said. "Some of my lawyer friends had lost their offices, and I didn't make it over here till about three days after the storm. By that time, I had heard most of the east end of town was pretty badly hit. I was just very thankful to the good Lord that we had an office."
The century-old building, one of the few remaining Queen Anne-style structures in the city, has since been repaired, a galvanized metal roof has been added, and additions were made to the side porch. Gill's law practice is booming and repairs to his Gautier home are nearly complete. He's pleased with the progress, but sees a new Biloxi on the horizon.
"What Camille knocked down," he said, "people built something else back and the same is true for Katrina. The Biloxi of now is not going to look like the East End of Biloxi I grew up in. It doesn't now. But that's all right. Things change... I'm going to stay right here and finish my career. I've been at this location 20 years, so I'm thinking another five or 10 years of practice, then somebody else can rake the leaves around this place."