It was built years before the Civil War, and if the walls of the historic home on Scenic Drive could talk, they would tell of incredible sunsets and storms, of the families who lived there and possibly of a visit by Woodrow Wilson.
It was the first home in Pass Christian to get electric lights and one of the first in town to have an artesian well. What are believed to be the original floors and marble fireplace have graced the home for more than 175 years, along with 12-foot ceilings, 10-foot doors, deep moldings and pocket doors throughout.
For the first time in 44 years, the house at 709 East Scenic Drive in the Pass is for sale. Listing agent Bridget Ferrucci says she believes the new owners will be enchanted with the views and the character of the home and likely hold onto it for another 50 years.
Homes along Scenic Drive have been priced at $1.1 to $7 million, she said, and this property is listed at $1.7 million. She’s had interest from Coast residents, from New Orleans families looking for a vacation home close to the city and a call from Texas, she said.
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The home sits on nearly three acres with views of the Mississippi Sound from most every room. Off the wrap-around porch, the wide front doors open to an impressive entry. To the right is a formal living room that could become a fifth bedroom with views of the beach. To the left is the very large dining room filled with antiques. To the back is the family room that was added by a previous owner and has a wall of windows overlooking a huge yard with a swimming pool and tennis court. Tucked here and there are Dutch doors, two pantries, a three-direction staircase and transom windows that aren’t found in many homes these days.
The house is considered 1 1/2-stories, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs, plus an attic above and another porch off the back, over the copper roof.
“My mother loved the house,” said Suzanne Faris, whose parents bought the home in 1973, primarily because the antebellum architecture is so much like the Bringier plantation where she grew up. That home, owned by her maternal grandmother’s family on River Road in Louisiana, was called Tezcuco and was destroyed by a fire in the 1990s.
The Pass Christian house was built in 1840, or 21 years before the start of the Civil War, and was knows as “The Legendre House.” Faris said her late mother, Stella McConnell Faris, renamed it White Hall after a famous painting.
Her family spent the first summer there in 1974, she said, and many summers, family reunions and Christmas holidays since. Her father, Warren Faris, was a legendary maritime attorney in New Orleans who had international offices and worked for Lloyd’s of London. Her parents hosted great summer parties at the house, she said. After her father died in 2006, their home on First Street in New Orleans, just doors away from author Anne Rice, was sold and her mother moved full-time to Pass Christian.
Mansions of Pass Christian says the porch of this home is adorned with a cast-iron balustrade and it was restored in 1947 by Curtis Walther as a Colonial Revival style home that was typical on Louisiana plantations having a wide clapboard exterior, with tall windows, shutters and wide galleries.
The living room is the favorite of Faris and her husband, Alan Silver, who met when they were both professors at Tulane University and were married at the home. He is on the faculty at Ohio University and she is a former attorney and taught history at several universities. They moved to Las Vegas last year and decided to sell her family home in the Pass.
In renovating the east side of the house, which sustained some damage in Hurricane Katrina, they discovered large beams held together with wooden dowels instead of nails or screws.
“It was beautifully built,” she said.
It was built during the same era as Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’ last home in Biloxi, which was built about eight years later in 1848. Silver said some of the work could have been done by the same people, and he believes White Hall has another connection with history.
President Woodrow Wilson spent his 56th birthday in Pass Christian, at a home known as the “Dixie White House,” and Silver said it was the custom of the day to visit with the owners of other nearby homes.
“He’s convinced Woodrow Wilson came by for dinner,” Faris said.
By the numbers
5,322 square feet: the size of the house
1,700 square feet: the amount of wrap-around porches
2.7 acres: property size that overlooks the Mississippi Sound
4: number of bedrooms
4½: number of baths
2: outdoor amenities (pool, tennis court)
$1.7 million: listing price
Realtor: Bridget Ferrucci with Coldwell Banker Alfonso Realty