Living

Beauvoir an amazing building, but so much more

Why should Beauvoir be saved? We queried Ken P'Pool, the state's historical preservation officer with the Mississippi Department of Archives & History. This is what he said:

"Properties like Beauvoir visually tell the stories of our history, good or bad, far better than any written document can do. As author Mary Carol Miller ably put it, 'Mississippi's history can't really be found in books. When it's reduced to names and dates, it dries up and blows away like clouds of dust, forgotten as soon as the page is turned. If you want to truly grasp 300 years of this state, you have to get out and touch it.'

"From an architectural perspective, the Beauvoir mansion is one of the nation's finest examples of the Greek Revival-style 'raised-cottage' and is among the most significant buildings in the entire Gulf Coast region.

"Its massive brick piers and its commodious columned gallery that wraps the body of the house are Beauvoir's most readily recognizable features. These were built not merely for beauty, but also designed for protection from ground moisture and storm surge, for shade from the potent rays of the sun and for a place of respite from the region's often oppressive heat.

"In architecture seldom do we see functional responses to climatic need so successfully wedded with aesthetic design. The fact that Beauvoir still stands, despite the force of wind and tidal surge hurled at it by Katrina, is testament to the wisdom and skill of its builders.

"Obviously, Beauvoir is historically significant for its association with Jefferson Davis as the place to which he retired to escape the pressures of public life and to write his memoirs. Although best remembered as the president of the Confederate States of America, Davis' career even before his Civil War activities placed him among the most important figures in American history.

"Davis was a hero of the Mexican War, served in both houses of the U.S. Congress, served ably as secretary of war under President Franklin Pierce, and was a founding regent of the Smithsonian Institution. During his tenure as secretary of war, Davis was assigned the duty of overseeing the expansion of the U.S. Capitol, so the design of the most important symbol of our government largely owes its physical appearance to his labors.

"Because of these factors, Beauvoir has been designated as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. secretary of the interior, the highest historical recognition that is bestowed by the federal government."

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