Joe Alexander is a general contractor known for his carpentry magic. Sixteen years ago, he built a speculation home on Langley Point in St. Martin in Jackson County, where he grew up and where much of his family still lived.|
The 2,200-square-foot, brick A-frame showed off his carpentry with tongue-and-groove walls and ceilings in a living room that came to a 30-foot point. Oak floors, custom cabinetry - it all had the Alexander touch, and the distinctive brick had come from old buildings in Chicago.
They had a young, growing family and Alexander and his wife, Mary, felt the house was a good showpiece for the business. In 1989, they moved in the house, fell in love with it and never sold it, even when money was tight. Their four kids grew up there, and even were allowed to skateboard inside because this was a lived-in house.
When they moved into 15604 Rue Dauphin, Mary Alexander finally planted an orange tree she'd moved from rental to rental, as the family moved around. The tree was special because Joe's mother had planted it on a lark, from a sweet orange she had eaten.
On Rue Dauphin, near Back Bay, the tree grew huge and finally bore fruit last year. "When Katrina uprooted the tree, it had 500 little green oranges," said Mary Alexander. "Sometimes, I think I will miss that tree most."
Custom-made furniture, a pottery collection and other family mementos were lost, but a few things had been carried away by the family. Because Camille in 1969 had wiped out Langley Point, the Alexanders took precautions each time a storm threatened.
"I'd tell the kids to pack whatever they'd miss most if we came back and there was nothing left, never dreaming it would really happen," said Alexander. "We'd fill our car every time a hurricane threatened, but we always came back to a house. This time, nothing."
Seven of Joe Alexander's siblings face the same. Not one of the 60-plus homes on Langley Point stands. The Alexanders now live in their business, Alexander Builders, which received 8 feet of water but was fixable.
"We're so busy with cabinet orders that we don't have time to think about building a new house, and right now, that could be a good thing," Mary Alexander said. "It's unknown what we will do, but last weekend we were stacking the bricks Katrina left."