Five years ago when Rodger and Sandy Shanks bought 1274 Beach Blvd., they named it La Belle Maison, French for "the beautiful house." |
The name change was threefold: The deep French roots on the Mississippi Coast, the fact that interior woodwork featured fleur-de-lis and a friend of theirs who'd grown up in France suggested it as the perfect name.
Century-old, hand-carved Corinthian columns and gorgeous oval paneled, sidelighted doors and transoms stood out in a beachfront neighborhood of other beautiful homes west of the White House Hotel.
The front view of La Belle Maison was the beach and water, but the back veranda set its own relaxing pace with ancient oaks and gardens.
With sweat equity and love, the Shanks converted La Belle Maison into a bed and breakfast, leaving part of the first floor as their personal residence. They enjoyed hosting Americans and world travelers in the four antique-filled guest rooms.
"Sandy would always say the outside of the house was my job and the inside was hers, but I do make a great breakfast," said Rodger Shanks. "I put a lot of time, not just money, into repairs and restoration. A lot of me went into that house."
The house, entirely of cypress, was built in 1897 by Dr. Charles Weatherby, who entered real estate and helped develop Avondale, one of Biloxi's earliest subdivisions.
Katrina turned La Belle Maison into rubble.
"For us, it was more than a monetary loss. We loved that house," said Shanks. "The future has a lot to do with how much insurance we collect and what the city's new plans are for Biloxi and the different codes. We don't know where we're going until a lot of issues get settled.
"We hope to live there again."
- KAT BERGERON