Joe Blass evacuated from Pass Christian to his daughter's Starkville residence while Katrina was still churning in the Gulf.|
Though he was worried about the damage his beachfront home might receive, built circa late 1800s, there was some measure of comfort given it rested 28 feet above sea level.
The structure did escape the surge, but powerful winds left some major bruises.
"I think my house was the victim of a tornado because if you look at aerial photographs, there was an apparent strong force... you can see different spots," said Blass. "It took the roof off like it was severed with a knife, and part of it was bunched up in the back."
Eight large oak and magnolia trees that served as nature's fence around the property were uprooted, and inside furnishings sustained heavy damage from the storm's downpour.
But remarkably, not one window pane was broken due to the protection of "old-fashioned" window shutters, originally hinged when the house was first constructed.
With the help of out-of-town family members, a face lift was scheduled with an Oxford builder, and surgery on the historic home began in November.
A key part of the project, at Blass' request, was restoring 905 East Scenic Drive to its original state as close as possible.
"I have come to love the Coast, and I thought the old homes were wonderful and a sign of happy times and happy people," he said. "I wanted to be a part of bringing it back to the way it was."
The cypress and yellow pine wood, and fireplaces custom designed with bricklayer art were salvaged - even replaceable "fish scale" shingles shipped from British Vancouver were used.
Blass camped out in the dining room while his house was being repaired, and in March, the building crew returned to Oxford.
"It has a certain charm and dignity about it and has stood regardless. There is something very determined and undisturbed, like she is saying it takes more than a storm to keep me down."