Alice Martin's family settled at 545 Front Beach Blvd. 65 years ago into an interesting raised cottage built in 1923. The age was a bit deceptive because the Ocean Springs house was rebuilt on a basement that dated to an 1880s house destroyed by fire.
   The stucco frame house overlooking Deer Island had 11-foot ceilings, a wraparound porch and was built with huge timbers. Heart of pine, cypress and stucco were used in construction.
   "You look at a picture, at how big and heavy the house was, and it's hard to imagine how water could disintegrate the house," said Alice Martin. "We were eyewitnesses to the demise, and we can tell you that the water was over 30 feet."
After Katrina leveled the house, she and husband Gay spent 2 hours in a giant cedar tree, where they had floated on part of the roof.
   "The home was leveled but we are still finding things, small things like china and mementos, fragile things that you think would be crushed," said Martin. "Yesterday, way back in the mud, I found an old wax seal stand that is probably 100 years old with the family crest on it. Buried in gravel, we found a silver cup given to my grandfather in 1852.
   "The property is four acres and it's a lot of area to spread things over, and that's fortunate because a lot of people don't have that to search.
   "We're trying to develop a philosophy of what to do with the land. We've had a wonderful house there for a long time and we were blessed to have it in our family for so long."