Three times John and Cynthia Hammond opened their historic beachfront house for the popular Pass Christian Tour of Homes. The view from their terrazzo-floored porch was as unforgettable as the mix of antebellum, French Rococo and seaside-resort wicker furnishings acquired over a lifetime.
John Hammond was a New Orleans attorney and the couple, like a number of others who lived in the Pass, maintained two homes. After his death and after 23 wonderful years of the porch view from 716 West Beach Blvd., Cynthia Hammond decided to sell.
"After experiencing Ivan in 2004, I realized without him it was just too difficult for me to board up and get ready for every hurricane," Hammond said.
The large, 1850s cottage that received a Colonial Revival facelift after a 1947 hurricane had also been lowered four feet by previous owners and the wooden porch replaced with the terrazzo floor and round cement columns.
Hammond said goodbye to all that when she sold to a New Jersey couple who wanted a large beachfront home near New Orleans. In June, Hammond moved her furnishings to a house she bought on St. Louis Street. It was several blocks back from the beach and had survived Camille, so she considered it a safe place.
She boarded up and evacuated for Katrina but took little with her, not even photographs, because it would be safe.
She returned to nothing on St. Louis Street. Her former house at 716 West Beach was also gone.
"I moved into a FEMA trailer on a friend's driveway and couldn't decide if I wanted to stay or go," Hammond said. "I was looking at houses in New Orleans - we'd already sold ours - and here on the Coast. And then I got caught up in the excitement of the charrettes."
She refers to the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal, which brought widely recognized community planners to Mississippi to help each city rebuild.
Hammond has downsized to a 2½-bedroom house on Park Ridge Lane in the east part of town, and is finding excitement in simple things like new sofas.
"I don't have any regrets about staying," she said. "You get caught up in all the charrette plans and the possibilities of the future.
"It's an ongoing saga that I want to be part of, and I can still walk in the evenings and see a beautiful sunset."
- KAT BERGERON