Jim and Pat Dunay drove up and down the Mississippi Coast looking for the perfect house to convert into a bed and breakfast. They settled on the beachfront Santini House in 1995 and after two years of restoration - it had been divided for rentals - they opened their B&B.|
"We lived in West Palm Beach at the time and wanted to start our business," said Jim Dunay. "We thought a B&B would do well on the Coast since the casinos were just starting and they didn't have hotels yet. "We had a few years before we had to start competing with the big hotels."
At first, they used two rooms for guest bedrooms and they lived downstairs with them.
Eventually, the second-floor attic was turned into the Dunay's living quarters.
When they restored the old slave quarters as The Honeymoon Cottage, Santini House B&B had a total of five guest rooms. Pat prepared the breakfast, which featured oven omelets and special French toast.
All that was served up with a lot of history. The Santini house was likely the earliest Biloxi example of an architecture known as the American cottage. It was built around 1837 not far from what would develop into downtown Biloxi.
Joseph Santini, a New Orleans merchant and importer, bought the property in 1867 and it stayed in his descendants' hands for more than a century. Even after that, local history and architecture books called it the Santini House.
"The information that was recently discovered was that a Confederate general had lived there," said Dunay. "His name was Alexander P. Stewart and he died in 1908 in the Santini House. I suspect the Santinis rented it to him for practically nothing because of the war connection."
Katrina swept it all away, the history to read, the antiques and period reproductions the Dunays used to furnish the house, and of course, their family photographs.
"The house moved back and accordioned," said Dunay. "You could look in and see boxes that seemed untouched, but my wife was afraid the house would collapse if I crawled in to get them."
So the bulldozers got it all, including The Honeymoon Cottage.
"We can't bring back the Santini House and all the history that went with it. That would be impossible," said Dunay, who has resettled in Florida.
"We had put the house up for sale before Katrina because of my health, and I don't think we will rebuild there. Probably some day a condo will sit on that land."
- KAT BERGERON