Scenic Drive was a step back in time. The elevated street in Pass Christian parallels U.S. 90 and the ancient oaks that line it were green glitter on the beautiful homes, gardens and waterfront views that made Scenic Drive a polished Mississippi Coast emerald.
   Some of the 85 houses on this two-mile stretch were built before the Civil War; others date from the turn of the 20th century. All, no matter size, became the stuff of home and architectural magazines. Scenic Drive is one of three sites in the United States designated as a national historic street.
   Reports the National Trust for Historic Preservation: "Scenic Drive remains the largest architecturally intact major 19th century resort area in the South and one of only a few... that have managed to retain most of their original character."
   That was before Hurricane Katrina, which ate high bluffs that separated the drive from U.S. 90 and destroyed many beachfront houses and businesses. The east end seems to have fared better, and that's where businessman Dave Dennis, wife Jane and two college-age children live.
   They returned Monday after repairs. It's not the Scenic Drive they are used to but the family remains upbeat, having counted about 12 livable houses and another 10 to 15 that are repairable.
   The Dennises were asked, as a family, what brings them back to Scenic Drive: "The historic nature of the houses and the attitudes and willingness of the owners to share the ambiance and history with others on the historic house tours makes Scenic Drive very special.
   "Scenic Drive appears to be rebounding significantly on the east end, and downtown has great expectations of rebuilding and renewal with the announcement that St. Paul Catholic Church will rebuild. The people on Scenic Drive who still have structures that are savable are working to the best of their abilities. We choose the optimistic approach."