When a bit of roughhousing broke the antique foyer mirror, Amy Steiner and her siblings weren't in as hot water as the deed dictated. The break revealed an envelope with Confederate money and train tickets.|
It was yet another mystery for 309 East Scenic Drive. The house did not exist during the Civil War but the mirror came from the old Hancock Bank down the street in Pass Christian.
Years later, Amy took the mirror to a New Orleans restorer and learned more, but not about the Confederate money. Behind layers of paint on the frame was gold gilt.
Returned to its original beauty, the mirror was rehung in the foyer after Amy and husband, Jeff, spent 1½ years restoring her family home. It had been built in 1890 as a rental cottage for the Mexican Gulf Hotel, which burned within two decades. But that cottage and two others remained and were moved closer to the water.
Amy Steiner had such fond memories of growing up, with her grandparents next door and easy access to the beach, that she dreamed of making it her home again. She and Jeff bought the house from her mother and began a monumental restoration, which included displaying memorabilia from the Mexican Gulf Hotel.
Katrina claimed everything.
The Steiners and Amy's brother Charlie Stewart had stayed because the house had weathered Camille well and the floor was 29 feet above sea level. They tell the story of heading to the attic, only to realize it was blown away. They ended up in the back yard, hunkered behind a debris dam.
Only 14 inches of water reached the inside of the 3,400 square foot house.
"I think what happened is that it started falling apart from 12 hours of relentless wind and then the water came and pushed it around," said Steiner, who, with her husband, works at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport.
The "good" news is since the restoration was completed only 13 months earlier, they already have a builder and architect familiar with the house.
"We are planning to build back and we'll make it look the same," she said. "It's doubly hard for me and my brothers and sisters, because we lost our childhood home and all that history, but I want to be back in Pass Christian. It is a small town with good people.
"Recently we looked in the carport and there was a container of our important papers that someone had found and returned."
- KAT BERGERON