Leona and Edward Watts bought the charming, two-bedroom house at 107 West 4th St. in Long Beach in 1944. It was small, but a wraparound porch and architectural detailing from hard-as-nails yellow pine from South Mississippi forests set it apart.
Missing records give the house's history a bit of mystery, but from talking with old-timers the Watts family decided 1885-90 is the likely building date.|
They also learned that druggist C.H. Castanera bought what he called "the little house" on Jeff Davis Avenue in the early 1900s, and by the 1930s he'd built himself a bigger house and moved this one to the back of his property facing 4th Street. The Watts family bought the little house from Castanera's widow.
When the 1947 hurricane came, Leona Watts weathered the storm in it with her two baby boys. When Camille came 22 years later the boys were grown but she was there with her husband.
"I had no intention of leaving for Katrina, then I saw 'mandatory evacuation' scroll across the screen," she said.
"I gave my house to the Lord before I left. I thanked him for the 61 years of use and I put it in his hands." With one extra pair of pants, she headed to her son's home and woke up the next morning with nothing. The hurricane had knocked the house off its foundation, twisted it and mangled her belongings.
"It can't be safely put back on its foundation," Watts said. "It has to be demolished but I'm hoping I can find someone who will take it down piece by piece. The studs and ceiling joists I'd like to be the framework for another house on the same property.
"I don't know if this will happen. It may be too expensive and I may not be able to afford it. But the timbers are beautiful and it would be a shame to carry it to the woods to burn."