Jim and Teri Wyly lived on perhaps the highest point on the Coast in one of the sturdiest homes, but even that was no match for Hurricane Katrina.
"We took a hit," said James G. "Bubba" Wyly, an attorney. "A structural engineer has told us it is still structurally sound so we will rebuild."
"It will be one of the oldest homes on the beach (almost 100 years old). She's full of memories and deserves to be rebuilt," said Teri Wyly, also an attorney.
She said clay tiles were being placed on the damaged roof. Carpenters were coming in this week.
The Wylys lost most of their belongings, but say they feel fortunate that older stucco homes, like theirs at 216 North Beach Boulevard, fared better. "Not one of our hardwood floors buckled," said Teri.
The Wylys bought the home in 1986 from Joe Scharf. They have continued restoration and remodeling projects on the two-story, 7,000-square foot home. It was originally the Tulane Hotel, which burned around the turn of the 20th century. The Spanish Mediterranean-style home was built by the Genin family.
"We were told it was the highest beachfront elevation on the Gulf of Mexico between Key West, Fla., and Corpus Christi, Texas," Wyly said. Its elevation is 25-30 feet and is not in the flood zone. The Wylys are working with their insurance company in an effort to resolve their claim.
It's well above the 18-foot required elevation, so it meets all requirements for restoration.
Teri was with her daughter in Connecticut, who was registering for her senior year, when Katrina hit. "We saw our home on television news. It was still standing. What a miracle," said Teri. "But we were overwhelmed by the devastation to our hometown."
The Wylys said they returned home and found restoration is doable and deserved. "We hope to be back in by December. We'll be one of the first in the neighborhood. But we still don't have a road in front of the house."
Wyly is with Phelps Dunbar law firm, and Teri is with Balch and Bingham. They have a sixth-grader, Connor, 12, son Grady, 20, at Ole Miss and daughter, Katie, 22, at Connecticut College.
"Our home was full of memories," said Teri. "But we'll create new ones."
- GARY HOLLAND