What is this?

Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

Map of Southeaster United States

This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

Background on the towns and this project is available under the about tab above.

Click here for bios of the reporters and media producers who have worked on the series.

How you can help

RSS 

Get the latest stories, journal entries and images via RSS subscription.

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – The Heritage Conservation Network is in a race against time on the Gulf Coast.

The nonprofit organization is seeking to preserve as many materials as possible from significant homes in Hancock County that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, including columns, doors, woodwork and flooring, in hopes that they can be recycled in the new structures that rise from the rubble.

But time is running short because many local residents here, eager to move on with their lives, are ready for the Army Corps of Engineers to bulldoze the debris from their lots so they can rebuild.

Before that happens, co-founder Judith Broeker hopes to enlist volunteers to salvage as much material at these sites as possible and then redistribute it for free to interested builders and collectors.

The organization looks for what Broeker calls “vernacular” style houses – ones that are particular to a specific region – and has so far found six demolished structures that fit the bill.

“We try to pick buildings that will be beneficial to a community,” she says.

Broeker admits the network is in “new territory” with their work in a disaster zone such as this, but hopes her organization can make a positive difference to the community. “The bottom line is, we need manpower,” she says.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the recovery effort can find information on the group's Web site or by e-mailing Broeker.

MAIN PAGE NEXT POST A (mostly) quiet New Year’s Eve

Email this EMAIL THIS

28 COMMENTS

Ms. Broeker:

Your goals of re-building, to unique architectural standards, is admirable. You are to be applauded!

I'm sure you are aware of the PBS airings of THIS OLD HOUSE, and the follow-on televisings of similar ilk. I am quite certain this sort of visibility would have a positive impact on your efforts.

God bless you, and all to which you strive.


John Scanlan

Good work!!!some of the salvagable wood works would be difficult...if not impossible to replace

I think this is very commendable work, but I wish that they would "give" the salvagable items they find to Gulf Coast residents who are so sacked with expenses right now (I am a Gulf Coast resident, believe me, I know all about that). I would be willing to help find the items if they would be willing to give them back to coast residents, or at least sell it to them at very low costs!
Thanks, May God continue to Bless Katrina survivors!!!

Ms. Broeker, Keep up the good work. i was stationed in Gulfport 30 years ago and fell in love with those buildings.It's an American Heritage,thanks for not letting it die.

I wanted to clarify one of the comments in the article, especially in light of Melissa's comment on materials. HCN is not selling any of the salvaged materials, but is ensuring they are redistributed at no cost to builders using them for relevant projects.

Great Job! I agree that salvaging as many resources as possible is the way to go and that redistributing free to the people who really need the help is the way God intends for us to help each other. I loved this area when I was there in 2003 and I will one day return to visit Bay St. Louis again!

I too lived in the New Orleans area for 7 years, and the southern people are the most genrous and sharing people you would ever want to meet. They really need all the help they can get.

Judith here and thanks for the encouraging comments. I want to answer Melissa's question about the sales of items. We are definitely a non-profit organization. The materials will be made available free or at a very low cost to residents who are rebuilding. Imagine a new house incorporating elements of your own heritage and history!

What we are in dire need of is volunteers - both to restore houses and for the salvage project. Well wishes are appreciated, but what we need is some elbow grease! Pass the word! Send out the link to our site and this article to anyone you know who might be interested in helping this community hang on to what they have left. The clock is ticking, the bulldozers are coming and when we've lost these treasures, there will be no more.

I'd like be in contact with this organization. I agree with BK Lowrey in Sprinfield, MO. It is important to salvage and reuse as many resources as possible. We want to help directly with this operation. Let me know how we can.

I agree with your efforts to recycle the materals and such for salvage many of which I'm sure are one of a kind and irreplaceable. We, as a country, have always been very wasteful. Good luck

I know this is wrong to say at this time but why is this salvage operation looking for volunteers.As I see it I see opportunity for some young (LOCAL) person to step in and start a salvage dynasty to pass down to his children while saving their heritage at the same town. People do not understand but there is big money in used building materails just watch (This old house) and the stuff that they look for and the prices that the are quoted big money. Like I stated before I know there is some young local person that before the storm was looking to find a idea this may be it.

I agree that salvaging the usuable materials would be great but not at the expense of clean up. Personally I would be "disgruntled" if I wanted my lot cleaned and was told that it couldn't happen because some group that doesn't live here wants to try and salvage some materials. I support the effort, but hope thought is put in the people that actually live there and want to get their lives back.

Jordan, I agree. These were beautiful old houses. I hope that the group talks FIRST with the owners and helps them to sort through the debris for items that can be salvaged. I am sort of dumbfounded that this is not mentioned in the article. People in the Bay are very proud and very tied to the history of the area and of their homes. I know locals who have returned pieces of identifiable property that they found to the rightful owners, private or corporate. It is extremely important to so many people. Please... help them to sort out their belongings. I realize that items are sometimes strewn pretty far from the homes on the beach. If property owners are allowing the right of entry, it is because they are overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to do it themselves, or they can't for numerous reasons. Why can't your group/volunteers help them recover their lives... at least little pieces of them... instead of giving what you find to others. We went down and helped with emptying, clearing and gutting homes. This is not an opportunity to scrounge for "treasures," but to help people recover them.

Great idea, but sounds next to impossible to get enough material to be noticeable in any large scale redevelopment. Perhaps an effective addition to the project would be a collection of photographs, samples, etc. that modern building component manufacturers could incorporate into their products? Maybe call it the "Gulf Coast" collection. Those companies are always looking for a way to distinguish their products so what better way than to spoon feed them an entire architectural heritage? Sure, it's not "authentic", but if it looks like it is from the street it's better than, ugh: McMansions. Besides, modern materials would probably last longer& be more energy efficient.

Great idea. Bad timing. Peoples lives after such a tragedy for a current find of only six houses? If that equates to only six families displaced AND they agree to waiting then have at it. If others are impacted beyond that six or slightly more then either get on with it quickly, with definite loss of "historical materials" as a result or recognize that sometimes you just move on!

Move on.

Why salvage a little bit of the material when you recycle most of the materail and turn it in to new building material let the bulldozers come and get the material in to a pile and let those with no home get on with their lifes.

Sorry to be contrarian, but this has to be the most un-newsworthy article I can imagine. Instead of having volunteers poke through mounds of debris to find "old building materials", why don't those volunteers help build real homes for the 250,000 people left homeless that still haven't returned to the area. I'd rather see volunteers going to Habitat for Humanity rather than this well intentioned, but ill considered farce.

man...some of ya'll don't understand....what even some [small stuff]...by your standards....means to the heritage of Mississippi....and the whole south...thank you...God bless.....oh shoot i'll go on ...i've seen this stuff since i was a child....and would damn well like to see it again

Thank goodness some citizens have a sense of history. Thank you Ms. Broeker, for your efforts.

Knowing Judith and a little about the organization, I'd like to address of few of the negative comments here.

1. As I understand it, the salvage attempts are just a sidebar to the organization's main work. They are looking for volunteers to help historic homeowners repair their property, Check out this link: http://www.heritageconservation.net/ws-bay-st-louis.htm Most of these people don't have the financial resources to restore the properties on their own. And six projects is better than none! The more volunteers they have, the more people they can help.

2. The salvage work is not at the expense of clean-up. With property owners participating, the volunteers will salvage any usuable materials before the Corp of Engineers clears the property.

3. It's not a treasure hunt. All of these architectural elements will go into a landfill if someone doesn't collect them. I'd guess that any recognizable elements would be returned to owners if they could be located.

4. Many people in this community want to perserve what little we have left. If some of these irreplaceable materials (cypress doors, etc.) can be incorporated into new houses here, we're able to keep remnants of the past for future generations, serving as reminders of our heritage. THIS community consists of more than buildings - it's got a real heart and a true soul. We want to save what we can from the trash heap.

5. I might remind some of the nay-sayers that perhaps their time would be better spent offering not only suggestions, but a bit of elbow grease, whether it be for helping us salvage a bit of our past or rebuilding new structures. Bless all those who have come from around the country to help in whatever way they could!

Ellis, my apologies. I wish the article had been about the indespensible work they are doing on restoring historic homes. I'm really excited to see the homes that they have picked, and wish that so many more of the historic homes had survived. Our home on south beach blvd in the 1970's was a rebuild of a home destroyed by Camille...not nearly so beautiful as the historic homes. We sold it, but it and another home we had owned nearby are just slabs, now...like everybody else's. I'll spread the word to my family and friends and see if we can send another crew down to help. Thanks for the info and the web site!

I'd like to find some of these salvaged building materials for a house here in New orleans, thank you.
needed are: 2 x 4's, exterior paneling.

I was supprised to see waveland on tv this morning.The mess is still there.Has no one stepped up to the plate and taken charge of the community?where has the homeowners been?With the outside help this salvage should have been cleared long ago and all of the land should be ready for rebuilding with the salvagable materials stacked to the side.The residents should have been working in a community effort to clean this up since the storm hit.Is this government roadblocks or feet dragging of insurance companys or are local citizens just waiting for someone to do it for them?Whatever the problems are someone needs to be working to clear these problems or the community will never recover.

First, since when is OK to throw away both our past and good usable materials? Why buy linear foot after linear foot of 2 X 4s at Home Depot when there are better and free or very low cost materials sitting on the ground? Ya just can't find much good cypress siding around...I know because that house in the background of this picture has composite siding on the south side since we couldn't locate affordable or quality cypress siding to match the original on the west side.

And second, locals ARE working to uncover and reuse materials, and many of them ARE kids who are learning the value of what has gone and how to re-use what is left. Just ask my teenage daughter and some of her friends.

And how do I know this?

Well, I have been lurking about this website for some time now and I guess it is time to post and this thread is as good as any for the house behind Judith is the house where my daughter was born and where, for almost 25 years her father and I, and then her stepmother and her dad, restored, built, and rebuilt our lives and that house.

I can't tell you all how very happy to see the mantle I rescued in 1971 from a soon to be demolished federalist home in Alexandria, Virginia and put in 1986 around the fireplace in our daughter's room be once again saved to be used to brighten another person's home. Judith's "ladies" culled that mantle from the debris one of the days I visited. Lord knows it had traveled far to hide under the rubble of the BSL home. As workers from across the street and across the country plow through the rubble at that house in BSL, some old personal treasures (photos of our dogs - long dead and buried under the 200 year old tree that still stands on the east of the house -, various wedding pictures [mine and my wife-in-law's], the neighbors' handmade "Welcome to our Home" sign and the like) arise and that is nice, but even nicer is that when someone wants materials to rebuild they will have them because of the work of Judith and others.

Usable and much needed housing will arise with newly purchased materials too, but some housing will be built from those floorboards I personally sanded and drilled and walked across barefoot and bleary-eyed in the middle of the night when our daughter awoke and wanted a drink of water. On a personal note, I am finding that that makes the grieving a bit easier.

As I see the piles of recyclable materials rise on the slab where our "White Garage" once stood, I know they will be put to good use, finding their way into others lives instead of the burn pile at some dump site. Not surprisingly (to anyone who has seen the area near the beach) many of the mounting pieces of wood and hardware, windows and doors, are not even from "our" house but from houses blocks away...homes just as old and loved as ours.

Last week after I had walked Judith's colleague Colleen through the "debris field" noting materials of architectural value or materials that should be recycled, I saw a person standing in front of the house. Somehow I knew immediately who the woman was even though I never had met her before (perhaps the tears were a giveaway). I walked over to her asked if indeed she was a former resident of the house and introduced myself. We hugged and cried together for a bit. You see both she and my daughter were born in that home - separated by more than 60 years. She had moved to New Orleans in 1955 and had seldom come back but now she wanted to see the old place and how it weathered the storm (not too well, I am afraid). After stories about the theater down the road, the bakery next to the house her parents ran that burned in '64 or so, and my description of what the Heritage Conservation Network was up to atop the pile of rubble, we again hugged and parted ways. On leaving all she said was the she was glad those "ladies" were there; it eased her heart.

It eases mine too. Thank you all.

KR

BTW: Dave Greatfield: My ex- (the current co-owner with his wife, of the house in the background of the photo) works with a non-profit building materials recycler in New Orleans called "The Green Project". Their warehouse is up and back running on Press and Marias streets in the Bywater by the railroad tracks. I think you would easily find the materials you seek there. They are now associated with Mercy Corps and are again salvaging materials from old otherwise to-be-demolished homes for low cost redistribution to folks (a sort of non-profit "Ricca's) who are rebuilding the city.


you know....i passed an old house being demolished today....and i thought of how much good lumber was still there....the house needed to torn down...{the old lady who lived there was so tight she would't fix hardly anything and complianed you overcharged }...but i saw so much ...going to the dump....it made me sad

Comments for this post have been closed.

TRACKBACKS

Trackbacks are links to weblogs that reference this post. Like comments, trackbacks do no appear until approved by us. The trackback URL for this post is: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b0aa69e200d8346e599653ef

More Rising from Ruin

Story tips?