Confederate Leader's Mansion Rises Again Badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina three years ago, the historic post-Civil War home of rebel leader Jefferson Davis in Biloxi, Miss., is undergoing painstaking renovations.
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Confederate Leader's Mansion Rises Again

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Confederate Leader's Mansion Rises Again

Confederate Leader's Mansion Rises Again

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It was three years ago this month that Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Today, people are still trying to rebuild their homes and their lives. In Biloxi, Mississippi, two artists are working to restore the historic post-Civil War home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Ron Brown reports.

RON BROWN: Things are looking up at the Beauvoir mansion in Biloxi. So are the tourists.

Unidentified Tour Guide: Welcome to Beauvoir. Thank you for visiting.

BROWN: Jefferson Davis bought this home in 1878 and lived here until his death in 1889. Like thousands of others, Hurricane Katrina badly damaged this house, ripping apart its stately white columns overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. But in this 200th anniversary of Davis's birth, Beauvoir is undergoing a major restoration.

(Soundbite of restoration work)

BROWN: A man and a woman ascend scaffolding to paint the ceiling and walls. But it's no regular job. Husband and wife team Linda Croxson and Phillip Ward are copycat artists in the best sense of the word. They're recreating in exact detail murals on the walls and ceilings of the landmark estate.

Mr. PHILLIP WARD (Copycat Artist): It's like forging someone's handwriting.

BROWN: Ward and Croxson use historic research to determine how Beauvoir looked 150 years ago. By slicing through layers of paint with the scalpel and examining it under a microscope, researchers discovered the original colors and the original artist's technique. For eight hours each day, they look up using tiny paintbrushes and bring the past to life. It's slow work. Croxson says it's best described one way.

Ms. LINDA CROXSON (Copycat Artist): Tedious. And that's what everybody says. How can you stand it? Painting a vertical surface isn't bad, but painting over your head seven, eight, nine hours a day can get very painful.

(Soundbite of classical music)

BROWN: The painters usually listen to classical music as they recreate another artist's work. They say it feeds their intellectual stimulation and stifles their own artistic creativity. When they leave Beauvoir, however, these two artists let the paint fly, and they don't worry about going outside the lines.

Ms. CROXSON: Abstract, large abstract paintings.

Mr. WARD: Straight lines.

Ms. CROXSON: We just want to just splash paint around, yes. Do what we want to do, yeah.

Mr. WARD: Working in an office would seem tedious to us. And we don't - we're not in an office, we're together, which is something that we like. And we learn something new on every job.

BROWN: Ward and Croxson have spent the past four months here at the Biloxi, Mississippi, mansion of former rebel leader Jefferson Davis. It'll take another eight months before they're done painting. History does not come quickly or easily. Neither does its recreation. For NPR News, I'm Ron Brown.

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