Making a Debut – This Comeback Home’s Stunning Transformation
The little house couldn’t have imagined such a turn of fate for itself.
Built during the Reconstruction era, it had seen major changes over its lifetime: The rise of the Holy Cross neighborhood around it; the construction of the Industrial Canal a block away; the long years of decline; a hurricane named Betsy, which it survived; a hurricane named Katrina and a levee break, which it almost didn’t survive.
But on a rainy October 2007 night, elegant gas lanterns flicker on the home’s front porch, conventioneers crowd the deluxe kitchen, a brass band blasts from the elegant side porch and the drinks flow under a big tent in the street outside. It is a celebration of rebirth. And it is 4804 Dauphine’s re-birthday.
The guest list contains not only conventioneers, but also the people who joined forces to save the house: contractors, Preservation Resource Center employees and Traditional Building Conference organizers. On the lawn is Eric Peterson, director of the building show; in the living room is David Dillard, the architect who re-envisioned the house; and in the parlor is Maryann Miller, assistant director of the PRC’s Operation Comeback, who with her colleagues hustled to make this night, and everything leading up to it, happen.
Guests marvel at the magnificent copper bathtub, worthy of Napoleon. They admire the Victorian-style floor tiles and imagine living here. They poke around from nook to nook to survey details and discover what secrets the house is keeping.
Miller relishes the fact that so many—from national exhibitors who donated materials to local people working hands-on—could join forces to rescue the house and share in the rewards of a completed product. She says she was impressed with the way people came together in “symphonic coordination.”
Beyond that, Miller says, is the miraculously high standards to which the house was restored.
“This was a building that was horribly scarred and deformed,” she says. Under different circumstances, its best hope was to be returned to a functioning building again.
Instead, fortune smiled wide on the little house. “Before you even enter it, you can tell it’s a house that has been restored to the highest historic preservation standards,” Miller says.
One of the local contributors was designer-colorist Louis Aubert, whose paint scheme was among the final touches placed on the house. For the outside, Aubert chose an off-white with dark green shutters and a sky-blue ceiling for the porch—in other words, colors appropriate to the period of the house’s construction. “It’s very traditional. It’s a classic look. And it does work,” Aubert says.
By December, the house was to have been placed on the market. Miller says the PRC was expecting to ask $249,000. The well-appointed, 1,750-square-foot dwelling is located a good stone’s throw from the levee along the Industrial Canal, as well as a view of the Mississippi River and the city.
Someday soon, the traumas of the little house’s past—such as having a pecan tree fall through the middle during Hurricane Katrina—are now imperceptible and will be forgotten. So will the efforts of those many contributors. But the little house will be cherished for its simple grace. And it will return to being what it was always meant to be: a place somebody calls home.