GULFPORT, Miss.—More than 100 years ago, Camille was built on sandy earth just blocks from the Gulf of Mexico.
Her roots were strong. The little two-story home withstood violent winds and enormous waves throughout her long life. When Elaine and Harold Adair restored the house and opened it as a bed and breakfast about three years ago, they paid tribute to its history by naming it after the 1969 hurricane, which was the most violent it had endured.
Today, the Camille Bed and Breakfast sits less than a block away from a neighborhood destroyed by Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29. And it survived.
The Adairs bought the home on 33rd Avenue in 1999, and Harold Adair worked painstakingly for three years to restore and strengthen the building. He installed 50 piers under the house to anchor it more firmly to the earth.
His dedication to detail may have saved a portion of the couple's livelihood—and their lives. They rode out the storm inside Camille.
"Of course, we put in three years of extra nails," Harold said. "It didn't tear a piece of tin and it didn't break a window."
The couple talk about their little bed and breakfast as if it's a female relative.
Camille is a diva. She wears all colors of dark wood accessorized with rich antiques, intricate lace curtains, animal figures and opulent upholstery.
The Adairs have mounted satellite images from hurricanes on the walls. Each room is named after a different hurricane. The largest, a decadent red room with imposing antiques, is known as the Hurricane Camille room. Then there's the masculine blue room with rich draperies named after Hurricane Georges. And there's Elena.
"We needed something that would have a touch with history, so we named it Camille," Elaine said. "It's amazing that it stood."
As Katrina raged on Aug. 29, Camille hardly shuddered. Harold said his wife "read a book, and I paced the floors and looked out the windows. This is where we have come for all the storms. I said to Elaine, `It's been here 100 years and this will do.'"
A giant oak tree in front of Camille took about nine hours to fall over. But Camille emerged nearly unscathed. Many of the Adairs' friends and acquaintances didn't fare so well.
"It's a reality check going down the road every day," Elaine said. "It gets personal, oh mercy. We feel worse for people that weren't as fortunate as we were."
The Adairs now live in the Hurricane Camille suite, after Katrina's storm surge leveled their 3,000-square-foot beach home. Another couple whose Long Beach home was ruined by the storm are also staying indefinitely at the bed and breakfast.
The Adairs say they'll have to find a way to weave Hurricane Katrina into Camille's heritage.
"Katrina needs some kind of priority," Harold said.
(Kreller reports for the (Boise) Idaho Statesman.)
(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): WEA-STORMS-HOME
Need to map