Jefferson Davis acquired Beauvoir in 1879, the Davis'
set about expanding
the already beautifully developed grounds of the estate.
Varina Howell Davis (Mrs.
Jefferson Davis) was obviously very pleased with
Beauvoir, but was particularly proud
of the new garden she created. In a February 29, 1880
letter written to her daughter
Winnie, who was in school in Europe, Varina stated,
"...I work very hard in my garden as
it is new, and quite large. I think about 2 acres...."
In this and
subsequent letters she wrote over the next few months,
described in both words and sketches the lay-out of the
garden and the great variety of
flowers, fruits and vegetables she planted. Her kitchen
garden produced items for her
table such as strawberries, artichokes, radishes,
peppers, eggplants, Irish potatoes, and
asparagus. There were both common and exotic
fruit-bearing trees, including oranges,
citrons, figs, peaches, apples, pears, quince,
pomegranate, and jujube. Flowers and
fragrant flowering shrubs abounded-- gardenias, jasmine,
anemones, gladiolus, Japan
lilies, St. Joseph lilies, fire lilies, and mignonette.
Roses, however, were the star
attraction of her circular flower garden, and Varina
collected and cultivated cuttings of
many different varieties.
Davis left Beauvoir following her husband's death in
1889, her lovely
gardens slowly fell into neglect. The remnants of them
were largely eradicated by
Hurricane Katrina. Although over the years various
efforts have been made to restore
the gardens, until now no comprehensive restoration has
been attempted. The present
project to restore Varina's renowned gardens at Beauvoir
is the result of several years
of exhaustive research and study and is funded by grants
from the Mississippi Dept. of
Archives and History and the National Park Service.
Reconstruction of visitor walkways
and fences destroyed by Katrina are being funded by
As the Beauvoir estate is a National Historic Landmark,
designated by the Secretary of
the Interior, it is very important to preserve both the
main house and its historic
landscape setting. Restoration of Varina's garden will
not only reestablish a significant
historic feature of Beauvoir's landscape, it will also
provide an important attraction for
the Gulf Coast's heritage tourism industry. Just as the
gardens brought much joy to the
Davis' and their guests in the late-19th-century, the
restored garden will, no doubt,
continue to bring beauty and enjoyment to future
generations of Mississippi families
and visitors to our state.
Kenneth H. P'Pool
Deputy State Historic
Mississippi Department of
Archives and History
© 2012 Beauvoir 2244 Beach Boulevard,, Biloxi, MS 39531 228) 388-4400 (228) 388-7800 FAX