The magnificent oak in front, covered in Resurrection Fern (one of the most interesting plants ever), conjures daydreams of generations of children laughing and swinging on a rope-and-board swing hanging from one of its limbs. And the porch swing on the porch makes one think of their own Granny, gently moving back and forth and shelling black-eyed peas for supper or embroidering initials on a tea towel.
Kathleen Beesley, who bought the house in 2013, knows something of the history of Dezauche House, gleaned from public records and local lore. Below is some of what she's learned of the home and its surroundings.
"To the best of my knowledge," Beesley said, "the house was most likely built in the late 1800s." The first recorded filing for the house in Mobile County records was in 1905, "which had something to do with a septic change," she said.
One of the first owners was a doctor, either Long or de Long. The yellow house that sits next door was once attached to the back end of Dezauche House. "Apparently, the doctor decided to separate them so that his residence was separate from his business," Beesley said.
Another of the owners was the Van Amburg family who ran a store just down the street from the State Bank that is being renovated into a public library. Beesley said that she believes they owned the property from the late 1930s or early 1940s 'til the 1970s. The Van Amburgs added an extra bedroom and bathroom and closed in the breezeway (back porch) between them. During the '70s, it was turned into two apartments, and Beth McClinton, sister to Lee, Jordan and Thad McClinton, was one of the tenants while she attended college.
In the 1970s, Herbert and Frances Ross owned the house, and, said Beesley, Herbert "made it famous by selling shrimp and seafood from Bayou La Batre out of the house. People came from far and wide for his quality seafood," she said.
As Herbert Ross became challenged with physical mobility issues, he cleverly devised a number of ropes and pulley systems throughout the house to assist his getting around in a wheel chair. "Many people found this quite amazing and have described it as looking like an elaborate spider web," Beesley said.
After the Rosses passed away, their grandson Reggie, son of Andy and Pamela Ross, owned the house until Beesley bought it two years ago.
About the splendid old trees, Beesley said: The spectacular giant live oak out front boasts an 18.5' circumference trunk, is nearly 80' tall and its branches have a span of about 100'. "It is very difficult to determine its actual age without risking its health, but it could well be a few hundred years old," she said.
There is also an impressive magnolia on the property with a trunk that measures about the same as the oak. It's not quite as tall--about 70'--and its limbs have a reach of 80-90' The flowers it produces are massive--"plate-sized"-- and "absolutely gorgeous," Beesley said. There are also producing pecan, fig and a few other "remarkable trees," she said.
Beesley said that when she bought the property, she'd planned to turn it into a tea and coffee shop, maybe a high-end supper house. But having to lay some 400' of field lines for a septic tank and sewer system would require taking down either the live oak or the magnolia. "I just couldn't do that; it would be unforgivable to tear either of them down," she said.