Mediterranean Meets Mississippi
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
Visitors to the Eldridge/Scott home on Keller Street in Bay St. Louis may be from Albania or Algeria, or Kemper County, Mississippi, but it’s likely that they’ll all feel right at home as soon as they step through the door. Or before.
Even the yard of the historic cottage has a global flair. Along the sidewalk, the classic wooden gates in the masonry wall might be found in Europe or Africa. Whimsical yard art scattered across the grounds gives a nod to different cultures, while tapping into the universal language of laughter. “You’re going to spend a good time here,” the sprites and frogs and dragonflies seem to say.
At Home in the Bay
“One of the things we like best about the Bay is that people feel free to drop in,” said Cindy. “Our old friends and our new friends know that they can come knock on the door anytime.”
Cindy grew up “in the middle of nowhere,” Kemper County, Mississippi. Even as a child she knew that she wanted to be a lawyer. She graduated from Mississippi State with a degree in Political Science, and later obtained her law degree from Mississippi College. Her first legal job was clerking for a prominent federal judge — named William Barbour.
The two coworkers eventually became friends and married years later, in October 2001. Cindy was by then a federal prosecutor. She and Dave investigated working as federal employees overseas, but Cindy’s first applications for positions abroad were fruitless. The couple believed they’d have more opportunities in the nation’s capitol, so they stored most of their household belongings, sold their Jackson house, and moved to Washington, D.C., where Cindy accepted a temporary position.
The strategy worked. Within the year, Cindy and Dave both secured jobs with the American Embassy in Albania, where they lived 2008-2013. In 2013, the couple accepted a two-year posting in Algiers, the capital city of Algeria.
During these years, Cindy advised lawyers, judges, and officials in those countries in money laundering, counter terrorism financing, and anti-trafficking law in addition to performing legislative drafting. Dave worked as well, first as procurement supervisor in Albania and housing coordinator in Algeria.
During their time living overseas, the couple made lifetime friends. The central locations of both Albania and Algeria made international travel easier, so they vacationed in a laundry list of countries: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece, Egypt, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Indonesia (including Bali), France, and Great Britain. The pair shopped for art, textiles, and examples of fine craftsmanship wherever they traveled.
Cindy flew home for a marathon shopping expedition in February 2015. After deciding on Bay St. Louis over Ocean Springs, she looked at every available cottage on the market in Bay St. Louis. None seemed good fit. As the time approached for the long flight to Algiers scheduled for Mardi Gras morning, it seemed she'd return to Dave with no serious prospects.
That night, she joined friend Karen West in the Depot District for the Mystic Krewe of Seahorse parade. There, a mutual friend told her about a nearby cottage that would be coming on the market in a few days. With the address in hand, she walked — in costume — to the cottage on Keller Street. From that first Lundi Gras view of the front, Cindy knew immediately that she’d found their new stateside home.
Owner Frazier Rice happened to be in the yard. When the stranger in costume explained that she was interested in his house, Frazier was stunned. The cottage wasn’t even on the market yet.
"How did you know?"he asked.
“Well, a woman in a bar just told me,” she replied.
There was a hitch: Frazier wasn’t ready to show the house on the spot, and when Cindy mentioned that she was headed back to Algiers the next morning, Frazier assumed she meant the New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers, an hour’s drive away.
So Cindy caught her flight the next morning at six in the morning without seeing the interior of the cottage. In the next few days, however, her real estate agent Estus Kea and Karen West were able to see the house and report back. When the house went on the market Saturday morning, Dave and Cindy purchased it from Algeria, sight unseen.
Flash forward to the middle of March, when Dave and Cindy first walk into the house that they’ve committed to making their home. There was not a whiff of buyer’s remorse. Only the question: Where will all our stuff go?
Dave and Cindy had all the furnishings they’d stored eight years before. They also had boxes of art and objects they’d collected on their travels and shipped back to the states. They had two complete kitchens, for instance.
“We gave a lot to our daughters,” said Cindy, and laughed, “and we’re getting ready for another winnowing.”
The house doesn’t appear to be cluttered, but is simply very interesting. An eclectic mix of art is sprinkled liberally throughout the house, intriguing pieces inviting contemplation, admiration, or laughter. The textiles, rugs and other furnishings lend a distinctive Old World feel, as if you’re visiting a well-loved beach house on the Mediterranean owned by a family from Mississippi. Nothing is fussy or pretentious. The overall narrative of the cottage tells the story of two people who prioritize three things: food, conversation and good times with friends.
A few changes are in the works. Architect friends in Jackson are working on a plan to open up a few walls and allow for a kitchen expansion, something chef Dave says he’s looking forward to. On one of the side yards, what’s currently a pebbled courtyard will eventually evolve into an outdoor kitchen and dining area with more garden beds. The entire yard is zero-scaped, so there’s no lawn.
“Isn’t that sad?” Dave deadpans and then smiles.
“I’ve lived in the middle of nowhere, and in a city of a million people,” she said. “Algiers has six million people in a city built for 750,000. It is very, very crowded. And there are no stoplights, just policemen with machine guns. So I laugh when people complain about the traffic on Highway 90.”
Another aspect of life in the Bay they enjoy is riding around Old Town in their golf cart. Frequently, they putter over to the Cedar Point boat launch and join friends for a daily sunset celebration.
“People who work for the government abroad lead a very nomadic existence,” says Cindy. “We’re both happy to be back amongst our tribe.”