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Rising concern Amid worries about frequent flooding, several homes in Old Mandeville’s historic district have been elevated STORY BY Kim Chatelain PHOTOS BY Charles E. Leche THE HISTORIC HOME at 2525 Lakeshore Drive in Man- deville has been in Leonard Rohrbough’s family since 1912. Built as a Creole cottage around 1843, the house has, on count- less occasions, defied raging floodwaters from Lake Pontchar- train, about 100 yards to its south. Located on a ridge in flood-prone Old Mandeville, the house has never taken in water through its antique doors, de- spite it being only about three feet off the ground for the first 170 years of its existence. However, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Isaac in 2012 brought storm-whipped water within inches of the threshold. Daunted by the near misses and the realization that rising sea levels further enhance the threat, Rohrbough and his wife, Becky, faced a dilemma: elevate the structure or face sky-high flood in- surance rates and live with the risk of having a future storm lay it to waste, or at very least compromise the old home’s underbelly. Lifting the house was also a pricey option, well into six figures. But the couple knew that if the house was ever put on the market, potential buyers would demand a discount to cover the elevation. Then, there was the issue of whether raising the house out of harm’s way would undermine its historical value, a question that loomed large for Becky Rohrbough, a preservationist who was president of the Old Mandeville Historic Association. “It was gut-churning,” Becky Rohrbough said, referring to the de- cision of whether to elevate the irreplaceable lakefront home. “We didn’t want to ruin the house.” In January 2015, the couple moved out of their house and be- gan a nine-month project to lift the structure off of its original and partially crumbling 64 short piers. Upon completion, the lowest interior level of the house was raised to just under nine feet above the ground, about six feet higher than it was before. The Rohrbough home is now among the approximately 70 percent of structures that have been elevated in Mandeville’s historic district, which stretches about a mile and a half along Lakeshore Drive and several blocks north of the shoreline. The Rohrboughs said they are more than happy with the finished product, despite its cost. The couple followed a relatively new set of local government guidelines designed to enhance the aesthetics and protect the historical integrity of historic homes undergoing major chang- es. The couple said jumping through the hoops was no picnic, but well worth the effort. “People started complimenting us, and we had some tell us it looks better than ever,” Becky Rohrbough said. “As one archi- tect put it, ‘you nailed it.’” Mandeville is one of several waterfront communities in the country taking the lead in dealing with mitigating flood hazards in historic districts. Charleston, S.C., and Annapolis, Md., are among others that have grappled with the issue by establishing SEPTEMBER 2019 Flood photos courtesy of Becky Rohrbough PRCNO.org • PRESERVATION IN PRINT 17