Monday, July 24, 2017

The Story of Longwood – Natchez Mississippi

In addition to the photos we took of historic homes and other sites in Natchez plus the post I published on Magnolia, the historic estate operated by the National Park Service, we visited 2 other historic homes in the area.  There are so many options in the area for home tours that I will admit that we had some trouble choosing which ones to visit.

After Magnolia, we tried to pick the 2 that seem to be the most popular with visitors…

This is Longwood.  Because a tent had been erected in front, I used this postcard to show off the exterior of this unusual and unique home.   This home, also known as Nutt's Folly, is an historic antebellum octagonal mansion that is topped with a byzantine onion-shaped dome.  Longwood is the largest octagonal home in the USA. 

Construction on this home began in the spring of 1860, not long before the outbreak of the Civil War.   It was planned to be the home of Dr. Haller Nutt and his family.  He was a successful planter and plantation owner who grew cotton and sugar.  Nutt owned 5 plantations in Louisiana and Mississippi with a combined total of 43,000 acres and 800 slaves.  His estimated worth prior to the Civil War was $3,000,000.  By comparison with today’s dollars, the historic standard of living value of that wealth is around $88,200,000.  In purchasing power, it would now be in excess of $1 billon dollars.


·       Dr. Nutt also developed a strain of cotton that became commercially important for the Deep South.

This project encountered a very large problem…the US Civil War!  This is a view looking up at the unfinished dome of Longwood.  The lights were up for an event...
Construction of the exterior of this huge Oriental Revival style mansion was completed by the beginning of the Civil War.  However, with the threat of the Civil War looming, Sloan's skilled artisans feared for their safety, halted construction and fled back to the North.

Nutt suffered massive financial losses during the Civil War due to the destruction of his cotton fields and much of his real estate.  General Grant spared one plantation because, despite being born in the south, Nutt was pro-Union.  Despite Grant’s assistance, the expropriation of stores and supplies by the Union and Confederate armies led to the foreclosure on Nutt's plantations in Louisiana. 

When the craftsmen left this construction project just before the outbreak of the war, they left many pediments and other architectural bits and pieces behind.  

The basement level of the home was completed by slave labor and the family moved in during 1862.  Dr. Nutt died of pneumonia in 1864 before the close of the war.  He had married Julia Augusta Williams in 1840.  They had 11 children.  Julia Nutt lived in the finished lower level of the home until she died in 1897.  Two additional generations lived in the home before it was purchased by a foundation that began restoring the deteriorating structure in 1963.

When you consider the age of exterior of this structure and the lack of care that it had for many years, it is a testament to the expertise and skill of those craftsmen as well as the building’s architect that it is still standing today. 

The tour of Longwood includes a tour of the family’s finished ‘temporary’ living quarters in the lower level/raised basement of the home.  I was disappointed that no photos were allowed.  While it was nicely furnished for the era and there are a number of windows, it still felt a bit like living in a basement and it had to be quite frustrating to have that magnificent unfinished space above the residents…

I love these big windows and the arch over the door!  When completed, plans for the house would have resulted in a finished product with 32 rooms, 26 fireplaces, 115 doors, 96 columns and a total of 30,000 square feet of living space.  In reality, only 9 of the 32 rooms were finished…and they were all in the basement/lower floor. 


·       The more than one million bricks used to build Longwood were all made on the grounds of the estate.

The previous 2 photos show the original shipping containers, tubs, kerosene tins, nail barrels, etc. that were all left behind by the craftsmen fleeing the Civil War back in 1861.

Julia Nutt was left with the responsibility of raising and educating the children. While she ended up retaining 2 plantations, Cloverdale and Lochland, they weren’t always profitable…creating continuing financial difficulties for the Nutt family. Nevertheless, Julia Nutt managed to support her children and provide them with what educational and social opportunities she could afford.  She always held out hope that she’d find or receive the money needed to finish Longwood. 

The family persistently lobbied for the passage of a bill that would partially compensate them for their losses due to the Union army.  However it appears that the total of all payments (reparations) actually received by the Nutt family never came to much more than about $100,000. 

One can only speculate on how magnificent this home would have been had it been completed before the Civil War.  The exterior is exquisite!  Note these beautiful columns and woodwork along one of the porches.

Longwood is located on 87 acres of land.  In addition to the main house, the property contains 5 structures: the Necessary; the Kitchen, the Slaves Quarters, the Carriage House, (with Julia’s buggy), and the Stables.  The estate’s geometrically-patterned gardens are located at some distance to the southeast of the mansion near the entrance to the estate. The family cemetery is at the southwest corner of the property. 

The upper five stories are an architectural wonder…a magnificent work in progress where time just froze in place.  The chimney-like shape of the house was intended to funnel warm air up toward the top of the cupola, creating an updraft that escaped through windows high in the building, thus drawing fresh air into the lower floors.  The 2 'skylights' in the floor were installed to increase the lighting in the Nutt's actual living quarters...

Longwood was presented to the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez in 1970 and it is one of 2 properties that they utilize not just for tours but also for weddings, receptions and other gatherings.  As you can see, remnants of the previous day’s event had yet to be taken down during our tour.  

To learn more about this organization, you can go to their Facebook page at or their related website at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, July 21, 2017

Natchez National Historic Park – Melrose

While in the Natchez area, we decided to tour a few of the well-known historic homes that survived the Civil War.  Historic tours are big business in Natchez with lots of options for visitors. 

FYI…The Natchez Visitor Center is a great place to start your exploration of the area.  It is situated at the eastern end of the Mississippi River Bridge where US Hwy 84 carries travelers to and from Louisiana.  We watched an informative video about the history of the area before starting our explorations around town.  To learn more, go to

This is the front entrance to Melrose, one of the 3 segments that make up the Natchez National Historic Park. 

The other 2 segments are the William Johnson House (the ‘Barber of Natchez’ a mulatto freedman) and the site of Fort Rosalie on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  The fort was established by the French in 1716.  For information on the William Johnson House see my posting on 7/14 or you can go to

This is a side and back view of Melrose.  John McMurran moved to Natchez in the mid-1820s.  With a profitable law practice, election to the state legislature and marriage into a respected local family, he was on his way to success.  Over time he acquired 5 cotton plantations and slaves.  In 1841 he purchased 132 acres of land just outside Natchez and by 1849 this mansion and its outbuildings were complete and the family moved in. 

The landscape around Melrose evolved from gently rolling hills interspersed with ravines to a mixture of ornamental trees, a formal garden, natural settings, fenced work areas and native cherry laurel hedges.  Basically, the finished product resembled an English park.

In this photo, just to show their size, I’m standing in front of a copse of some very large Magnolia trees.  FYI…a southern magnolia in Smith County Mississippi has the distinctive title as the US National Champion.  That tree is 122 feet tall and it has a trunk diameter of more than 6 feet. 

These are some of Melrose’s outbuildings.  Today’s existing structures include octagonal cistern houses, a smoke house, a privy, one of the last remaining slave quarters in Natchez, a barn, and a carriage house.  The carriage house has a number of carriages on display.

These are the former slave quarters.  One building serves as an office for the National Park Service and the other is open for visitors so they can glimpse what I am sure is an ‘upscale’ version of slave’s living quarters.

Between 1841 and 1861, the number of slaves working on this estate rose from 8 to 25.  They cooked the family’s meals, served them, cleaned the house, provided transportation, tended the gardens, cared for the livestock, etc.  Back in the day, the ideal southern household was one in which the slaves were rarely seen but they were always ready to serve.

This large 2-story outbuilding is right behind the Melrose mansion and across from an appropriately designed visitor’s center.  It served as the kitchen for the main house as well as the dairy building.

FYI…As a National Park property, visiting Melrose is a bargain when compared to other antebellum mansions in the area.  Although National Park passes don’t cover the tour, the tour fee for adults is only $10.00 and if you are 62 or older, the fee is only $5.00 per person.

If I remember correctly, this is an oil painting of John McMurran.

Following the death of their daughter and 2 grandchildren from disease during the Civil War, John and Mary McMurran sold Melrose and moved in with Mary’s widowed mother who lived at a similar estate.  The Davis family purchased Melrose in 1865 and it remained in that family until 1976.  It was open for some tours as far back as 1932.  The property was acquired by the National Park Service in 1990.

Although I’m sure it’s a matter of both opinion and considerable local debate, many consider Melrose to be the finest home in the Natchez region. 

Ornate Rococo-style chairs and marble-topped tables, wall-to-wall carpet and painted oilcloths with silk-trimmed wooden Venetian blinds accompanied by expensive silk drapes filled the house.  A large portion of the furnishings on display are original. 

The formal dining room is expansive.  The contraption hanging over the table is a mahogany “punkah” which, when operated by a slave pulling the cord to the left of the fireplace cooled the room a little and chased the flies away from the food.

FYI… A punkah (Hindi) is a type of fan used since the early 500 B.C.  In the colonial age, the word came to be used in British India and elsewhere in the tropical and subtropical world for a large swinging fan that was fixed to the ceiling and pulled by a coolie during hot weather.

I thought that the furniture looked like it was from the Victorian era… Instead, as mentioned previously, it is an ornate Rococo-style.  Little did I know! 

Rococo or Late Baroque", is an early to late French 18th-century artistic movement and style.  It affected many aspects of the arts including painting, sculpture, architecture, interior design, decoration, literature, music, and theatre.  This style developed in the early 18th century in Paris France.  It was a reaction/revolt against the grandeur, symmetry, and strict regulations of the previous Baroque style…

Most rooms at Melrose were connected to a bell system that hung at the back of the house.  It was operated by rope pulls.  Each bell had a different sound and they were used to summon domestic slaves that were quartered on the upper floors of the ‘dependency’ building just behind the main house.  The sound of each bell indicated in which room service was required. 

Beds at Melrose and other plantations or estates all incorporated the use of mosquito netting.  In warm weather and without screens on the windows, mosquitos were a real problem.

For this posting I only used a few of the photos that I took.  I didn’t take pictures of the Ionic columns that flanked oak-grained pocket doors that connected the 2 (not just 1) parlors.  Nor did I take a photo of the personal library that houses hundreds of books.  One feature that didn’t lend itself to a photo was the hidden hallway at the rear of the house on the first floor that was built so the house slaves could provide their services without being seen any more than was necessary.

This was a child’s room.  Love that little crib and the toys in the room…

Melrose has been restored to its original 1840s appearance.  Although John McMurran spared little expense in building a home with “all that fine taste and a full purse” could provide, even he held down his costs when he could.  For example “faux marbling” was used to decorate the exterior columns and wall surfaces.  Faux marbling, a technique of painting a surface to resemble the look of marble, was very “in” at the time.

Here is Laurie posing with our National Park Service guide, Rebecca Weaver.  Rebecca did a great job conducting our tour, describing all the major points and items of interest and fielding most of questions.  She even went out of her way to look up one of the paintings that Laurie thought she’d recognized.  Thanks Rebecca!

For information regarding the Natchez National Historical Park you can go to the National Park Service’s site at

For a more in-depth look at Melrose including some truly top-notch interior and exterior photos, you can go to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Views Around Natchez Mississippi #2

Continuing with our ‘drive by’ tour of some of Natchez’s many historic buildings…

This 2-story 13-bay yellow brick building is the Natchez City Hall.  It was built in 1924 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the On-the-Top-of-the-Hill Historic District.  Given all of the older and more striking historic buildings in this city, the main reason I took a photo of this one was those beautiful live oak trees…

This is the one and a half story Federal style John Baynton House (aka “Williamsburg”) and it’s located at 821 Main Street.  The house was built in 1833 for a land speculator named John Baynton.  It was subsequently purchased by the Junkin family.  One of their descendants was John R. Junkin who served as the speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives in the 1970s.

St. Mary Basilica, formerly St. Mary's Cathedral, is a parish church in the Diocese of Jackson and a Minor basilica of the Catholic Church.  This Gothic revival church was dedicated on December 25, 1843 and consecrated on September 19, 1886.  It remained the cathedral for the diocese until 1977.  It was designated a minor basilica on September 8, 1998 and dedicated as such on September 25, 1999.

There are 82 Catholic Churches in the USA that have been designated as a minor basilica.  Research revealed that the reasons for the designation are long and complex as are explanations regarding special status in the church.  Go to for more information. 

This is the Dixon building at 512-514 Main Street.  It was constructed for Scotsman Robert Smith Dixon in 1866 and it was owned by the Dixon Family until 1975.  FYI, it’s up for sale, listed by Natchez Realty.  Website:

After 40 years of being unused for the most part, the current owner has undertaken an extensive appropriate restoration.  The ground floor is being finished as a commercial space and the second floor will include 3 apartments.  One will be a luxury apartment of over 2,000 square feet opening onto the front balcony. 

Trying to differentiate between the Brown-Barnett-Dixon’s Building at 511-515 Main Street and the Dixon Building across the street was challenging because the National Register of Historic Places shows this building at the other building's address. 

Fortunately, the description of this ca. 1866 structure…a 2-story 7-bay stuccoed-brick building with fluted cast-iron Corinthian columns clearly identified which building was which.  The National Register properly describes this building at this address but it’s listed as the Cole’s Building for reasons unknown.  Whatever its name, it is a beauty!

I didn’t know that I’d taken a photo of both portions of this building until I got home and did some research.  The Banker’s House that I’d included in a recent posting is actually the rear portion of this impressive bank building.  They are both parts of an unusual combination building, housing both a bank premises and the principal banker's residence. 

Built in 1833, the bank is a remarkably high-quality and well-preserved example of Greek revival architecture.  From what I’ve been able to determine, the bank itself was used for many years by the First Church of Christ Scientist but it is currently unoccupied.

Dunleith is a 12 room antebellum mansion that was built ca 1855.  It’s Mississippi's only surviving example of a plantation house with a fully encircling colonnade of Greek revival columns.  This former home sits on 40 acres and the property includes several outbuildings including a carriage house, dairy barn, poultry house and a three story brick courtyard building that historically would have housed the kitchen, laundry and slave quarters.

One notable resident (actually a slave) from Dunleith, was John Roy Lynch.  After the Civil War he would go on to become the first African-American Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Mississippi State Legislature and one of the first African-American U.S. Congressmen. He studied law, authored several articles and books, and would serve in several appointed political and military positions during a long career. After his death in Chicago 1939 at the age of 92, Lynch was buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

Dunleith is now a Historic Inn with 22 luxurious rooms.  The Castle Restaurant is located in Dunleith’s original carriage house and stables.  They were actually built in the 1790’s.  This 18th century brick structure which resembles a castle at one time was home to upscale carriages and thoroughbred horses.  To learn more, you can go to

Factoid: The 1957 film, ‘Raintree County’ was partly filmed at Dunleith, as was a portion of the 1974 version of ‘Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn’ by Columbia Pictures, as well as an episode of ‘Promised Land’ for CBS television in 1998.

Auburn is an antebellum mansion that is located in Natchez’s Duncan Park.  It was designed and constructed in 1812 for Lyman Harding, the first Attorney General of Mississippi.  It was the first building to exhibit Greek revival design in the town.  Its prominent two-story Greek portico served as a model for the subsequent architectural development of local mansions.

After Lyman Harding died in 1820, the building was bought by Dr. Stephen Duncan.  Duncan later abandoned the building amid growing secession tensions just before the Civil War and the house was placed in the care of his descendants.  The Duncan family sold the home and 222 acres to the city of Natchez in 1911.  It now serves as a historic house museum in a public park.  To learn more, go to  

This sweet looking home is called Pleasant Hill.  This one-and-a-half story frame Greek revival residence on a raised basement was built ca. 1835.  This home was originally built by John Henderson, a prosperous merchant, publisher of the local newspaper, and a founder of Natchez' First Presbyterian Church.  The original home was built on property that is now the location of a well-known antebellum home…Magnolia Hall.  During the 1850's Pleasant Hill was moved one block south on log rollers pulled by oxen teams, quite a feat indeed! 

Today Pleasant Hill serves as a Bed and Breakfast offering 4 bedrooms, each with a private bath.  To learn more, just go to

This is Magnolia Hall which is also known as the Henderson-Britton House.  It was built in 1858.  Magnolia Hall was built by Thomas Henderson, a wealthy merchant, planter and cotton broker.  This home sits on the property where Pleasant Hill (the previous home discussed above) had been moved from… 

Magnolia Hall was also one of the last great mansions to have been built in Natchez before the outbreak of the Civil War. It did not escape that conflict as shelling by the Union gunboat Essex damaged the home.  In fact, a cannonball landed in the kitchen.  Thomas Henderson died in the home before the war ended and his ghost allegedly haunts the premises to this day.  Check it out at

The Natchez Garden Club has restored Magnolia Hall.  Rooms on the main floor are filled with mid-nineteenth century antiques, while rooms on the upper floors contain a costume collection.  Magnolia Hall is open for tours, and there is a gift shop.  See for information.

Our last stop on this driving tour of Natchez is a bit more current than the previous buildings.  This is the Eola Hotel at Main and Pearl Streets in downtown Natchez.   This 7 story brick hotel was built in 1927. 

This upscale hotel has apparently been closed for 3 plus years now.  I found an article dated in December 2014 that stated that the building had been vacated and was ready for the new owner to take over.  He was expected to turn about half of the building into upscale condominiums.  He is also behind the addition of the Magnolia Bluffs Casino to the Natchez riverfront.  To view photos showing the Eola Hotel’s former opulence, just go to

I hope that you enjoyed our tour… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Restaurant Linderhof – German Cuisine

We’d recently dined at Roland’s Bistro, a German restaurant in Maryville Tennessee…and it was a positive experience.  So when our friends Karen and Charlie asked us out for dinner at a well-known long standing German restaurant in Farragut Tennessee, we readily agreed.  Would this be another positive experience with ethnic food in East Tennessee?

We had dined at Restaurant Linderhof previously, when it was in its old location in Farragut.  Its new location is in the Renaissance Center, a 29 acre campus style development located on Kingston Pike in Farragut. 

I took this photo of Karen, Charlie and Laurie at our table at Linderhof.  Note the Germanic décor along the walls. 

Our previous dining experience at Restaurant Linderhof at its old location was not a positive event.  A really bad, overly personal waitress, mediocre food and high prices combined for an unpleasant evening out…  That negative experience was 3 or 4 years earlier and we were hopeful on this occasion.   

Other than where we were sitting, the German themed decor did not carry through the rest of the dining area.  Still, it is a pleasant and colorful space with decent spacing between the tables.  Besides, in the end, isn’t it all about the food and the service?

Laurie and I started out with a small bowl of some very tasty beer cheese soup. ($4.50) Our waiter also brought us some decent bread and soft butter to enjoy with our soup.

Available salads ranged from the Linderhof Salad Tasting Plate which included red and white cabbage slaw, pickled dill cucumber and German potato salad ($6.50) to Herringsalat with pickled herring with shaved onion, gherkins, sour cream, and dill. ($9.50)

Appetizers were many and varied.  They included: Bleu Chips with house-made kettle chips topped with bleu cheese sauce, Neuske’s bacon and green onion ($9.50); Hof Wings, their version of classic Buffalo wings cooked with micro pork shanks served atop a bed of house-made kraut ($13.50); Best of the Wurst with a choice of 3 sausages served with a tasting of condiments ($15.50), and; Bratatouille, bratwurst simmered in their house-made ratatouille sauce on top of a potato pancake with red kraut and Swiss cheese ($12.50)

As it turned out, everyone chose a Schnitzel Platter for their entrée.  There was a choice of a thin-pounded breaded veal, pork or chicken cutlet topped with traditional lemon wedges or one of Linderhof’s signature sauces.  They were accompanied by 1 side.  Prices were as follows: Chicken $17.50, Pork $21.50 and Veal $25.50. 

This was Karen’s Jäger Schnitzel…schnitzel with a creamy, lightly sweet mushroom sauce known as “Hunter Style”.

Laurie went for the veal schnitzel, ordering it with Paprika Rahm sauce, creamy tomato sauce flavored with paprika—sweet and a little spicy.  It was a nice sized portion and Laurie liked it but as the menu stated, the sauce was a bit sweet…a little too sweet for her taste.  She was used to a slightly less sweet and a little spicier version that we’d experienced when we lived in Chicago.

Charlie also had the Jäger Schnitzel…but for his side he went for the Käsespätzle…basically spatzle with cheese melted into it.  Spätzle are a soft egg noodle found in the cuisines of southern Germany and Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Alsace, Moselle and South Tyrol.  Käsespätzle is a bit like American macaroni and cheese.

Charlie also had a side order of Red Kraut. ($4.50) I tasted it and it was very good. 

Besides the schnitzel options, Restaurant Linderhof offers a wide variety of German dishes.  These include: Schweinshaxe, roasted pork shank served atop their house-made kraut with one side ($31.50); Fürstenteller Schweinshaxe, Kassler Rippchen, Bratwurst and Thüringer sausages served with house-made kraut, red kraut and German fried potatoes ($42.50); Kassler Rippchen, a 10-ounce smoked pork chop served on a bed of house-made kraut with one side ($19.50), and; Veal Rouladen, thin-pounded veal stuffed with Neuske’s bacon, their signature ale mustard relish, red kraut and one side ($26.50).

Although I went for the schnitzel too, I just had to be a little different.  Although a fried egg usually only comes with Holstein schnitzel, I ordered an easy-over egg with my Kapern pork schnitzel and Käsespätzle.  Kapern sauce is a sweet and tangy caper and cream sauce with hint of lemon.  The combination worked quite nicely.

We all had schnitzel and therefore had a somewhat limited exposure to the overall menu.  We all enjoyed our meals and that is a big change from our previous experience at Restaurant Linderhof.  The food was very nice and the service was more than competent.  The prices are a little eye-catching though… We will have to return to try something else on the menu in order to really evaluate a range of their offerings.

Restaurant Linderhof is open daily.  They are located in the Renaissance Center at 12740 Kingston Pike in Farragut Tennessee.  Phone: 865-675-8700.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to see what was for dinner!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, July 14, 2017

Views Around Natchez Mississippi #1

The first goal of our recent trip was Natchez Mississippi… This is the first of my posts about the general historic sites and overall views of this old city on the Mississippi River.  I’ll intersperse these overviews with specific attractions and dining experiences.

This is a view down Main Street in downtown Natchez.  As you can see the only ‘high rise” building in sight is a church steeple.

Natchez is the county seat of Adams County Mississippi.  The city has a population of about 15,100, significantly down from its peak which was recorded in 1960 when there were 23,791 people living here.  Natchez was a prominent city in the antebellum years, (prior to the Civil War), a center of cotton planters and Mississippi River trade.  The city was named for the Natchez tribe of Native Americans, who with their ancestors inhabited much of the area from the 8th century AD through the French colonial period.

This is another view of this pretty and very laid back city.  Laurie and I felt that Natchez has the combined feel of New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah…only on a much smaller and more manageable scale. 

Natchez was established by French colonists in 1716.  It is one of the oldest and historically most important European settlements in the lower Mississippi River Valley.  After the French lost the French and Indian War they ceded Natchez and nearby territory to Spain in the Treaty of Paris of 1763.  After the Revolutionary War, the United States acquired this area from the British.  Natchez then served as the capital of America’s Mississippi Territory and, until 1822, the capital of the state of Mississippi.

This is a view along South Broadway Street in Natchez looking north from Bluff Park which faces the Mississippi River.  The large brick structure at the center left of the photo is the Natchez Grand Hotel and Suites which opened in 2008.

Natchez is historically important for its role in the development of the ‘Old Southwest’ during the first half of the 1800s.  It was the southern terminus of the historic Natchez Trace, a 440 mile long trail, with its northern terminus being at Nashville Tennessee.  After unloading their cargoes in Natchez or New Orleans, many pilots and crew of flatboats and keelboats then traveled north over the Natchez Trace to their homes in the Ohio River Valley.

The Mississippi River was the other critical element to the early importance of Natchez.  As you can see, the river is really expansive as it flows south past the city.  That tiny dot in the river is a tow boat headed south with its flotilla of barges… You may need to enlarge this photo to see it!

Natchez is situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  Its location ensured that it would be a pivotal center of trade, commerce, and the interchange for 2 centuries after its founding.  During the twentieth century the city's economy declined.  Initially this was because of the replacement of steamboat traffic on the Mississippi River by railroads in the early 1900s.  The railroad bypassed the city in the early days and in doing so, Natchez’s commerce slowly ebbed away.

Now onto a few historic properties around town…

This is the Bontura House on South Broadway.  This private residence facing Bluff Park and the Mississippi River was built ca. 1851 by Robert D. Smith.  He was a free African-American who operated a carriage service in historic Natchez.  This home also served as an inn that was owned by a Portuguese merchant.

Nearly half of Mississippi's pre-Civil War free black population lived in Natchez, and Smith's historic home is one of two surviving Greek revival houses built for successful free black citizens.  A two-story rear section of the house has arched openings provided wide entrances for Smith's carriage business.

The Bontura House and the Swiss Chalet Style Edelweiss House shown above are both located in the Natchez On-Top-of-the-Hill Historic District as listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  This Victorian era home across from Bluff Park with its raised basement is considered to be the finest example of its style in Mississippi.  It was built in 1883.  It certainly grabbed our attention!

We drove around Natchez quite a bit, seeking out homes and buildings listed on the National Register.  The Greek Revival style home above is the William Ailes House.  It was built in the 1850s and it is typical of the type of residence built for the working middle class citizens of antebellum Natchez.  Apparently it is now being used as a gallery for the display and sale of decorative and fine arts. 

This Greek revival residence is called The Banker's House on South Canal Street.  I didn’t realize it at the time that I took this photo, but this home is very unusual in that it is a single structure…actually the rear residential portion of the Commercial Bank which is located at 206 South Main Street.  The bank and home were constructed ca. 1837 with the security of the banker in mind... 

The home was for sale when I checked.  It encompasses 6,200 square feet and includes 6 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms.  It was listed at $749,000, down significantly from an original listing price of $989,000!

This is the William Johnson House.  It was constructed in 1841 and it’s is one of 3 sites in Natchez that are part of the Natchez National Historical Park, which is operated by the United States National Park Service.  See   

William Johnson was born the son of a mulatto slave woman in 1809.  At the age of 11, William was emancipated by his white slave owner, also named William Johnson and who is presumed to be his father.  Johnson purchased his first barbershop in Natchez in 1830.  He would eventually own and operate 3 barbershops and a bath house in the city.  

State laws concerning property ownership didn’t prohibit a free person from owning slaves, even if that person had formerly been a slave.  In Johnson's world, slave ownership was a signal of economic and social status.  After achieving financial success, Johnson was able to purchase slaves and profit from slave labor in his business, on his farm lands, and in his family's home.

Johnson was murdered in 1851 by a mixed-race neighbor named Baylor Winn, in front of Johnson’s son, a free black apprentice, and a slave.  Winn was held in prison for 2 years and brought to trial twice.  Johnson was a well-respected businessman and outrage over his murder caused the trial to be held in a neighboring town.  In that town no one knew Winn, so they didn't know that he was half-black.  Since Mississippi law forbade blacks from testifying against whites in criminal cases, Winn's defense was that he was half-white and half-Native American, making him white by law.  The defense worked, none of the (black) witnesses could testify, and Winn escaped conviction.

For our final historic stop in this post, we stopped in front of the First Presbyterian Church at 117 South Pearl Street.  This massive and impressive church was completed in 1830 and added to the National Register in 1978.  The congregation was first formed back in 1817.  The church itself was built in the Federal Style while the ‘new’ attached Stratton Chapel (added in 1901) is in the Romanesque Revival-style.  This is considered to be the finest Federal Style church building in the state of Mississippi.

That’s about it for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave