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


  1. What amazing story. Really interesting. xo

  2. Fantastic and fascinating post, Dave! And I love your perspective in these photos! Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Very interesting, Dave! What unique architecture of the house, and too bad the doctor couldn't enjoy it and see it now. He was one wealthy man! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Dear Dave, This is absolutely magnificent. It truly is amazing what was achieved and how quickly and sound the building was in years past. The heart, soul and pride was put into the work and it shows.
    Thank you for letting me know about my site. I think it is finally working now. All the best to you and Laurie. Catherine