Last weekend, my parents and my two Chicago aunts came to visit me, or I should say they came to visit Natchez and let me come along as a tour guide. My aunts were intent on seeing some of the antebellum mansions they had read about, and I had a hard time keeping up with them on their mission.
On the way down, we got out very briefly at the Rocky Springs stop on the Natchez Trace (only long enough for me to take a picture of the church from the gully below), then headed back on our way. We only had one full day in Natchez, so it was tough to narrow down what they should see to give them a somewhat clear picture of the antebellum development of the “Natchez estate.”
I thought Auburn would do very well as an introduction, since it’s one of my favorite grand houses in the state–even if it was designed by an alleged wife murderer (hey, they never proved it!). Possibly the first “White Columns” type of house in the South (1812), its details are what always draw me back–so beautifully crafted but also so idiosyncratic, not copies of pattern book drawings like you find in some of the larger and later mansions. And of course the staircase, resting on thin air. I knew my engineer father would especially love that.
In the afternoon, we headed down the deep moss-laden road to Longwood, voted by Mississippians last year as their Favorite Building in the state. I suspect my family members would agree with that assessment. My dad noted that it’s the only house museum he’s ever seen left in its unfinished, exposed condition–I can’t think of any others in the country, but maybe there are others?
We finished the busy day at Melrose, which as has been noted in recent News Roundups, is undergoing maintenance and restoration work, so scaffolding and orange tape all around. I’d have to say that even though the tour was probably the most academically correct (we heard the “doors were taxed” story at both Auburn and Longwood), it didn’t have the zest and interest of the other two, and I was surprised that the tour only went through the main house and didn’t mention the large and intact group of outbuildings.
The next day, we hit Rosalie first thing in the morning, then headed back to Jackson, with a slight detour to see Windsor Ruins. Yes, there’s lots more to see, but I think we did pretty good for one day’s work. It was good to go see these established historic sites–sometimes, I get so enamored of finding the obscure historic places that I overlook the obvious ones.