Today’s post is a reprint from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” from Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VII (1903).
To Deupree’s image I’ve added photos taken by HABS in 1936 and 1940: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ms0167/. This house still stands off Highway 61 north of Vicksburg, but is not visible from the road and has a No Trespassing sign posted at the entrance, so I’ve never seen it in person.
Nine miles north of Vicksburg, crowning a lofty hill overlooking a fertile valley and several miles of the Father of Waters, stands Blakely, the plantation home of several generations of Blakes. The first of the name of which we know anything was a young gentleman of wealth and culture from Virginia, who came West in 1834 seeking a home in the new Eldorado. He traveled leisurely, viewing the lands as he journeyed. When this lovely valley met his eye we can easily imagine he cried “Eureka” and set about the task of possessing the fair land. Upon the site of the present residence there stood a rustic log building once used as a rendezvous by the notorious highwaymen, Murrell and Phelps. It is said that when Mr. Blake began to plan his home he removed the log structure and found beneath the floor a cavern filled with bones of men and horses, gruesome relics of the victims of the robbers. A trap door in the floor of the room above would open mysteriously and let the hapless man or beast fall into the cavern below, but it never opened to let one out.
The first home, the one story part seen at the right in the picture, was built in 1835. Several years later the two-story building was added. A wide hall joins the two parts; wide porches extend across the entire front and partly across the south side. The first door to the right of the entrance leads to the dining room, a large lofty apartment with windows on the east and west sides. Those opening toward the east give most beautiful views of the sloping hills and grand old trees; those, toward the west give pictures of the valley and distant winding river. The open fireplace, with its handsome mantel and jambs, speaks of blazing fires when the Frost-king becomes too bold and crosses the line that marks the land of sunshine and flowers. The furniture is of mahogany of elegant designs and polished to mirror-like brilliancy. North of the dining room and connected with it by folding doors is the library. The walls are lined with shelves filled with books of history, poetry and fiction. Easy chairs, couches, tables and desks insure an hour of pleasure and profit to any one who wishes to avail himself of the advantages of this quiet place. The broad, low windows of the library open into the rose garden, where the queen of flowers holds high carnival throughout the long sunny season, almost from the beginning of the year to the end. To the left of the entrance are the parlors, where taste and wealth have combined to make almost ideal apartments.
South of the home and in full view from the south porch is the sunken garden. It was stated in a Northern paper some time during the year 1902 that the only sunken garden in America was in process of construction on the estate of Mr. Gould, in New Jersey. Mississippi can claim a sunken garden that antedates Mr. Gould’s by several years. This fair garden covers quite a large amount of ground; the embankments are twenty feet high and covered with the richest verdure. It is laid off in the highest style of landscape gardening. The walks converge at the center, where the greenhouses are built to shelter the delicate plants brought from tropical climes to shed their beauty and fragrance over this home. A tiny stream flows through the garden to a fountain sending aloft a jet of water, which falls in a misty spray into the basin in which gold fish disport themselves.
At the foot of the hill on the western side is a garden of native flowers and plants. Here are long avenues bordered with roses, syringa and crepe-myrtle,–flowers that speak eloquently of the old South and her hospitality. Blakely has lost none of her fame for generous hospitality; for in recent years a little white messenger bearing the words “At Home” (Blakely), is sure to cause a thrill of delight in the heart of the recipient, be she maiden fair or matron staid; be he gay, gallant, or dignified lord of creation. Each and all know there’s a good time in store.
The grounds about this home lacked nothing, it would seem, in natural beauty; but art has lent a hand, and trees and shrubbery from many lands have been transported here and persuaded to add their charms to those of native growth.
It gives great pleasure to be able to state that this beautiful home is still in the possession of the heirs of the Mr. Blake who established it, and is occupied by them. May it never pass into stranger hands.
Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VII (1903), pp. 330-332.
This post is part of a series taken from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” published in 1903. Want to read others in the series?
- Eagle’s Nest
- Mount Salus
- Shirley House (Wexford Lodge)
- Jacob Thompson House
- Blue Mountain