Deupree’s Historic Homes: The Mason Homes

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). This is the last essay in Mrs. Deupree’s ground-breaking two-part series on Mississippi’s historic homes. The first Mason home is now known as “Hamilton Place” and is a contributing building in the Southwest Holly Springs Historic District, while the second Mason home looks like it might be “The Magnolias,” which is also in the Southwest Holly Springs district.

Home of Dr. S.D. Hamilton.

Home of Dr. S.D. Hamilton.

The Mason Homes

About the year 1825 William F. Mason, a boy of fifteen years, left his home in Baltimore to try his fortune in Tennessee. He went to Fayetteville, but did not remain there long, going thence to Pulaski, where he engaged in mercantile business. He often rode on hoseback from Pulaski to Baltimore to buy goods. After some years in this business his health began to fail; his physician advised him to take a trip to New Orleans on a flatboat and fare in all respects as the boatmen did. He took the advice and the trip; lied on fat bacon and corn hoecake; roughed it generally, and returned much improved. In 1837 he came to Holly Springs, just one year after Marshall county had been organized and named and the town laid off. The Indians were more numerous than homes. In 1840, he helped to organize the Presbyterian church, becoming one of the charter members. He was also made an elder the same day. During this year he began the erection of a handsome home, the first large house in the young city. It stands at the end of the street running south from the courthouse square, which it fronts. Mr. Mason was wont to say: “My front door is in town, my back door in the woods.” The unbroken forest lay just beyond his premises. The house is of colonial architecture and differs but little from numbers of the ante-bellum homes of Mississippi. The size, shape and style of the windows make or mar the interior effect; and the builder of this home realized the truth of this and planned his windows on a generous scale, filling the sash bars with small squares of glass which give one the assurance that he is inside of a house and yet do not obstruct the views of the world outside. A door of generous proportions admits one to the hall of spacious dimensions. A Venetian screen divides the hall. The stairway leads straight up from the front hall to a wide landing lighted by a double window set with tiny panes of tinted glass; while from the landing a shorter flight of steps leads to the long upper hall. There are four rooms on each side of the halls. A porch in front, on the first floor, and a small balcony, in the second story, have light railings. Many fine old monarchs of the wood stand sentinel on the ground.

Mr. Mason and family resided in this home until about 1850, when he built a new and handsomer home in the southern part of the city. The old home is now owned and occupied by Dr. S.D. Hamilton. In the new home two styles of architecture were combined which has a very pleasing effect in the midst of so many colonial structures. The house is almost square but has the arched doors and windows usually designed as Gothic. The windows are filled with diamond-shaped glasses, leaded instead of barred. The home stands on rising ground, having almost the appearance of an English manor house, generously proportioned and well situated. The approach is simple, but effectively contrived; from the gate the broad, smoooth walk divides and leads around the two sides of an oval-shaped bit of lawn; the walks are bodered with voilets and other low-growing flowering plants; a large magnolia stands in the center of the plot of grass; nearer the house is a wide-soreading live-oak, whose branches shade the house and portico effectually from the western sun. The hall is broad and roomy and opens into rooms of handsome dimenstions. On the left is the parlor, the walls covered with beautiful paneled paper; the windows are long and arched, draped n misty lace; handsome paintings and engravings ornament the walls; a pier glass above a marble shelf, which rests on a brass standard, occupies the space between the north windows. A polished mahogany table holds among its treasures a card-receiver which has the honor to be the only article of furnishing left whole in the room after a raid of the Federal soldiers in 1862. They cut the paintings from their frames, tore the draperies from the windows, and stripped the carpets from the floors. The china cabinet contains several pieces of china seventy-six years old, all of the pieces being models of Ceramic art. One of the pieces is a pitcher decorated in low relief with fiures of gypsies around their camp-fire, kettles hanging on cranes, and with trees bending above the encampment; but, alas! this work of art was the victim of a ruthless hand, and one side of the spout is gone.

The grounds around this home are extensive and laid off with taste and skill; on the lawn are tall oaks and stately magnolias, scattered here and there; some where nature planted them, others placed where the shadows from their broad branches subdue the light and heat of the too ardent rays of the summer sun. South of the house is the flower garden, filled with plants and flowers of every variety.

Mr. William F. Mason was treasurer of the Illinios Central railroad for seven years prior to the beginning of the late war between the States.

The home is now owned by Mr. W.A. Jones, whose wife was Miss Maggie Mason. The dear mother, older grown than when she came to this lovely home, and a dear sister, also, live in the family of Mr. Jones, loved and honored by all.

Home of Mr. W.A. Jones.

Home of Mr. W.A. Jones.

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?

Categories: Architectural Research, Civil War, Holly Springs

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