This morning, I checked my email to find several quick anguished notes from Delta friends letting me know that our beloved Mt. Holly, long endangered but beautiful even in its decline, was in flames. On Facebook, the group called “Antebellum Mansions of the South” posted a terrible picture of the house fully engulfed.
A later post by Blake Wintory on the Lakeport Plantation blog confirmed that both floors were gone entirely, gutted to the brick walls. An engineer and a fire marshall are expected to assess the remains.
This news isn’t a complete shock, of course–the house had gone from a maintained and lived-in residence in 2000 to ruinous just a decade after Matt Wiggins bought it. It was included on MHT’s 10 Most Endangered List in 2011. MissPres’s 2010 post “Abandoned Mississippi: Mt. Holly, Lake Washington” has been the site’s most-viewed post, and its comment thread was the most active for many years running. Lately, it was clear that vandals were regularly making nighttime trips to destroy Mt. Holly’s intricate plasterwork, woodwork, and anything else they could destroy in their nihilism.
Still, Lake Washington’s preservation group worked diligently and valiantly behind the scenes to try to buy the house or at least keep it secure, and only this last month or so, I heard good news that negotiations were close to being final. We all had hope for the first time in a long time, and that makes this fire even more devastating. To those who came so close after so long, I say “thank you.” Although the loss is bitter, it was not for want of trying. So many of Mississippi’s historic buildings have disappeared through apathy or lack of means, but Mt. Holly isn’t one of those–you gave it all you had, and that’s the effort she deserved.
Thank you to Blake Wintory at Lakeport Plantation for these photos documenting the aftermath. You can find these and more here.
For more on Mt. Holly . . .
- Abandoned Mississippi: Mt. Holly, Lake Washington
- Shelby Foote on Mt. Holly
- Mount Holly Burns [Lakeport Plantation blog]
- Interior photos by Clinton Bagley, MDAH (2007)