The MDAH Historic Resources Database says about the Dr. C.M. Vaiden House, which it also calls Prairie Mount:
“Like nearby Malmaison and Indian Mound, this was a large, elegant two-story porticoed mansion in the “Bracketed Greek Revival” style. Having been allowed to deteriorate for many years, it was demolished in the 1950s. A storage shed built from its doors stands on the site.
Mary Carol Miller included the building in her Lost Mansions of Mississippi (pp. 62-63):
Prairie Mont was the home of Dr. Cowles Mead Vaiden, a Virginia native who bought up vast tracts of land in Mississippi. His three-thousand-acre plantation was east of the tiny Shongalo community in Carroll County. . . .
Dr. Vaiden commissioned James Clark Harris to design and build a house suitable to his lofty status. . . . The first floor included seven spacious rooms and cross halls, one of which helf a winding stair leading to the five rooms on the second floor.
Prairie Mont survived longer than Malmaison, James Clark Harris’s masterwork that he probably built around the same time in the early-to-mid 1850s, but unlike Malmaison, which was destroyed in a massive fire, Prairie Mont’s demise was long and slow. The Vaidens had no children, and extended family also died or left the area, leaving the grand house in a deteriorated state by the 1930s when HABS photographer James Butters came through and took these precious three photos. The floorplan that we can surmise from these images is not your “typical” Mississippi plan, and it looks like a Harris special since his Malmaison also had a secondary side entrance and stair in the cross hall. Unlike Malmaison, Prairie Mont shows no signs of a side porch for that entrance. I had forgotten until revisiting Lost Mansions that a floorplan does exist for Malmaison in J.Frazer Smith’s White Pillars: The Architecture of the South, one of the first attempts at an architectural history of the antebellum architecture of the Deep South and required reading for every MissPreser. Smith’s site plan shows that the side entrance led to the various services spaces located in separate buildings: kitchen, smoke house, cistern house, gardens, and the garconnieres (a separate building for young men of the house), so maybe the Vaiden House also had its service buildings on this side of the house.
Take a closer look at the window cornices and cornice in the hallway and you’ll see a JCH detail, an incised and elongated ogee arch, a detail I noted several times in my Carrollton Pilgrimage Report from October 2009 (this year’s Carrollton Pilgrimage was just this last weekend, so if you’ve never been, you have a whole year to plan for a visit next year to get acquainted to Harris and his surviving work in Carrollton). I’m taking the liberty of adding a non-HABS photo in this HABS post so you can see what I’m trying to describe. As you may be noticing by now, I’m a big fan of James Clark Harris, which is why this post has grown well beyond the average HABS post, where I normally try to let the HABS documentation speak for itsef.
The Daily Clarion published a typically fabulous 19th-century obituary for Dr. Vaiden when he died in February 1880, and someone at that wonderful site Find A Grave has helpfully transcribed it for us, along with providing a picture of Vaiden’s enormous marble grave monument and a portrait of Dr. and Mrs. Vaiden.
More about the Vaiden House:
- Historic American Buildings Survey
- MDAH Historic Resources Database
- Find a Grave: Dr. Cowles Mead Vaiden
Categories: Antebellum, Historic American Building Survey (HABS), Vaiden
Clarence Pierce (longtime State Representative from Vaiden) took Jay Williams (of Cotesworth) and me out to the Prairie Mont site several years ago. No trace of the house or that “shed-made-of-doors” remains, but it was one of those lovely spots familiar to all of us who love old houses: You knew without being told that something extraordinary had occupied that space. The same atmosphere pervades the Malmaison site, but even more so. At the rise of sounding too “Halloweeny” in this month of October, Malmaison is ominous and foreboding, as if the old Choctaw is watching over it. Boo.
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i was happy to see this post about “Prairie Mount/Mont”, with the mid 1930s HABS photos, the link to the Vaiden obituary, and the Malvaney comments.
This is an architecturally- quirky structure that has interested me since I came across the original photos in the LIbrary of Congress files in the early 1970s.
In the near future, once I can pull together my thoughts, I’d like to offer an some ideas about the house which differ from various published comments. Sadly, I didn’t see the deteriorated building before the remains were demolished in 1958.
Your mention of James Clark Harris’ work at “Malmaison” and the plans published by J. Frazer Smith in WHITE PILLARS brings up a related but different subject which I also hope to address later.