Robert Snow, Savior of Waverley, Dies at Home

Robert Snow, one of Mississippi’s most determined but understated preservationists, died at his beloved Waverley north of Columbus on Sunday, according to a tribute by Slim Smith of the Commercial Dispatch.

Robert Snow is pictured in this 2012 photo showing off Waverley Mansion’s young peacocks. Snow passed away Sunday evening at the age of 91. Photo by: Dispatch file photo

If ever it was appropriate for someone to die at home, it was Robert Snow.

Snow, 91, died in his bedroom at Waverley Mansion Sunday evening, with his daughter, Melanie, at his bedside, almost 55 years after a restoration project became a family obsession.

“He had been in bed for about a week after he had a fall,” said Bob Raymond, a family friend. “He told Melanie he was sore because he’d been out working in the yard the day before, but he hadn’t been out of bed for days. Then he just closed his eyes and passed.”

Snow’s death came just four days before the 77th Annual Columbus Pilgrimage. Waverley Mansion, located just east of the city of West Point, was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1973 and has long been a mainstay of the Pilgrimage Tour. Raymond said Waverley will remain a part of the tour this year as planned.

While many of the historic homes and buildings on the tour are remembered best for their history, Waverley Mansion will be best remembered for the loving care Robert, his wife, Madonna (Donna), and four children poured into restoring the grand estate, a project that spanned decades.

. . . .

“They didn’t have a lot of money, so they did the work themselves,” said Raymond, who met the Snows in 1972 when he was a college student and wandered out, like so many before and since, to see the old mansion as it slowly came back to life. “One of the images that sticks out in my mind is watching Robert paint the house. He didn’t have money for scaffolding, so he tied two ropes to the windows at the top of the house and would raise and lower himself as he painted.

“Robert did everything but the electrical and plumbing,” he added. “They did all the work and opened the house again, room by room.”

Read more . . .

The Snows fell in love with Waverley when they first made their way through the woods near the Tombigbee River in 1962 after hearing about the house from a friend. Mrs. Snow told the story in an article in American Preservation, and it’s one that resonates with all die-hard preservationists, but their renovation project was not one most of us would undertake:

Waverley, Clay County

“We peeped in the front door . . .  saw this magnificent stairway . . . and that did it,” Mrs. Robert Allen Snow Jr., said in describing the first visit she and her husband made in 1962 to Waverley, a long-abandoned plantation home between Columbus and West Point, Mississippi.

Mrs. Snow said she and her husband, both of whom grew up to love old houses, decided then that they would buy the home if the owners would sell.

Abandoned in 1913 after the death of Captain Billy Young, the Greek Revival style mansion had been neglected for 50 years, subject to the ravages of winds, rains and small animals while vines entangled the outside.

An ordinary house mostly likely would have crumbled.

But Waverley didn’t. It endured as if waiting for the return of its master . . . a wait that ended in 1962 with the arrival of the Snows.

Mrs. Snow told American Preservation in an interview that when they disclosed that they were buying Waverley, “our friends thought we were completely crazy.”

Dec-Jan 1978, p.68

This is how the house looked when HABS photographer James Butters came through in June 1936. Waverley had been vacant for two decades and still had another 25 years to go before the Snows.

Waverley, June 11, 1936 GENERAL VIEW OF EXTERIOR. James Butters, HABS Photographer.

And after 35 years of work by the Snow family.

Waverley, 2009

Thank you to the Snows for saving Waverley and sharing it with the rest of us.

Mr. and Mrs. Snow in front of Waverley in 1977. Photo scanned from American Preservation, Dec-Jan 1978, p.69.

Read more about the Waverley story and get involved in maintaining this National Historic Landmark:

Categories: Preservation People/Events, Renovation Projects


5 replies

  1. A beautiful tribute to his passing. The Snows did a beautiful job taking care of their home. I’m hoping the daughter can continue her parents’ love and care of this Mississippi treasure. May Mr. Snow rest in peace. The times when we visited the home over the past 30 years, both he and she were so gracious. Her tours were delightful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had the pleasure of photographing Waverley for our website some years back. Being able to see it on a more immediate level than the casual visitor gave me a deeper understanding of the love, care, and effort that Robert and Madonna Snow (and their children) put into restoring the house.

    I’d like to share my photos with your readers if I may. The web address for this pictorial is (Forgive me if the site doesn’t behave well on your mobile device; I’m in the process of learning how to adjust it for mobile access.)

    Bill Pitts

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So sorry to hear of his passing but grateful that both he and Donna could look back on a life so well lived. Few people have left such a worthy mark on their little piece of the world and I (along with countless others) am grateful for having had the opportunity to see such a beautiful house reawakened.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We first toured Waverly Mansion in 2016, and I fell in love with it, oh, how I would love to live there and work with the tours. The second time we visited, I wore my Civil War Era dress, with its hoops, hat, and parasol. My husband took pictures of me in different areas of the Mansion. I felt so welcomed by the Mansion, like it was telling me that I was home now, with the clothes I wore, my mind took me to the early 1800’s. I didn’t want to leave, and just wished that I could wear my dress and stay forever. I have always loved the dresses worn pre- Civil War, (before the Civil War) that was when men and women were genteel. I have invisioned going back and wearing my other dresses, and my ball gown. Waverly Mansion has lost a great man, when Mr. Snow passed. I have a picture of Mr. Snow and myself in my Civil War costume. When he saw me in my dress, a large smile came over his face, and I knew that was one picture I had to have, and I meant to send it to him, I also have other pictures that I shall always cherish.


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