HABS in Mississippi: The Castle, Aberdeen

When I first saw these pictures on the Historic American Building Survey site, I thought, “Surely that’s not still standing because I would have remembered it.” I mean, seriously, it’s a castle. In Mississippi.

FRONT ELEVATION – The Castle, Aberdeen, Monroe County, MS. James Butters, HABS Photographer, June 4, 1936 .

SIDE ELEVATION – The Castle, Aberdeen, Monroe County, MS. James Butters, HABS Photographer, June 4, 1936 .

I went straight to the MDAH Historic Resources Database, of course, and what to my wondering eyes did appear, but an entry for The Castle, located at 919 W. Commerce! Not only that, the house is listed on the National Register as part of the West Commerce Historic District. Well, I’m not going to lie, I felt stupid for never having even known about this amazing house/castle, so I went to the National Register nomination and found the description of the house:

15. 919. The Castle. One-and-one-half story, four by two bay, frame house with a gable roof. The house’s northeast corner is marked by a one-and-one-half story polygonal tower which has a multi-sided roof and flares out slightly just above its foundation. A bungalow-style porch extends across the rest of the front facade. Its hip roof is supported by pairs and triads of box columns resting on brick pedestals. This porch is an alteration dating from 1937. Located within the porch area is a single-leaf door topped by an elliptical fanlight with a Gothic Revival drip mold and flanked by sidelights with panelling beneath them and a polygonal bay with narrow windows crowned by Gothic Revival drip molds. To the rear of the west (side) elevation a sun porch with a bank of very narrow windows has been added. On the rear elevation, a gable-roofed, one story wing connects the house to a board-and-batten building with a side-gabled roof and a full-width porch. Gothic Revival. Ca.1885/1937.

Some alarm bells in this description:

  • the description of a roof on top of the tower
  • Only one tower described
  • a bungalow-style porch–you know I love bungalows, but there’s no porch evident on the HABS photos of 1936
  • Alterations in 1937

So I googled “Castle Aberdeen, MS” and I got a link to a post about our Mississippi castle on the blog Castles of the United States, which has already done this research, and you can go over there and read what they found. A pdf compilation of several different sources about the house gives this bit of oral history as an explanation for the house’s unique design:

It is of a peculiar type of architect which is so striking in a town made up of many homes of colonial type, intermingled with the modern ones. It was a Frenchman by the name of B.W. De Courcey who built the house in 1884. Evidently homesick for the beauties of his old country he designed this utterly unique type home on the lines of a feudal domain. Though built of frame and painted a dull gray in color its tower like structure with much carving once attracted a great deal of attention.

In 1889 E.P. Thompson bought the house from the De Courceys and there he lived and reared his family until 1912. It has changed hands many times since then and the house itself barely resembles the original.

I’ll leave it up to you to agree or disagree with the writer above after you see the “today picture,” but for myself, I don’t feel so bad that I couldn’t remember seeing this house. Here’s the Google streetview for the address today.

More about Aberdeen’s Castle:

See more HABS in Mississippi:

Categories: Aberdeen, Architectural Research, Cool Old Places


6 replies

  1. It’s hard to see it from the street view, but the last time I went past there (probably 20 years ago), you could still see the tower.


  2. As you wrote, so sad to see it now, compared with what it had been


  3. So sad to see it “updated”. It was a unique Mississippi treasure that I wish had been left in its original form.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i ‘discovered’ the habs photos and info on this remarkable house many years ago. and, prior to this post, i was aware that it was still standing but much changed; i have not seen it. of course, with $$$, this could be restored. does anyone know anything about the plan? it doesn’t seem to be the usual ‘center hall, with rooms to either side’–all sorts of charming asymmetry. and, to me, it seems much more ‘1850s’ than ‘1880s’.


    • It appears to me to be in a modified, extended L-shape form, likely with a double parlor and some rooms inaccessible directly from hallways.

      1884 is probably an accurate date, since there is information on the builder and his modus operandi. Besides, when historic Southern houses are dated inaccurately, they seem to grow much older, not younger. 1830s houses become 1810s houses. 1820s house suddenly get pushed back to the late 1790s, early 1800s. I have seen dates for the Krebs House (Old Spanish Fort) in Pascagoula as early as the 1720s, while I think the consensus now is that the oldest section is from the mid-1750s. Still incredibly old, but thirty years less incredibly old.

      Also, Monroe County seemed to be a mecca in both the late Antebellum and early Postbellum era for unusual houses. There was the Spratt-Herndon House, located in Aberdeen and possessing the most exuberant columns that have ever graced any Mississippi house. Period. There were also the Gattman and Lambeth-Milligan Houses, located in the Monroe County countryside and festooned with Swedish craftsman Carl Otto Anderson’s scrollwork to surpass all scrollwork. All three were illustrated in Lost Mansions of Mississippi, which gives you a pretty good idea what happened to all of them. Somewhere here on Preservation in Mississippi, five or six years ago, I believe there was a comment thread about a house in Monroe County which had osage orange interior trim, which had not been painted and, before the house was destroyed, had patinated to a beautiful, rich orange-hue brown. Since comments on the site do not show up in the site’s search results, I cannot direct you to that thread. It just shows that some areas have individuals much more willing to push the envelope with unique architecture. Monroe County was one of those areas for a time.


    • I found the comment thread which I referred to. My memory was way off, but the comments are from seven years ago. The osage orange house was in rural Lafayette County, south of Taylor. Unfortunately, the person who commented about the house was the late Tom Freeland, so we will likely never have any more information or any photographs of the house and its interesting woodwork.


      Liked by 1 person

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