Natchez is the oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi River and will celebrate her 300th birthday in 2016. At the outbreak of the Civil War there were twenty millionaires in the United States. TEN of them lived in Natchez. Mansions abounded, with everyone trying to outdo the other. When Vicksburg fell to General Grant, Natchez quickly sent word to Grant surrendering the city so they wouldn't suffer the same fate as Vicksburg. Therefore, the mansions of the city were not burned down and and remain today as tour homes or bed and breakfasts. We only had time to visit just three of those mansions.
The Federal-style mansion, Rosalie, was built in 1820. During the Civil War, the owner, Mrs. Wilson, was untiring in her services to the Confederacy and fell under suspicion during the federal occupation of Natchez. She was arrested and banished to Atlanta.
I risked arrest myself when I snapped a few photos of this parlor as we were ushered inside for the tour. I had to put away my camera when they finally told us "no photos allowed inside the house."
Once poor Mrs. Wilson was banished, her home became headquarters for the Union officers in Natchez.
The back door of the mansion is just as elegant as the front. Rosalie still contains many of the same furnishings Mrs. Wilson left behind. Too bad I can't show them to you!
Our next stop was Stanton Hall built by a wealthy cotton planter and broker in 1857.
This mansion, too, contains many of its original furnishings. Unfortunately, I can't show them to you either.
On the outskirts of Natchez is the largest octagonal house in America called Longwood. Planned in 1859 for cotton nabob Haller Nutt and his wife, Julia, it was begun in 1860. Using the octagon form with four main floors, a fifth-story solarium and a sixth-story observatory, the structure was designed to have 32 rooms, each with its own entrance onto a balcony.
Work progressed rapidly and the gigantic shell was soon up.
In April 1861, all of Mr. Nutt's dreams were smashed by the declaration of war.
The Philadelphia craftsmen dropped their saws and hammers and fled North to pick up rifles and bayonets, never to return.
A dejected Mr. Nutt and a few local workers and slaves completed the basement level. Originally planned to have a wine cellar, school room, recreation room, and office, the basement was converted to living quarters for the Nutts and their eight children.
They lived in relative comfort in the basement, but, on June 15, 1864 Haller Nutt died in the basement of his unfinished mansion.
Julia and the children lived on in the basement doing only a minimum to maintain the great hulk looming over them. They had lost their great fortune during the war and were never able to finish their dream home.
We enjoyed our visit to some of the historic homes in Natchez but there are many more to visit. So many mansions, so little time!