Three town houses and two cemeteries in one day! We started off at Stanton Hall timing it so we could get the tour and then have lunch at the adjoining Carriage House. It definitely was a good decision.
Stanton Hall is absolutely breathtaking both inside and out. The outside, as many of the town houses in Natchez are, is palatial to say the least and the inside is absolute overkill. The house was built in 1857 by Irish immigrant and cotton merchant Frederick Stanton. It is believed that Mr. Stanton’s father sent him and his brother to America in an effort to begin cotton farming here in order to circumvent the taxes that he had to pay on the cotton he used in his business in Ireland. Mr. Stanton married a young girl from Kentucky who was from a fairly wealthy family. Perhaps that it why Stanton Hall is absolutely over the top in many ways.
The front door measures ten feet by four feet and is the perfect entrance into such an extravagant home. The Greek Revival style residence in the heart of Natchez has a foyer that could easily hold a two bedroom starter home. Enormous mirrors hang in the end rooms, one re-silvered, one not and they are set up so when standing in the middle of the room you can look in one mirror and see a cascade of mirrors behind you. Mr. Stanton had hired an Irish architect and though the house is breathtakingly beautiful it is not livable. The bedrooms are located upstairs and imagine how high the stairs have to go if the ceilings on the first floor are 17 feet high! Unfortunately Mr. Stanton only lived in the completed home a few months before he died.
The home was then sold and became Stanton College for Young Ladies. The bottom floor was used as classrooms and the bedrooms upstairs were large enough to house several girls.
Eventually the home was purchased by the Pilgrimage Garden Club and they worked for several years to restore it to its original splendor. In 1974 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
After our tour we walked over to the Carriage House for lunch. It is definitely a place reminiscent of the old South. As soon as we sat down they brought us a plate of biscuits and a serving of grape jelly! I had a delicious salad with greens, bacon, eggs, grilled chicken, blue cheese and a yummy dressing. Unfortunately for my waist line we requested more biscuits to go along with it. Jerry had a Bingo Burger with pimento cheese, bacon and hickory sauce along with French fries. He said the burger was terrific. We both agreed that it was one of the best meals we have eaten since we’ve been gone but I do attribute part of that to it being just plain ole food like we’re used to!
We were then heading for Longwood House but saw a sign for the City Cemetery and since that was one of the places I had on today’s agenda we changed our itinerary. We missed the turn-in and ended up at the National Cemetery. It is located on the Bluff and one side looks over the Mississippi River. We rode through both sides and it was just overwhelming. Many graves were marked with World War II, Viet Nam, Korea and sadly enough Unknown. It is very humbling to realize the number of people who have lost their lives defending our country and our freedom. Wonder what they would think of what we have done to our country now. We saw graves marked with “wife of”, “daughter of”, and we were not quite sure who was eligible to be buried there so when we got back to the coach I looked it up. According to the National Natchez Cemetery website it is open to “all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A Veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children…” are also eligible.
Our next stop was the winding road of the City Cemetery. Some of the monuments honoring the dead were very large, some crumbling with age. We looked at the dates and saw many deaths occurring in the 1800’s.
Our next stop was the Longwood House, to me a rather sad house. Looking at it upon arrival one can hardly comprehend the majesty of the house. It is a six stories high octagonal home and is the largest octagonal house in the United States. Having seen the outside of other houses of irregular shape I always wondered how the inside was but when inside this house I never felt that it was an octagon.
Only the bottom floor, the basement, is completed. Howard Nutt bought the property complete with a house, cemetery and carriage house. When he decided to build Longwood he moved his family out and work began on the grand house. Unfortunately 18 months after the work began the Civil War began and the workers dropped their tools right where they were and went off to war thus the only completed floor was the basement. Mr. Nutt moved his family back into the basement but he died shortly thereafter. Mrs. Nutt continued to live there after the war but in very reduced circumstances. Of the thirty-two rooms planned for the house, only the nine rooms on the basement floor were completed. It is now owned by the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez and is a Registered National Historic Landmark thus Nutt’s Folly will never be completed.
As we left Longwood we rushed over to Melrose Home which was not far away. We were a few minutes late for the 3:00 tour but they let us join in. The interior of the first floor is arranged around a large central hall and consists of rooms used for entertaining including a drawing room, a dining room, and a library. Interestingly at night they would completely close off the central hall because there was no heat there. Two of the outstanding features of the house are the painted floor cloth that is original to the house and the large punkah or shoo fly over the dining room table. The punkah is said to the largest in the South. The upstairs is very different from the downstairs. Whereas the downstairs was used for entertaining and “living” the upstairs was very utilitarian with a central hallway and bedrooms and a bath emanating off of it.
Visiting town houses has been very different from visiting the plantations in Louisiana. Although the owners of the town houses owned plantations outside of Natchez, many in Louisiana, they lived in the town houses and they are all right there in the city. We had to ride long distances to see plantations and could only see one or two during a day but in Natchez we could really see a lot in a day. That’s how we saw three town homes and two cemeteries and still got back to the coach in time to cook dinner Natchez appears to be a great town full of Southern hospitality and a town I’d love to visit again. It reminds me of Memphis with its small town feel and gentility.