Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Lost Mansions of Mississippi, Volume II

Lost Mansions of Mississippi, Volume II

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 144
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Lost Mansions of Mississippi, Volume II
    Book Description:

    As preservationist Mary Carol Miller talked with Mississippians about her books on lost mansions and landmarks, enthusiasts brought her more stories of great architecture ravaged by time. The twenty-seven houses included in her new book are among the most memorable of Mississippi's vanished antebellum and Victorian mansions. The list ranges from the oldest house in the Natchez region, lost in a 1966 fire, to a Reconstruction-era home that found new life as a school for freed slaves. From two Gulf Coast landmarks both lost to Hurricane Katrina, to the mysteriously misplaced facades of Hernando's White House and Columbus's Flynnwood, these homes mark high points in the broad sweep of Mississippi history and the state's architectural legacy.Miller tells the stories of these homes through accounts from the families who built and maintained them. These structures run the stylistic gamut from Greek revival to Second Empire, and their owners include everyone from Revolutionary-era soldiers to governors and scoundrels.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-787-5
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-1)

    Mississippi is rapidly approaching the two hundredth anniversary of its statehood. That status was endowed just as the cotton gin, the steamboat, the institution of slavery, and the availability of cheap, incredibly fertile land coalesced to rocket the young state into the ranks of America’s most coveted destinations. For four decades, the ringing of hammers and lingering odor of brick kilns were the hallmarks of Mississippi’s success. From the crossroads of Corinth to the seaside boulevards of Biloxi, wealth was flaunted in this region by ever grander houses, beginning with such icons as Natchez’s Spanish-era Concord and Laurel Hill and...

  6. [Illustration]
    (pp. 2-2)
  7. Laurel Hill
    (pp. 2-15)

    Nothing remains of the main house at Laurel Hill, only an empty, rolling field rimmed by three dependencies, each an architectural achievement in its own right. Even the Mississippi River, which originally lured Richard Ellis to this farflung corner of a young America, has wandered away, shifting from its eighteenth-century bed just a mile or so west of the house to a point four miles distant. When Laurel Hill burned on a dusty November afternoon in 1967, the oldest existing residential structure in the Natchez region disappeared, taking with it the remarkable legacy of seven generations.

    Laurel Hill’s outbuildings have...

  8. Salisbury
    (pp. 16-21)

    The term “lost mansion” has many connotations. Most of the homes described in this book have vanished, with only minimal evidence, photographic or structural, that they ever existed at all. But a few remain, lost in the sense that they are uninhabitable and have long since surrendered their status as human shelter. A classic example was Windy Hill Manor, just east of Natchez, which rotted away, room by room, as its last inhabitants descended into dementia and genteel poverty. The cabinetmaker who disassembled the remnants of the house pushed its rubble into a bayou. Just a few years later, returning...

  9. Linden
    (pp. 22-25)

    East of Highway 61 and south of Interstate 20, a sunken road cuts through the heavily wooded hills of Warren County, carrying the traveler miles and years away from the twenty-first century. The roots of ancient oaks are at eye level, their trunks soaring up and meeting in a dense canopy that filters out all but a few rays of sunlight. The road twists and turns and leads up to a pair of brick posts and an open gate. If the timing is right, a drive through those gates carries the curious visitor into a blaze of spring color, courtesy...

  10. Lonewood
    (pp. 26-30)

    A stark black-and-white photograph of Lonewood, taken just before or during the Civil War, justifies the name of this plantation house. The massive double-galleried home is surrounded on all sides by endless cotton fields and trees, with no indication of nearby neighbors in any direction. Its placement was fortunate when the war roared into this edge of Mississippi, for Lonewood was outside of the siege lines and south of the battered city of Vicksburg.

    Although it was scarred and conquered by that siege, Vicksburg recovered remarkably quickly, and by the end of the decade it had grown around Lonewood. The...

  11. Allen-Morgan House
    (pp. 31-34)

    Charles Clark is buried under a simple obelisk atop an Indian mound in rural Bolivar County. This site on the old Doro Plantation carries no hint of his two-year term as Mississippi’s governor or the tumultuous events that marked his administration. The only information carved into the grave marker are the names of Clark and his wife, along with their birthdates, place of birth, and dates of death.

    One has to traverse the width of the state to find the field where Clark’s gubernatorial residence stood. The empty field near Macon is one hundred and fifty miles east of the...

  12. Bellevue
    (pp. 35-36)

    The earliest and most famous antebellum homes in Mississippi were built largely along the Mississippi River, reflecting the population centers near Natchez, Woodville, Port Gibson, and Vicksburg. But after the state capital was moved to Jackson and treaties with the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes cleared the way for extensive land sales, newer counties developed their own architectural traditions. Holly Springs, Oxford, Aberdeen, Corinth, Columbus, and Meridian are filled with outstanding examples of Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian-era homes.

    Madison County had an especially strong history of plantation manors. Annandale and Ingleside, built by members of the extended Johnstone family near...

  13. Etania
    (pp. 37-40)

    Natchez is one of the most extensively photographed and visually documented cities in America. Its era of architectural dominance, exemplified by such famous houses as Dunleith, Stanton Hall, and Longwood, coincided with the first years of widely available photographic equipment and artists who were eager to use it. As a result, images of most of Natchez’s remarkable mansions are extant, even though many of the structures themselves are long gone.

    Two families are largely responsible for the extensive photographic record of antebellum and postbellum Natchez. Henry and Earl Norman, father and son, operated the premier studio in the region for...

  14. Glenwood
    (pp. 41-46)

    The flood of cotton money that swept Natchez up in a frenzy of mansion-building for five decades preceding the Civil War vanished as quickly as it had come. The years of Reconstruction, soil erosion, and economic doldrums took their toll on the once-grand homes, saddling many a family with a money pit that could never be sated. By 1930, these houses were marked by unpainted façades, sagging shutters, and rotting porches. Two-by-fours held up galleries that had once boasted finely turned columns, and the town as a whole seemed to have seen its last days of glory.

    An atmospheric fluke...

  15. Kirkwood
    (pp. 47-49)

    Madison County is noted for the beautiful antebellum houses of Canton and for its lost mansions, Annandale and Ingleside of the old Mannsdale community, now encompassed by greater Madison. But there was another cluster of homes and wealthy plantations in the far northeast corner of the county, close to the spot where Madison, Attala, and Leake counties merge. The closest town, Camden, is barely a crossroads, and the houses are all gone, most without a trace. Only Krikwood, the home of Governor William McWillie, is traceable by the existence of its cemetery.

    William McWillie was already fifty years old when he...

  16. Austin Moore House
    (pp. 50-52)

    Marshall County was the epicenter of the land rush that followed the transfer of six million acres of Chickasaw land from that tribe to the U.S. government. On October 20, 1832, the signature of Chief Ishtehotopa was barely dry before settlers and speculators from the old Atlantic Coast states rushed pell-mell into north Mississippi, frantic to scoop up the available plots that were going for a little more than a dollar an acre. The younger sons of old-line planters, too far down the line of primogeniture to hope for a reasonable stake in their home states, pulled away from their...

  17. Prospect Hill
    (pp. 53-56)

    Jefferson County is a remote and hauntingly quiet region of southwest Mississippi, an almost forgotten land tucked between Natchez and Vicksburg. A few large plantation manors can still be found near Church Hill and Fayette, but for the most part there are few traces of the cotton fortunes which were once made here.

    This county was the site of one of the most mysterious and troubling sagas to emerge from the state’s antebellum past. Facts are hard to come by and legend has outpaced certainty with the passage of time. It is known for certain that Isaac Ross’s Prospect Hill...

  18. Mount Hermon
    (pp. 57-62)

    Mississippi College is the oldest existing collegiate-level school in the state, tracing its roots all the way back to Hampstead Academy in 1826. The citizens of Mt. Salus, frustrated in their attempt to claim designation as the capital city, made a conscious corporate decision to emphasize education and hope for a later designation as Mississippi’s university center. With that purpose in mind, Hampstead was opened as a school for young men and soon had its name changed to Mississippi Academy. Only the approval of the legislature was necessary for its transformation into the University of Mississippi.

    Unfortunately for the amibitious...

  19. O.J. Moore House
    (pp. 63-65)

    In 1938, the Works Progress Administration issued a series of extensive guides to individual states, including Mississippi. The time period during which these books were being compiled coincided with the last days of many of the state’s antebellum mansions, and often a brief reference to a house in the WPA guide is the only remaining clue that such a structure ever existed. Almost every community in Mississippi rates a mention, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential. The entry on Winona includes a paragraph on the town’s most imposing home, described by the authors as “the oldest house in Montgomery...

  20. Montebello
    (pp. 66-73)

    Among the treasures of the Gandy collection is an 1891 map labeled “Map of the City of Natchez and Suburbs.” It resembles a patchwork quilt, with pastel rectangles, trapezoids, and oddly shaped parcels of land. Each is meticulously hand-lettered in tiny script with the names of the landowners, resonating like a roll call of the antebellum nabobs. On the left side of the map lie the geometric squares and grids of downtown Natchez, rising high above the bluffs and squalid Natchez Under-the-Hill. The street names are familiar, and that part of the map would be recognizable to someone navigating his...

  21. Tullis-Toledano Manor
    (pp. 74-76)

    The antebellum homes which lined the beach boulevards from Bay St. Louis to Pascagoula weathered a number of hurricanes before Katrina decimated their numbers in August 2005. Those concentrated in the counties which allowed casino gambling had also survived the encroaching sea of asphalt and neon that followed that industry. Tullis-Toledano Manor, one of the most unique of the coastal mansions, stood for a century and a half before being obliterated by a hurricane-driven gambling barge.

    The Mississippi Gulf Coast was the summer haven for rich New Orleans and Mobile families throughout the nineteenth century, and it was primarily their...

  22. Stephenson-McAlexander House
    (pp. 77-79)

    North of Holly Springs, just a few miles up Highway 311 toward Mount Pleasant, the road takes a sweeping curve to the east for no apparent reason. There are no visible obstacles or natural barriers that would explain this detour, and it just appears that the highway engineers were having a bad day when they laid out this section of road. What is not evident is that there was once a vast fruit orchard on this very spot, numbering ten thousand trees. When the first road was surveyed from Holly Springs toward the Tennessee state line, that orchard was valuable...

  23. Three Oaks
    (pp. 80-82)

    Most of the seven million acres that comprise the Mississippi Delta region were still uninhabitable when the Civil War began. Snake-infested bayous and sluggish creeks provided some limited transportation, but their predilection to jump their banks in the spring made the surrounding farmland more trouble than it seemed to be worth. From the time this area opened up for development in the early 1800s until the post-Reconstruction era, a farmhouse was a rare sight, and a plantation manor even rarer.

    A few intrepid Kentucky settlers did build homes around Lake Washington, just south of the town of Greenville. Some ventured...

  24. Valleyside
    (pp. 83-86)

    Holly Springs is a hidden trove of outstanding antebellum architecture, rivaling Natchez and Columbus in quality if not in publicity. This was a town that grew out of the wilderness in the mid-1830s and within ten years was producing more cotton and money than any other county in the state. Most of its original communities, bearing names like Slayden, Mount Pleasant, Hudsonville, and Lamar, have vanished or dwindled to just a crossroads on the highway, and only the county seat of Holly Springs remains to demonstrate the wealth that once existed here. The 1938 WPA Mississippi guide captured the fate...

  25. Grasslawn
    (pp. 87-92)

    The Gulf Coast of Mississippi developed as an antebellum playground for the elite families of New Orleans and Mobile, providing a relatively healthy haven from the heat, mosquitoes, and crowded urban conditions that prevailed in those cities each summer. The famous “Six Sisters” of Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Mississippi City, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, and Pascagoula grew as steamboat stops peppered with beachside hotels and mansions of wealthy Louisianans and Alabamians. New Orleans was a city of 168,000 in 1860, fourth largest in the nation, and Mobile was a notable metropolis of 30,000. The entire Gulf Coast had a year-round...

  26. Carter-Tate House
    (pp. 93-95)

    Many, if not most, of the antebellum mansions of Mississippi were built by carpenters who arrived with little or no formal architectural training. There were exceptions, especially in the more populated areas such as Natchez and Jackson. Levi Weeks left a thriving New York practice after being accused of murdering his girlfriend; his legacy in Natchez includes Auburn, Gloucester, and some of the earliest buildings at Jefferson College. Jacob Larmour, another native New Yorker, came south to build Madison County’s Annandale and Chapel of the Cross and Clinton’s Provine Chapel. William Nichols, architect of the Old Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, and...

  27. Llangollen
    (pp. 96-99)

    Charles Dahlgren built two houses. One is instantly recognizable as a symbol of Natchez and the Greek Revival era. The other was an odd mishmash of Italianate and cottage styles, long forgotten and known only to the most avid students of antebellum architecture.

    Dahlgren was an intense and volatile character, a Pennsylvania native who mastered the banking trade with financier Nicholas Biddle. He was sent south to the booming new state of Mississippi in 1835, charged with overseeing a branch of the Bank of the United States. This was heady territory for a twenty-four-year-old young man. He quickly figured out...

  28. Colonel Thomas White House
    (pp. 100-103)

    Lost houses are not a rarity in Mississippi. The antebellum townhouses and plantation mansions that dotted the landscape in the mid-1800s were not valued in the early twentieth century, and those that didn’t burn were frequently torn down with no controversy. At the sites, even decades later, a foundation may be hidden under weeds, or a pile of discarded bricks will mark the spot where there was once a home. In other instances, all traces of a house will have vanished under asphalt or redevelopment. Regardless, documents and records show that the house was there for a certain length of...

  29. Shipp House
    (pp. 104-105)

    There is a haunting photograph in Martin Dain’s 1964 Random House book,Faulkner’s County: Yoknapatawpha. In sterile black-and-white, the Shipp House seems to stare from the page, its ruined front door framed by a long line of perfectly spaced cedars which appear to march right through the portico and into the empty hallway. Faulkner scholars surmise that this bleak house was the inspiration for the writer’s “Old Frenchman’s place,” described inThe Hamletas “a tremendous pre–Civil War plantation, the ruins of which—the gutted shell of an enormous house with its fallen stables and slave quarters and overgrown...

  30. Turner Lane House
    (pp. 106-109)

    At the end of the Civil War, Mississippi was overwhelmed with problems. State government was crippled, the economy had collapsed, and thousands of Confederate veterans were limping home with serious injuries to face fields that hadn’t been worked in years and businesses that had vanished.

    Education had never been a top priority in the state, which didn’t even have a rudimentary public school system until 1870. In that fateful year, a Reconstruction legislature rammed through a universal education bill that mandated free schools for all children, black and white. Illiteracy was endemic, and it would take decades for mississippi to...

  31. Skipwith House
    (pp. 110-114)

    On the eastern edge of the Ole Miss campus, just where it merges seamlessly with Oxford, the Mary Buie Museum is a quiet oasis of culture, history, and art. Nearby are the Stark Young House and Memory House, two of the city’s finest Victorian homes and reminders that an equally great house was lost in the creation of the Buie Museum. The Skipwith sisters left an admirable legacy to Oxford and the university, but at the cost of an architectural debacle.

    Oxford was caught in the crosshairs as war raged across north Mississippi in the early 1860s. The state university...

  32. Eagle’s Nest
    (pp. 115-118)

    Swan Lake is a long, narrow oxbow, curling in on itself like a reclining snake. Just above its northern tip, not far from the tiny community of Jonestown, an Indian mound breaks the flat horizon of the Delta. And atop that burial mound is a marble image of a stout gentleman, gazing toward the lake with a sheaf of vital papers in his left hand.

    The marble man on the mound is James Lusk Alcorn, a larger-than-life figure even in death. He commissioned the statue himself and had it placed on the front lawn of Eagle’s Nest, where it served...

  33. Delta Psi House
    (pp. 119-122)

    One of the most unusual and historic buildings on the Ole Miss campus occupied the site on the edge of the Hilgard Cut, just beyond the bridge that connected the campus to the city of Oxford. The dramatic Delta Psi House, destroyed by fire in 1943, was temporarily the home of William Faulkner, his parents and brothers. Before and after that strange interlude, it housed the Delta Psi fraternity.

    The fraternity house was part of the second wave of academic buildings at the college. William Nichols, the architect responsible for Mississippi’s Old Capitol and Governor’s Mansion, was commissioned to design...

  34. NOTES
    (pp. 123-126)
    (pp. 127-130)
  36. INDEX
    (pp. 131-134)