Historic Natchez: Jewel of the Lower Mississippi



October 23–26, 2014

The bounties garnered from the extremely productive and valuable agricultural land along the Mississippi resulted in a tremendous building boom in Natchez during the Antebellum era. A large quantity of elegant Greek Revival homes, furnished with imports from New Orleans, the eastern seaboard, and abroad, testify to the grand aspirations of Natchezians that produced this remarkable legacy of landmark houses. No wonder renowned author, historian, and Trust Governor Wendell Garrett relished his annual fall visits to this marvelous community.


ITINERARY  (subject to amendment)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • Registration, Eola Hotel
  • Our opening reception will be hosted at Glen Auburn (1875), the home of Dr. and Mrs. C. Randolph Tillman. Glen Auburn symbolizes the rise of the post-Civil War merchant class and serves as Mississippi’s greatest Second Empire dwelling.
  • Our opening remarks and lecture will be held across the street at Temple B’Nai Israel (1905), a Beaux Arts testament to Natchez’s prominent Jewish community in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Welcome
    Randy Schrimsher, Trust President
  • Introductions
    Dean Failey, Trust Vice President and Moderator
  • The Jonathan L. Fairbanks Lecture
    Preserving Historic Natchez
    Mimi and Ron Miller
    Current and Past Executive Directors, Historic Natchez Foundation

Friday, October 24, 2014 -Ballroom at the Eola Hotel


  • Souvenirs of Travel: Natchezians on the Grand Tour
    Jeff Mansell    
    Historian, Natchez National Historical Park
  • Coffee Break
  • Preserved Unimpaired for the Enjoyment of Future Generations: Melrose and the William Johnson House
    Kathleen Jenkins
    Superintendent, Natchez National Historical Park
  • Depart from the Eola Hotel
  • Tour at Stanton Hall (1857-58), the city’s grandest extant mansion. Constructed on an entire city block-sized lot for cotton merchant Frederick Stanton, Stanton Hall shows the blending of Romanticism and Classicism typical of Natchez in the 1850s.
  • Following lunch at the Carriage House we will visit two additional historic houses. Longwood (1859) has been described as “the largest and most spectacular octagonal house in America.” Designed for planter Haller Nutt by Philadelphia-based architect Samuel Sloan, Longwood is unfinished – construction was halted at the outbreak of the Civil War, and then abandoned after Nutt’s death in 1864 – but family members occupied the incomplete dwelling until the 1960s.
  • An impressive Greek Revival-style suburban villa, Melrose (1841) is renowned for its original furnishings, not to mention the superlative decorative plasterwork and interior woodwork.
  • Return to Eola Hotel

Saturday, October 25, 2014 – Ballroom at the Eola Hotel

  • New York Cabinetmakers and Commercial Merchants in Natchez
    Jackie Killian
    Lois F. McNeil Fellow, Winterthur Museum
  • Philadelphia Furniture Makers and Their Natchez Clients
    A. Nicholas Powers
    Curator of Collections, Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
  • Coffee Break
  • Furnishing Louisiana: Creole and Acadian Furniture, 1735-1835
    H. Parrott Bacot
    Professor Emeritus, Louisiana State University
  • We received the kind invitation to enjoy lunch at Elms Court (c. 1836), one of the most outstanding suburban villa residences in Natchez, which has been in the same family since 1895.
  • Our afternoon will include four additional private homes. Green Leaves(1838) was purchased in 1849 by George Washington Koontz, a banker from Pennsylvania, and remains in the family. Its preserved interior is notable for both its excellence and integrity and includes many period architectural features and furnishings, which together make it one of the most comprehensive and valuable documents of mid-nineteenth century taste.
  • Richmond (c. 1784) illustrates a type of organic building found in Natchez, as the house was enlarged and altered according to evolving tastes in c. 1800, 1830, and 1860. Owned by descendants of Levin Marshall, builder of the 1830s Greek Revival addition, the house features a treasure trove of 19th-century Americana.
  • Lansdowne (1853) also remains in Marshall family hands and contains most of the original furnishings as well as wallpaper, grain-painted woodwork, and Italian marble mantles, commissioned by Levin’s son George. Sitting on 120 acres, extant outbuildings include matching wings housing a billiard room, kitchen, and quarters for enslaved house servants.
  • Our last visit of the day will be to Bontura (1851) for cocktails. Built for a free African American, Bontura is owned by Dr. and Mrs. James Coy and sits atop the Natchez bluff, thereby promising beautiful sunset views over the Mississippi River.
  • Return to the Eola Hotel. Dinner on own.

Sunday, October 26, 2014 – Ballroom at the Eola Hotel

  • The John A. H. Sweeney Emerging Scholar Lecture
    A New Period Room at the New Orleans Museum of Art: Butler Greenwood’s Rococo Revival Parlor
    Mel Buchanan
    RosaMary Curator of Decorative Arts & Design, New Orleans Museum of Art
  • The Antiques Market in the Gulf South
    Neal Alford
    President, Neal Auction Company, New Orleans
  • Concluding Remarks
    Matthew Thurlow,
    Executive Director, The Decorative Arts Trust
  • Depart the Eola for a tour of the William Johnson House (1841), which was built by a prosperous free black barber. The Johnson House underscores the life of free African Americans in the pre-Civil War South, a topic detailed in the extensive diary kept by Johnson from 1835-1851.
  • Return to Eola Hotel. Symposium concludes.


Thursday Optional Tour: St. Francisville and West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana

9:00 am

Depart from the Eola Hotel

St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish was the largest port between Natchez and New Orleans in the 19th century. The young, aspiring naturalist John James Audubon arrived there in 1821 and wrote: “The rich magnolias covered with fragrant blossoms, the holly, the beech, the tall yellow poplar all excited my admiration.”

Our first stop will be at Rosedown Plantation (1834), the home of Daniel and Martha Barrow Turnbull. The home was furnished with the finest materials available, and many original pieces are still on display, including an extensive suite by the Philadelphia cabinetmaker Anthony Quervelle. We will also tour the 28 acres of gardens, which were the province of Martha Turnbull throughout her life.

We will enjoy a picnic lunch on the front lawn of Wakefield (1836), built by Lewis and Sarah Turnbull Stirling, Daniel Turnbull’s sister and brother-in-law. Although the house was significantly altered in the late 19th century, many of the original furnishings ordered from New York cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe are in situ.

Oakley Plantation (1799) was Audubon’s home for his four-month stay in 1821, and he painted 32 of his famous bird pictures here. The three-story home expresses the colonial architecture adapted to the geographical location. Oakley’s interior has been restored to the period when Audubon stayed there.

The Myrtles (c. 1796) was vastly expanded in the 1830s by Ruffin Gray Stirling, son of the Stirlings of Wakefield. Its rooms are filled with examples of high-style 19th-century architectural work and furnishings, including hand-painted stained glass, open-pierced plaster frieze work, and lacy cast iron grillwork on the 120-foot veranda.

Sunday Optional Tour: Northward on the Natchez Trace

12 noon – 7:00 pm

Depart from the William Johnson House by bus

On our way out of town on the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, we will visit privately owned Brandon Hall (1856), a stately Greek Revival house with a double tier front portico.

Further up the Trace, we will stop at Mount Locust, which has been restored to 1820 when it served as a self-supporting farm and hospitality center in the wilderness. It was built as an inn or “stand” for travelers on the Trace who were on their way home to the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland River valleys.

Church Hill is a picturesque plantation community that takes its name from the siting of Christ Episcopal Church (1858) on a steep knoll. Obscure Natchez lawyer and amateur architect J. Edward Smith designed the church, which is perhaps the purest expression of Gothic Revival architecture in antebellum Mississippi. The integrity of the building is remarkable and includes a hammer-beam roof, lancet and rose windows of stained glass, and original pews, chairs, pipe organ, pulpits, and font.

Wyolah (c. 1836) is one of the most significant plantation complexes in Mississippi due to the quality and authenticity of the main house and the survival of most of the original antebellum outbuildings, including a doctor’s office, commissary, kitchen, barn, carriage house, and two slave cabins. Wyolah is currently the home of Tate Taylor, the acclaimed director of recent films such as The Help and Get on Up, filmed largely in Mississippi.

Not too far from Wyolah is The Cedars, built in two distinct sections. The earliest section is a one-story planter’s cottage probably dating to the late 1830s. In 1860, a grand Grecian two-story section was added to the front of the cottage, with a full-width two-story gallery. The Cedars is the home of Mr. and Mrs. David Paradise, who will kindly serve refreshments before we return to Natchez.


Decorative Arts Trust Fundraiser at Cottage Gardens

Friday, October 24, 5:00 p.m.

For those members who wish to support the Trust’s Curatorial Internship Program and tour an exceptional antique collection, Jerry and Betty Jo Krouse have graciously agreed to open Cottage Gardens for a reception and visit. This ambitious yet vernacular planter’s cottage features an unexpected and outstanding intercontinental mix of high-style rococo furnishings from mid-18th-century Ireland, England, and colonial America. There is no better collection of 18th-century Philadelphia furniture in the South. The major Philadelphia carvers are represented as are a menagerie of lion faces, hairy paws, eagles, and satyrs. Trust Vice President Ralph Harvard helped with the interiors and eloquently described Cottage Gardens for The Magazine Antiques (January 2011). As one would expect, given the house’s name, the gardens are also worthy of admiration, combining extant remnants of its Antebellum roots with contemporary flourishes.

Please join us for an evening of Southern hospitality and a welcome break from the mid-19th-century rococo revival to enjoy the mid-18th-century rococo style of Chippendale. Amidst this genteel and comfortable setting, we will further our goal of supporting graduate students and partner organizations through a curatorial internship sponsored by the Trust. Attendance is limited to 40 participants and requires a $250 tax-deductible contribution to the Trust’s internship program. The recipient of the 2014-2015 internship will be spearheading the Classical Institute of the South’s field survey of the Gulf South’s decorative arts history beginning in June and will be on hand at Cottage Gardens to thank our members for their support.


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