In the early 1930’s, a small garden club in Natchez decided to open their gardens for tours. Unfortunately, an unexpected late freeze ruined those plans and the ladies had to quickly make other arrangements. They chose, instead, to open their antebellum homes for tours. It was such a success, the tours, also known as the Pilgrimage, became a yearly tradition.
In the spring and fall, the Pilgrimage is held for one month. The proceeds of these tours go to preservation efforts and, to date, Natchez is one of the few places in the United States where you can find over five hundred buildings constructed before 1860. As you can see from pictures–this is no small project!
Our first home tour was The Burn.
Built in 1834, The Burn (which means brook in Scottish) is a private residence and the owners take part as curators for the home tour. They did not allow photography in this home but pictures of the home and grounds can be seen here and here.
We were greeted by a costumed host who gave us a quick summary of the Walworth family that built and occupied the home before and after the Civil War. During the Civil War, The Burn was used as a hospital and headquarters for the Union Army.
The Burn garden has over 100 catalogued and documented camellias dating back to the 1930’s.
This statue was unearthed several years ago behind the main house.
It was found by landscapers and is believed that the Walworth family may have buried it when they were given 24 hours to vacate their home during the Civil War. The family did return to their home after the war, but either forgot about it or forgot where they buried it. For a quick history of the home, check out the short video on The Burn website. The video is narrated by the current owner.
Our next stop was The Elms.
The Elms dates back to the early 1800’s and is said to be one of the earliest documented houses in Natchez. Over the years it has incorporated three different building styles from different owners: Spanish influence, Federal, and Greek Revival. For a short period, it was the parsonage for the Presbyterian church. Other owners included the first sheriff of the Mississippi Territory and the Stanton family- a prominent family in Natchez. In 1865, the Drake family purchased the home and now, almost 150 years later, a fifth generation descendant is the caretaker of this beautiful home.
One of the features of the house is the cast iron “lace” staircase believed to be the only one of its kind in Mississippi. The stained glass windows seen (barely) in the second picture are also original to the house as are many of the furnishings.
Several personal possessions of the family have been discovered in the attic. Diaries from the owners great-great-grandmother, love letters from her great-uncle to her great-aunt and her great-aunt’s artwork. This shadow box is actually fruit molded from wax,
that her great-aunt made by creating her own molds in plaster and then casting in wax.
She also completed a shadow box of waxed flowers
which was displayed in the 1876 Centennial International Exhibit in Philadelphia. The Smithsonian has requested these pieces for display, but it is believed they are too fragile too be transported.
Our next stop was Hope Farm. This home was built in the 1770’s and was once the home of the Spanish Governor. In the 1920’s, the Miller family bought and restored the farm. Years later, Mrs. Miller would be one of the founding members of the Natchez Pilgrimage with the slogan, “Come to Natchez, Where the Old South Still Lives.”
Many furnishings of the home date back to the mid 1700’s. A pair of Dorothy Doughty birds grace the dining room table along with a crystal candle lamp overhead. Both are considered to be very rare pieces and continually sought after by museums.
Most of the homes in this era had a separate building for the kitchen and servant living quarters. This was the kitchen area of Hope Farm.
Would anyone like to guess what this was used for?
This was used as a “time out” chair for the children. The child would stand or kneel on the chair and place their arms in the grooves and the top bar locked them in place. Looks like this model would accommodate two small children at a time. Goodness.
I apologize for the lack of pictures. I obviously can’t listen to a tour guide and be a photographer at the same time. Not that my pictures do these homes justice. They were all so magnificent and just plain… Southern. I will do better next time I promise.
or maybe I should go on another trip to redeem myself.
Have a great day!