Slavery was a major contributor to the growth of the Southern cotton industry. Consequently, many towns could transport the cotton along the Mississippi River. New Orleans and Vicksburg are the most well-known of these four towns.
The French colonists established Natchez, Mississippi, in 1716. It is located high above the Mississippi River bluffs. Its strategic and defendable location made it a key center for trade.
The city attracted Southern planters in the middle of the 19th century. They built mansions to display their wealth from the sugarcane and cotton trade. Planters would come to Natchez to escape the heat and isolation from the plantations. It was the Hamptons of the South, where the wealthy gathered and socialized.
I had never heard of Natchez before I went there a few weeks ago. I was in Nashville when I met some local men at a bar. They were fascinated by my road trip plans and gave me all they knew about their home state, Mississippi. I expressed my desire to visit antebellum homes.
“That’s Natchez. They agreed that Natchez was the best place to find antebellum homes.
So I drove to Natchez with its many pre-Civil War Antebellum Homes. This area of the country is very important to me as a former history teacher who was a pre-Civil War America specialist. I am fascinated by the hypocrisy of pre-Civil War Southern society.
It was formal, polite and sophisticated on the one hand. It was also brutally racist. Southern egalitarian views on chivalry and equality in the South were only available to a small section of society. They found no hypocrisy in enslaving people whom they brutalized to death.
Natchez is a charming city, and many of its historic homes still exist. The city surrendered quickly to the Union Army in 1862, and secession sentiment was never high. Consequently, there was not the same destruction as in other cities.
Natchez is a tourist destination, not cotton. This tiny community is supported by visitors to its historic homes and riverboat gambling.
The most appealing feature is the charm of old homes.
They are considered average suburban homes by today’s standards. They are not extravagant homes that you would think of as “Wow, that was a mansion!” However, they were a testament to the planters’ wealth and had high ceilings, elaborate wallpaper designs and multiple stories. These homes were filled with expensive furniture, exotic carpets, fine china and beautiful wallpaper.
Here are more than 20 homes. As many of these homes are private residences, I could not visit them. However, I did see a lot. Here are some of my favorite historic homes in Natchez.
This home was the most unique. It featured stunning grounds and an amazing design with an onion-shaped dome. It is the largest octagonal home in America and is unique.
Construction started in 1859. However, the owner died before the majority of the house was finished. Only a few rooms remain unfinished today.
It’s today one of Natchez’s most beloved homes. You can tour the home and learn about its history. It would help if you also visited the grounds. They’re beautiful! Admission costs USD 25
This mansion had the most beautiful interior among the few antebellum homes I saw. It was built in 1823 and became a hit with many homeowners.
A wealthy cotton broker built it. General Grant took the house as his headquarters in 1863 after the Battle of Vicksburg. General Gresham, the commander of Union troops in the area after Grant, used the home as his headquarters throughout the War. The house’s many antique artifacts and furniture date back to the 19th century.
Stanton Hall, and its grounds, take up an entire block of the city. It also had the most beautiful grounds of any home I visited. The home was built in the 1850s for USD 83,000. It is a replica of the former Irish home of its owner. The interior, also known as Belfast, features a lot of Italian marble and glass chandeliers.
Stanton College for Young Ladies was established on the estate in 1890. It was designated a museum and historic home in 1940. $25 per person.
This 15,000-square-foot mansion was built in the 1840s and represented the height of Greek Revival architecture. A local landowner and lawyer designed the original furniture. It has been passed down through the centuries. The majority of the furniture is pre-Civil War.
The mansion was used to host elaborate parties and events in the 1970s before being converted into a museum and historical site. It is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and the U.S. National Historic Landmarks list, just like many other antebellum houses. Admission costs USD 10.
The Natchez Pilgrimage
All historic homes are open to the public during The Natchez Pilgrimage. Costumed guides, some descendants of the original owners, will explain the history and context of each home. This is the largest annual event in the city, with around 20 homes displayed.
There are many haunting tales in Natchez, a town that has a turbulent history. A ghost tour is a great way to experience the paranormal or do something different. Downtown Karla Brown provides ghost tours for USD 25 a few weekly nights. You will hear about Natchez’s ghost stories and hauntings and see a side to the city that most tourists don’t see.