Friday, April 1, 2011

Longwood Built In 1860-1861

Built 1860-1861
Natchez, Mississippi
This house has the most amazing story! It was designed by the Philadelphia architect, Samuel Sloan, to be a large octagonal house with thirty-two rooms with each room having its own entrance to a lovely large balcony. There was to be a walkout basement level, three main living levels, a fifth floor solarium and a sixth floor observatory. But when the civil war arrived in 1861 Mr. Sloan and his skilled construction workers returned post haste to Philadelphia to escape the fighting.
The ladies of the Pilgrimage Garden Club who give the tours to this amazing unfinished hall start the tour in the basement which was the only floor completed and in which the Haller Nutt family that had the house built lived throughout the civil war. Mr. Nutt died before the war ended but his widow Julia lived there with the children in the basement till she died in 1898.

But the Nutt family was not exactly roughing it in the basement. That basement had 10,000 square feet, hardwood floors, fancy chandeliers, Italian marble fireplaces, beautiful Philadelphia handmade furniture and oriental rugs. Considering that most Americans today live in a home with 2500 or less feet of space this basement would be like putting together four modern ranch style homes!

The Nutt children and grandchildren kept the house until 1968 when it was turned over to the Pilgrimage Garden Club. In this photo my Jack in the red shirt is listening intently to the tour guide in the fancy antebellum gown tell the tourists that this hall like many others had no indoor kitchen because of the threat of a house fire. All the food was prepared in a separate building on the grounds and carried by the slaves/servants to the house. Do you know why the slaves/servants who carried the food from the outdoor kitchen to the house had to whistle while carrying the trays? That's because you cannot whistle and eat at the same time. So this was a way of making sure that the slaves/servents were not eating the owners food. Interesting.

Also there was never any indoor plumbing in this home so no modern bathrooms. I think the outhouses were removed. I didn't encounter any on the property.
Notice the size of each pillar.
Here's the house plaque at the entrance.
Did you notice how ornate the columns and the interior porch ceilings are? All that applied molding is made of plaster reinforced with horse hair.
All this wood trim needs constant maintenance and you can tell by the above picture that this particular balcony needs to be repainted.
Another beautiful balcony. I'm glad I don't have to paint all this trim! It must be a never ending task.
This is an unfinished staircase in the home. We climbed it to see the upstairs floors. All the wood used in this home is native Mississippi cypress which is a very strong and durable wood.
Another view of the unfinished staircase. You can see how tall the ceilings are in this home by noticing all the steps needed to reach the next floor. On the main floors the ceilings must be at least 12 feet tall and in the basement at least 9 feet tall.
This octagon house had an octagon center hall that led to the individual rooms and to the doors to the balconies. Notice the brick niches in the center hall. These were to be plastered over and painted to house Greek mythological figures. And do notice the circles on the floor---these glass circles allowed light to flow down through six floors to the basement center hall. Mr. Sloan, the architect, thought of everything to make this home light and airy!

You could never ever duplicate with all the money in the world this home. I recently read that the most expensive home to ever sell in the United States sold to a Russian fertilizer billionaire for over 100 million dollars and it doesn't have 30,000 square feet like Longwood or exterior walls that are a foot and a half thick. By the way the Russian's billionaire's home is in California and he plans to remain in Russia so it must be just an investment property.
A view of the octagonal center halls that were never finished.
We tourists did notice that electricity was added at some point to this unfinished home. See the lights. And after visiting this house you can't help but want to learn more about this home's unique history. At each home that we toured the tour guide would ask if we had been to Longwood yet? It seems that if you have time for just one house tour in Natchez, the one tour you should take is of Longwood.

Longwood is both a National Historic Landmark and a Mississippi Historic Landmark as well as a unique stop on the Civil War Discovery Trail.

1 comment:

GibsonGirl said...

Outstanding photos of an outstanding octagon house.

I visited years ago. I'm super impressed with your photos.


author of
The Octagon House Book