Our Houses

A Visit to House on Ellicott’s Hill

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Perched on a soaring hill right in downtown Natchez with commanding views of the Mississippi River, House on Ellicott’s Hill is where the United States made a stand against the Spanish.  This National Historic Landmark is owned and operated by The Preservation Society of Ellicott Hill of the Natchez Garden Club.

Before construction of this fine home, the property held great historical significance.  Andrew Ellicott (for whom the house is named) was sent to Natchez by President George Washington to determine the exact boundary between the United States and Spanish Louisiana.  On February 27, 1797, Ellicott raised the United States flag for the first time over the new territory.  In commemoration of this act, a replica US flag from 1797 containing 15 stars still flies on the north side of the house.

At this time, only wealthy and elite Natchez residents, such as doctors, wealthy planters and merchants, were allowed to purchase lots along Canal Street.  James Moore acquired this lot in the Fall of 1797.  

James Moore constructed the house between 1797 and 1801, and it is one of the last remaining houses built by merchants during this time period.  Boasting Federal architectural details, such as geometrical concepts (elliptical, circular and fan-shaped motifs formed by fluted radiating lines), fanlights over door openings and elaborate decorative moldings, along with West Indian Caribbean influences such as vibrant paint colors, a large, two-story veranda and second story formal living quarters, the home stands in great contrast to the grand mansions around town, many built in the Greek Revival or Italianate architectural styles.  The main formal parlor features a beautiful chandelier hanging from a large metal ship’s dome, painted to resemble plaster – a feature not seen anywhere else in town.

There were several subsequent owners and occupants of the home, including Samuel Brooks, a cousin of President John Adams and the first Mayor of Natchez, and a group of Presbyterians, including the owner of Magnolia Hall (the subject of the previous blog), who started the Natchez High School for Boys.  Before the adjacent cotton mills closed down in the 1920s, the home was used as tenant housing for mill workers.  After this time, the house stood empty until 1934.  

On August 13, 1934, the Natchez Garden Club purchased the home for $2,000.  The dilapidated condition required extensive restoration, and the Club contracted with Richard Koch, an architect from New Orleans, to oversee the restoration, which started in 1935 and was finished in 1937.  This restoration of a historic property was the first undertaken by a civic organization in the State of Mississippi.  

At this time, the common belief was that the house was a former tavern owned by Patrick Connelly, but later research by the Natchez Garden Club revealed that the tavern was actually located one block southeast.

In 1976, the Natchez Garden Club revised its charter; and The Preservation Society of Ellicott Hill acquired the property. Starting in September 2006, the Society completed yet another extensive restoration project.  During this restoration, the Society contracted with same firm used in the 1935 restoration.  It was during this project that the interior paint scheme was derived from documented paint colors, showcasing one of the key features of the West Indian Caribbean architecture that sets this home apart from other Federal style homes.

Vicki L. Satterthwaite is a member of the Natchez Garden Club.

 

A Visit to Magnolia Hall

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Constructed in 1858 for wealthy merchant, planter, and cotton broker Thomas Henderson, Magnolia Hall is now home for the Natchez Garden Club. As one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture, Magnolia Hall was the last mansion built in downtown Natchez prior to the War Between the States. The exterior walls are stucco over brick, scored, and painted to resemble brownstone, and an extensive recent restoration by the Club showcases this decorative finish.

Approaching the front of the home to begin your tour, you are immediately transported to different time as birds sing in the large oak trees covered in Spanish moss. As you enter the home, look around and note the exquisite details adorning the walls, ceilings, doors, and windows. While climbing the beautiful staircase, you will notice several surprises on the second floor. The first room to the right of the staircase features several panels outlining the complete history of the home, the Henderson family, and Natchez.

Pass through the doorway to enter the first of two rooms holding a few of the Natchez Garden Club Royalty and Court members’ gowns, uniforms, and accessories.  Crowning a Natchez Garden Club Tableaux King and Queen is an annual tradition started in 1932 and continues to this day.  Other rooms feature mannequins dressed in period clothing portraying the antebellum life of a wealthy Natchez family. Taking a peek into fashion from years gone by is a treat.

Doll collectors and kids at heart will be thrilled to find a case containing several dolls dressed in elaborate period dresses, complete with all accessories.  These costumes date from antebellum times through the Victorian era and contain Victorian bride and groom dolls.

Before heading back downstairs, step into the hall for yet another surprise.  Lining the walls from floor to ceiling are photographs of every Natchez Garden Club President and Natchez Garden Club King and Queen.  Note family names going back generations, showing a dedication of service to the Club and the City of Natchez.

Vicki L. Satterthwaite is a member of the Natchez Garden Club.