Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Historic Homes Overload

An unexpected opportunity arose while visiting Vicksburg - marked scenic drives around the city.  I had not come across these in my research, but the campground where we were staying had them on their brochure.  With a little time before dark, we set out to see what we could see.

The signs were easy to see and there were actually two - blue (shown below) and red.  As far as I could tell, there was little difference in the two, as they both wound around the city crossing and paralleling at times.

Scenic drive marker

Of course, it was RAINING, so I couldn't get any decent pictures along the way, but I can tell you that there are many historic sites, period homes and unique architecture all along the way.  Highly recommended to do if you visit the area.

Most of the historical and period homes have been turned into bed and breakfasts, but several of them still provide tours, so we stopped at a couple.  I really wasn't expecting too much, as it's been my experience that, once a home is turned into a B&B, most of the original charm is renovated out.

Anchuca, the first of the homes we toured, is one of the most significant antebellum homes in the area. Jefferson Davis's brother owned and lived in the house and the front balcony is the site of one of the last of President Davis's public speeches.  Anchuca is a Choctaw word meaning "happy home."  And I would be a happy girl if I could live in this house.
Front of the home.  That is the famous balcony on the second floor.

Front door.  The lights are original and still run on gas

Gas light at the curb

I'm not a great photographer and better photos can be found on the Internet, but some individual features caught my eye.
The staircase was beautiful from all directions

Back staircase

Ceiling medallions were made of horsehair, molasses and marble dust

This original hand hooked rug is being walked on today!

Side courtyard

Very old crepe myrtle trees

While it was interesting to see the house, we were shown this video, which mostly talks about the artifacts displayed in the home, and then allowed to wander around around the downstairs rooms.  I was expecting a tour narrative of some type, so was a little disappointed.

Cedar Grove Mansion, the second tour of the day, was a lot more interesting.  It too was a self guided tour, but we were given a nine page document that functioned as a "tour guide" and provided details about all the original furniture and features of the home as well as information about the family.  Reading this as we toured was almost as good as having a narrated tour.

Built in 1840 by John Alexander Klein, as a gift to his bride, the home originally stood on 8 acres of land with a grove of 25 ancient Cedars, thus the name. 

Cedar Grove, facing the Mississippi River

Sitting high above the Mississippi River, it was an easy target for Union bombardments and, after the fall of Vicksburg, served as a Union hospital.  General Sherman occupied the main floor of the home, while the Kleins were forced to live on the second level and the basement functioned as the morgue.  One of the cannonballs that found its target is still lodged in the wall of the Gentleman's Parlor and you can see the repair of the hole in the front door through which it entered.

The cannonball was much smaller than I expected - about 3" in diameter

A lot of the furnishings and fixtures in this home were original and our "tour guide" told stories of the reason for some of them. 

The dining table was set with these unusual napkin rings.  We learned that each member of the family had their own so as to reuse their napkins at each meal, thus reducing the need to launder them.

Another ceiling medallion made from the same materials as the ones at Anchuca.

This room was the original kitchen.  When built, it was separate from the house, but today retains the original fireplace and brick floors.

What looks like an ornate wood buffet in the dining room is actually a 3000 lb cast iron safe.  Invited by the "tour guide" to kick the bottom of it, I did and it sounds just like wood.  It is said that this is how Mr. Klein was able to keep much of his wealth even as Union soldiers passed the safe every day.

Many of the interior doors look like this one.  What I liked best about this house was the fact that the woodwork was in original condition, you could see paint chipping and flaking here and there and modernization, at least in the public areas, was unobtrusive.

The exterior retained many of its original features too.

What used to be one of two carriage houses

Mr. Klein's catfish pond.  Nine feet deep, I have to assume they enjoyed eating catfish!

This mound of dirt hides a cistern that provided water to the home

Gazebo original to the home.  Can you just imagine ladies in their hoop skirt taking in the fresh air here?  Maybe not when it's RAINING, like it  was the day we toured!

I absolutely loved touring this home.  It always surprises me that the rooms are not as big as one would guess from the outside and it's always fun to try to imagine what life must have been like.  There were so many beautiful homes in this city that one could easily spend a few days just touring them.  But our time in Vicksburg was coming to an end and I had to say goodbye to this gentile southern city.

Until next time...

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I would love the chance to tour these homes sounds interesting