Natchez Longwood: Charming Opulence Unfinished

“The cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live.” (Lewis Mumford)

The following blog account describes the dreams and misfortunes of a wealthy cotton planter in the “Deep South” of America during mid 19th century antebellum times.  Having amassed extravagant wealth in his ownership of several cotton plantations, he nevertheless aspires to attain even loftier life ambitions. So he decides to build his ultimate dream mansion on an existing piece of property he owns outside the quietly southern port town of Natchez , Mississippi. He then proceeds to spare no expense in building a lavish, Oriental villa on this ninety acre piece of forested land. His octagonally shaped, six storied home will feature an exotic onion- shaped dome, over thirty spacious interior rooms, two story slave quarters, private outside balconies , and a solar lighted, rotunda observatory.

During the course of construction, however, the rising tensions of the oncoming 1861-65 Civil War in Mississippi places the completion of this project in severe jeopardy. Tragically then, as this blood stricken conflict proceeds into Natchez, our ambitious millionaire’s cotton plantation grounds are burned to the ground by Union army forces and he falls into desperate financial disarray. So he finds it necessary to live under more austere conditions for a few years than he’s accustomed to in the basement level of this yet unfinished manor. In time, however, he begins to face the the fact that his beloved Southern Confederacy will soon fall. So with his current dream home ambitions shattered by war defeat, he’s forced to move his family and himself to safer lands in the unoccupied north. Yet his life ends suddenly by pneumonia at age forty eight before the war ends. This grand estate thus remains unfinished to this day.

So I’ve given you some basic facts about the tragic legacy of cotton baron Dr. Haller Nutt and his wife Julia that we learned about during our leisurely stroll through Longwood Mansion in Natchez, Mississippi on our current road trip. I must honestly confess that my anticipation of being immersed in such antebellum extravagance seemed obvious to me as a major motive for this visit. Yet surprisingly a more fulfilling part of this experience seemed to be a simple encounter I recall with the ticket attendant at the front gate when we paid our $25.00 admission. For I listened intently then as this elderly southern gentleman proceeded to entertain me with an angrily cursed rant about how President Trump got what he deserved in acquiring Covid because he couldn’t keep his foul mouth shut! His lack of “southern charm” rebuke of our ailing President rather than the glorified life of a southern millionaire that I would soon encounter at Longwood seems in retrospect to have been the better way to celebrate this momentous day for our country. Enjoy the photographs of the National Historic landmark of Longwood Mansion below.

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