Of all the towns and cities in the South, none is so classically Southern as Natchez, Mississippi. Natchez not only possesses an unequaled assemblage of grand ante-bellum mansions, but counts among them the very icons that represent the beginning and end of great Southern home-building. In the five decades framed by the construction of white-columned archetype Auburn and the unfinished folly of melancholy Longwood, the remote little city of Natchez produced an outstanding collection of architectural landmarks. Amazingly, with the exception of the provocative, but brief, French presence, every era in the architectural history of Natchez is still represented there today.
The first European settlement of the lower Mississippi, Natchez took its name from the indigenous people whose thriving culture it ultimately displaced, and from inception its long history has been governed more by the gyrations of its tumultuous crop-based economy than by the powers and politics of the flags that flew over it. Once mighty King Cotton ascended to its throne, Natchez became an almost irresistible attraction for adventurous entrepreneurs (many of them Yankees, by the way). The society they created on this wild frontier was remarkably sophisticated, and the buildings they commissioned can compare individually and collectively with those of any city in the South.
Classic Natchez is the fourth in a series of books about significant Southern cities. By bringing together thought-provoking essays, beautiful contemporary color photographs, and informative maps and illustrations, the editors reveal the essence of each city through its architecture. In this volume, Randolph Delehanty presents the captivating and ironic history of Natchez, identifying the architectural evidence of each era and relating it to the social and economic pulses that created it. An entertaining time line illustrated with archival photographs, maps, panoramas, and floor plans takes the reader from the earliest native habitations, through the construction boom of the cotton era, to the modern-day efforts to preserve this precious legacy. As the introduction and time line give the architecture historical perspective, a portfolio of forty-three landmark Natchez homes gives it life, with stories of Natchez’s celebrated nineteenth-century society woven into the lives and lifestyles of modern Natchezians. The portfolio offers a colorful journey through time—the sweet serenity of Spanish-era Hope Farm, to the nearly unbelievable fantasy of Haller Nutt’s suburban Longwood, and ending with a bluff-top modern homage to a Mississippi planter’s cottage. The reader tours the deeply personal family collections at Green Leaves, Elms Court, and Lansdowne and the beautiful and educational interpretations at Auburn, Melrose, and Stanton Hall. Architect and author J. Frazer Smith once observed: “To understand the ante-bellum South, see the homes of Natchez.” Lavishly illustrated, Classic Natchez is the most comprehensive and informative book yet published about the distinctive architecture of this genuinely unique Southern city.
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