February 25, 2010

Old South Tour Part 2

On our second day in Vicksburg we decided to first see the old ruins of Windsor located in Port Gibson, about 30 miles from Vicksburg.     Port Gibson is home to many old 19th century homes and battlefields which bring to mind the days of plantations and southern hospitality.  

The road to the Windsor Ruins is long and winding with not much to see.     However, coming around a bend we saw this little old building which had been used as a church many years ago.   029  026   028

A few more miles down the road and we came to the entrance to the Windsor Ruins, a hauntingly beautiful place.    No words can express the feeling you have upon first seeing the magnificent columns.    

Here’s a little history of the Windsor Ruins which was  beautifully told  by my friend Janie of Southern Lagniappe.    She blogged about her visit to the ruins on July 15, 2008:

The story of the Ruins of Windsor begins with the birth of Smith Coffee Daniel, II in Mississippi in 1826, the son of an Indian fighter turned farmer and wealthy landowner.   Daniel owned 21,000 acres in Mississippi and Louisiana.    In 1849 he married his cousin, Catherine Freeland (1830-1903) and they had three children.

In 1859 the couple started construction of Windsor, the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion built in the state of Mississippi.    Windsor Plantation, about 12 miles southwest of Port Gibson in Claiborn County, covered over 2,600 acres and overlooked the Mississippi River in the distance.

From the elaborate furnishings, to the wrought iron staircase, the four story home was designed to reflect the height of Southern life at the time.   It is said that Mark Twain compared Windsor to a collage instead of a residence, due to its size.

It was built for $175,000, not a small sum at the time, which included the actual construction cost and its furnishings (today’s cost would be approximately $3.5 million).

Windsor’s basic style was Greek Revival, with added details borrowed from the Italianate and Gothic styles of architecture.   It had twenty-three rooms with twenty-three fireplaces, and an above level basement containing a school room, dairy and supply rooms.   Tanks in the attic supplied water for the interior baths.   The ell-shaped extension on the east side attached to a single row of columns extending from the main square contained the kitchen, pantry and dining room.

Construction was completed in 1861 but Smith Daniel only lived in it for a few weeks before he died at the age of 34.   His wife and children continued to live at Windsor but were left to suffer the loss of much of the family’s holdings.

During the Civil War, Windsor was used by both Union and Confederate troops.    From the roof signal equipment was used to signal Confederate troops of Yankee advances, and a Yankee soldier was shot in the front doorway of the home.

Windsor was also used as a Union hospital and observation post, which is most likely the reason it was spared from being burned by the Union troops.

On February 17, 1890,  a guest accidentally dropped a cigarette in debris left by carpenters making repairs on the 3rd floor, and Windsor was consumed by fire.     The only remnants were 23 of the 29 columns, a few pieces of china, and a set of wrought iron stairs and portions of the balustrade.     (source:   Southern Lagniappe).

What a coincidence that we visited Windsor on February 17th (2010)!




The first thing I saw driving down the lane to the ruins was the huge old tree




Catching a glimpse of what lay beyond the trees…


It was hard to take in the magnificence of what this used to be…


…..it simply took my breath away!


In 1991 historians discovered this drawing by Henry Otis Dwight, an officer in the 20th Ohio Infantry, made while his unit was encamped on the grounds of the home…..it is the only known depiction of what Windsor looked like after its completion




Basic construction was done by slave labor.     The bricks used for the 45 foot columns were made in a kiln across the road from the house.    The columns were then covered with mortar and plaster.  (Southern Lagniappe)







Hubby in the distance….he saw a deer in the woods and was going to check it out







Close up of the Corinthian capital…all of these were carved by hand!










I put my hand in this hole trying to imagine someone actually touching these same bricks and mortar over 100 years ago!








If you would like to read Janie’s wonderful story of her visit to the Windsor Ruins, please read about it here.

I still have a lot of pictures to share and will be doing so in the next few days.


Southern Lady said...

Judy, I loved seeing the Ruins through your eyes and your camera, and appreciate you linking your post to mine about Windsor. It is truly an awe-inspiring place to visit, especially when you think about all the labor that went into its creation.

Tara said...

Hi Judy

What a great tour...not being a Southerner, I find your love for your home and section of our country so touching. This house looks like it was amazing, can you just imagine? The South is just a beautiful place. Recently an uncle of mine dies here in NY and at this family gathering i learned we are distantly related to Robert E Lee! Wow!

Tales From My Empty Nest said...

Those ruins are incredible! That house was huge! I have never heard of that place. Thanks for sharing. Love & blessings from NC!

Jacki said...

That was awe inspiring. It makes you wonder how incredible the house must have been.

Terri Smith said...

Thank you thank you thank you Dear Judy, for the clarification on the room design. As soon as I finish saying hello..I'll go in and make the update to my photo.

Your photos and narration were wonderful! I can only imagine what it must have felt like standing amongst those ruins. Truly fascinating!

Thank you so much for allowing us to share with you, such a amazingly powerful tour.

Blessings, joy and sunshine, Terri

Debbie's Garden said...

Homes were the size of hotels! The columns have an eerie cemetery feel. I didn't see any ghosts in your pictures, but I bet you could feel them !!!

All Things Southern said...

How interesting....

Pat@BPM said...

Oh how I would love to visit this place, Judy!

Loved all the photos and history!

Its So Very Cheri said...

That is so awesome. It looks like a neat place to visit.

I came over to let you know that my blog has moved and I would love it if you would come to the new site and RE-sign up to follow me there.


Annesphamily said...

I love Southern history! it is the best. Thank you for sharing. It was a wonderful tour.

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