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.
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.