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.

February 21, 2010

Old South Tour Part 1

Sorry for my lack of posting this past week but as you know if you follow my blog, we took a week off  for a leisurely trip to some of the oldest and most interesting cities in the south.     I took LOTS of pictures and it will take 2-3 postings to give you an idea of all we took in so get ready for a lot of pictures!

We started out last Saturday traveling west out of Montgomery toward Vicksburg, MS.       Traveling down Highway 80 West brought back a lot of memories as I spent many years in Lowndes County, Alabama.     (Last spring mama and I took a little day trip to see some of the beautiful old antebellum homes I grew up around.    You can see some of those homes here).      We crossed the  Edmund Pettus bridge which takes you to downtown Selma, Alabama.   This bridge was made famous during the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.    I had a front row view of that march and many other historic moments during the civil rights movement.

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We arrived in Vicksburg late in the day on February 13th.     We were tired so we rested up for  the next day.      Thanks to Janie’s  suggestions, we ate lunch at  Walnut Hills for Valentine’s Day.


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You could eat at the “round table” which put you sitting at a huge round table with a lazy susan in the middle laden down with all sorts of fabulous southern foods.    We chose to eat at a table for two but it would have been fun to meet all those “strangers”….

My mom had a table just like this big round one she bought many years ago in North Carolina.     It was sold in her estate sale as no one had room for it but our family celebrated many good times around that old table.

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I had fried chicken, rice and gravy, black eyed peas and asparagus wrapped with bacon plus corn bread….my kind of eating!

After stuffing ourselves, we drove around  downtown Vicksburg to get a feel for the place.     Being a Sunday and Valentine’s Day, a lot of places were closed.   

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As you can see, there was still some snow on the ground….a very rare sight here in the deep South!

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Our first stop was the historic mansion Anchuca.      It was not open to the public on Sunday as they were hosting a private Valentine’s Day luncheon but we did come back the next day and you will see those pictures later.    Here are a few photos I snapped of the outside and the grounds which were spectacular.  

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Everywhere you looked were these wonderful old homes with unbelievable ironwork.

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This spooky old building sat on the bluff above the river.     The mighty Mississippi River flows through Vicksburg and as I found out there and in Natchez, it is referred to as just “the river, always the river”….the lifeblood of those cities.

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Look at these tree roots!

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The old courthouse in downtown Vicksburg.     It now houses a wonderful civil war collection.

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We found Cedar  Grove open and were fortunate enough to be the only ones touring it that day.     We were given a brochure of information and were told to just tour to our hearts content which we did.    I think this was my favorite place to see.     Here’s a picture I took from the side of the property as the front sat up so high on a bluff it was hard to get a picture from the street.

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I can’t find the brochure we were given and I hope I didn’t throw it away because it was a wonderful tool to use while touring the home.   So I went to the Cedar Grove website to get some history of the home to share with you.

“Once upon a time in the land of cotton, there lived a planter and a businessman by the name of John Alexander Klein.  Being a shrewd young man, he diversified his wealth in the fields of banking, lumber and cotton until he could afford a wife and a family.  Elizabeth Bartley Day came to New Orleans to visit relatives.  The young girl's face never left his mind.

He began the Greek Revival style mansion we know as Cedar Grove in 1840 while he waited patiently for Elizabeth to mature into the beautiful young woman he wanted to grace both his arm and his home.  In 1842, he married Elizabeth.   She was 16, he was 30.

Then off to Europe for a year-long honeymoon.  While there, Klein bought many of the furnishings we now find at Cedar Grove like the Italian marble fireplaces, French empire gasoliers, Bohemian glass for the doorway, towering gold leaf mirrors, exquisite clocks and paintings that adorn the mansion.  In New Orleans, they commissioned Prudent Mallard to make several pieces of furniture.  The best example of his work can be found in the Grant Room.  When the young couple returned to Vicksburg, they lived in the poolside cottage as the beautiful and elegant Cedar Grove developed underneath the skilled hands of many craftsmen.  In 1852, Cedar Grove was finished.
Then the War came and Cedar Grove experienced bombardment by cannon.   A cannon ball is still lodged in the parlor wall.  Mrs. Klein experienced rejection in Vicksburg due to her family ties to General William T. Sherman.

The Kleins survived the War with their house in tact mainly because it had been used as a Union hospital.  Many of the furnishings are original to the house.”

Interestingly, there is a Klein family jewelry store here in Montgomery.     I bet they are related to the Kleins in Vicksburg!

Here are just a few of the photos I took inside the home.   

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The original gasoliers in the home have been converted to electricity.

vicksburg feb.2010 098Standing in the back of the massive hallway looking toward the front door.     The red over the door was a sign of wealth during this time as well as a method to conduct heat into the home during the colder months.

vicksburg feb.2010 112 Across the courtyard was this “carriage house” which was one of the homes built for one of the Klein daughters.

vicksburg feb.2010 105  One of the original mirrors in the front parlor bought by Elizabeth and John on their European honeymoon.

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We were told this was Elizabeth’s favorite tea set on her wicker tea cart she used every morning in the sunroom.

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View from upper veranda….look at that gorgeous ironwork!   And you can see the “River” beyond…..

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In the ballroom is this old piano that is considered to be very rare  and now valued at an estimated $1.3 million!

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Calling card for Mr. and Mrs. Klein for a fancy mask party on May 7, 1878!

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All of the moulding in the home is original to the mansion.  

   vicksburg feb.2010 141 Looking out of one of the 2nd floor bedroom windows at the original gazebo.    

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A cannonball fired from a Union ship on the Mississippi through the front door which has been repaired…..

vicksburg feb.2010 162 And here is where the cannonball lodged and remained….isn’t that amazing?

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In the floor of the same room is another cannonball lodged in the floorboards.

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Dining room set with some of the original family silver and china

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Every place setting had a different napkin holder for each family member.    Apparently, the linens were not washed as regularly as we wash ours now so each family member would place their napkin in their napkin holder at the end of each meal to try and prevent germs being passed around.

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Gorgeous soup tureen on the sideboard.

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Look at this domed silver server…..it was huge! 

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Gorgeous silver chargers!


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While the lives of this family was lived out in much splendor, it was a sad fact that many children died early in life.     This was the original burial site of  5 of the Klein children whose bodies were eventually moved to another cemetery after the property passed out of the Klein family.

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Standing at the back of the property looking toward the rear of Cedar Bluff….

Don’t forget to come back for my next post where we will see the hauntingly beautiful Windsor Ruins in Port Gibson.

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