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The Siren Call

Natchez’s celebrated treasure trove of antebellum architecture, unlike that of most historic Southern cities, was largely built by a society seeking to be, as F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, “rich together.” Imitating the English gentry who maintained townhouses as well as country homes, the region’s phenomenally wealthy cotton barons escaped the ennui of rural plantation life via city homes where they could socialize with their peers. Sometimes modest, usually grandiose, these houses bloomed in the heart of Natchez and in park-like settings, some as large as eighty acres, on the outskirts of town. Arguably the oldest surviving “suburban villa,” as the style came to be known, is Gloucester. Its most famous occupant–and a highly unlikely candidate for the...

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The Last Hurrah

Glimpsed through trees draped with spectral moss, Longwood looms like an exotic mirage. As audacious as it is unexpected, this is the doomed fantasy of scientist/planter Dr. Haller Nutt who dared ignore the gathering clouds of civil war and began construction of this extraordinary house in that fateful year, 1860. (Little wonder that his neighbors nicknamed the mansion “Nutt’s Folly.”) Wildly wealthy from Mississippi and Louisiana plantations, Dr. Nutt decided to build a new home near Natchez for his wife Julia and their eight children. With Greek Revival architecture fallen from fashion, he found inspiration in a design book by celebrated Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan. What captured Nutt’s fancy was a pattern called “Oriental Villa,” a three-story...

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Circling the Facts

The decision of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his City Council to remove the statue of General Robert E. Lee and rename Lee Circle is troubling on a number of levels. Erasing evidence of New Orleans’s Confederate sympathy in the Civil War is a betrayal of truth, tantamount to saying it never existed. That slavery is heinous and indefensible is irrefutable fact, but is removing proof of its presence a responsible way of addressing it? I certainly support relegating the rebel flag to museums, but this self-aggrandizing political bandwagon is as shameful as it is ill-conceived. The rewriting of history has proven to be dangerous and irresponsible time and again, especially when it sets precedents. Landrieu’s actions have already spawned criticism of the...

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