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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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