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The Mississippi Miser

Natchez has always been a world apart from the rest of Mississippi. As Harnett Kane duly observed in his book Natchez on the Mississippi (1941), “The situation bred idiosyncrasies- the dreamers out of touch with any reality. Years earlier, newcomers noticed that the Natchez plantation people were a small, tight group which grew smaller, tighter with the generations. Intermarriage had begun early; the same names still merged. Now oddities developed.” Intrigued by this menagerie of Southern eccentrics, I profiled Katherine Lintot Minor, the flamboyant Yellow Duchess (Yellow Fever, January, 2014), and now it’s time for Duncan Minor (1862-1939), a k. a. the Mississippi Miser. Related to most of Natchez’s oldest, most prominent families, Duncan was born into...

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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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