Historic Homes & Mansions
Natchez is a city of many grand dames, some of whom have graced it for nearly 200 years: beautiful antebellum mansions and historic homes like Stanton Hall, Magnolia Hall and Dunleith, as well as simpler but no less historic structures, like the home of William Johnson, the “barber of Natchez” who was born a slave and died a prominent businessman. Along with Melrose, Johnson’s home is now a National Park Service site.
The First Name in Natchez: Rosalie
Some of the historic homes of Natchez are tied to the city’s earliest history — homes like the mansion Rosalie, which was completed in 1823 on land just north of the Mississippi River overlook where, in 1716, the French built the city’s namesake and the area’s first important structure: Fort Rosalie, named for the Duchess of Ponchartrain.
The mansion was built by Peter and Eliza little, a couple thrown together by fate when a dying widow begged Peter, a well connected man who had befriended her late husband, to care for her daughter, Eliza, who was then only 14 and would soon be orphaned.
Peter married Eliza to become her guardian and sent her to school in Europe. Over the years, they developed a deep love for each other, and remained married when Eliza returned to America an educated, sophisticated young lady. Though the couple never had children of their own, Eliza helped found the Natchez Children’s Home, and many of its young charges found a home at Rosalie.
Haunted Mansions in Natchez
It was an outbreak of yellow fever that ultimately led Eliza Little to become the mistress of Rosalie mansion, and the same sickness that later stole Monmouth from Natchez postman John Hankison and his wife when they tried to nurse an infected man back to health, contracted the disease themselves and died within the week.
Given their untimely deaths, you might think the couple would haunt their former home. Instead, some have claimed to see the ghost of its later resident, Major General John Anthony Quitman, a hero of the Mexican-American War who later became governor of Mississippi.
Nonetheless, it’s another historic home in Natchez, Stanton Hall, that supposedly served as the model for the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland. While we can’t say for sure that any spirits have milled about the parlors of Stanton Hall over the years, we can say that many young ladies did, at least for a period of their lives: the structure served as the Stanton College for Young Ladies from 1894 to 1901.
From Extravagant to Eccentric
Many of the antebellum mansions of Natchez feature Italian marble and elegant fixtures imported from Europe and brought from the North by way of the Mississippi. But the early residents of Natchez were sometimes more practical. The magnificent Dunleith, for example, makes fine use of the readily available cypress, even if the owners didn’t necessarily want guests to know of their humble woods: the cypress baseboards are painted to look like oak, and cypress doors are disguised as mahogany.
Natchez homes often bear such distinctive decisions of their builders, but none are so distinctive as Longwood. At a time when Greek Revival was all the rage in architecture in Natchez, Longwood’s creator, Haller Nutt, opted for six-story octagonal structure in the Oriental Revival style, which he topped with a Byzantine dome.
Though the Civil War interrupted construction and Dr. Nutt died in the home with only 9 of the its 32 rooms completed, Mrs. Nutt and her children continued to live in the basement, below an unfinished monolith that would have housed, among other extraordinary features, a solarium and observatory. One can’t help but think the family would be proud to know their unique unfinished dream achieved a new level of fame when it was featured in the 2010 season of HBO’s vampire drama True Blood.
Learn More about Natchez Homes
These notes cover just a handful of the historic homes of Natchez, each of which is a story all to itself. Learn more through our partners who own and operate the antebellum mansions, and see these magnificent structures — and their furnishings — in person. Some are open to the public year-round; other can only be viewed during Spring and Fall Pilgrimages.