Natchez was the first civilized settlement on the Mississippi – and when they say that, this time they are actually counting the Indians. It’s been around for a long time, and before the War (you should already know to which war I am referring), eleven of the nation’s twenty richest men lived here. Cotton was king, and those who prospered with it did exceedingly well.
I thought the town would be fairly large, but it is only around 18,000 in population. It was bustling today because this is GMRBR weekend – Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, of course. Lots of balloon people here for the event, but unfortunately there was too much wind today for them to lift off. It’s probably quite a pretty sight over the river. Regardless, the town still has a lot of character and many intact historic homes.
We toured four of Natchez’s wonderful mansion museums. Some allow photos; some don’t. But you’ll get the idea and see that we have returned to the land of live oaks and Spanish moss, which are wonderfully atmospheric. Huge magnolia and cedar trees are also prevalent, and make these properties even more spectacular.
You may wonder about the large wooden object shown over one dining table. It is a punkah – borrowed from India – and it is a fan that breezed over the table and got the flies moving, hence its southern name of “shoo-fly” fan. An obliging servant stood on the other side of the room and pulled up and down on a rope to keep it moving.
One house was particularly unusual. Longwood is the largest octagonal house in America, and the exterior is amazing. However, the building of this house was interrupted by the War, and only the lower level is completed. The next three floors would have been drop-dead spectacular, if only the owner could have sold his cotton during that nasty time. While the family managed to hold onto the house and the grounds for a few years, they made do in the less-impressive downstairs.
For now, you can look up to the top of the building and see how light would have travelled through the rooms of marble and illuminated walls meant to be frescoed. An incomplete masterpiece…
For lunch, I am embarrassed to admit we went to famed local spot – Mammy’s’ Cupboard. With a least some social conscience, the owners have made Mammy a lot lighter over the years, but you get the idea. I blame Don for making us go there.
To make ourselves feel better, we went to this amazing doughnut place we kept passing and tried their wares. The bad news is that the doughnuts were fabulous; the good news is that we are leaving town tomorrow – and maybe we can avoid driving by there again.