Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Natchez, Mississippi - a Southern gem

Claimed to be the place with more antebellum houses than any other city in the country, we stopped by for a day on our way north after our winter retreat. What a delight!
A cozy Wal-Mart campground, easy parking right on Main Street for access to a great walkabout, no graffiti, heaps of history, a pleasant park complete with fountain, a great website for planning and a rigorous river walk as an unplanned bonus. Better yet, if you enjoy old photographs, you can be in for a further treat. On the second floor at the rear of the Presbyterian Church is, perhaps, the finest photograph collection covering the period 1870 through 1913 anywhere in the USA. Thousands of these pictorial treasures are on permanent display where they minutely document life across all classes in the Natchez area, from the recovery after the Civil War to the darkening period before the Great War. A must see attraction if you're ever in town.

As for historic buildings, there are more than 50 antebellum houses, churches and other structures in and around Natchez. An enduring disappointment for me, however, has been a lifelong expectation that antebellum was synonymous with the lavish Hollywood depictions of sprawling pads, housing dozens of people, such as that in the Bette Davis movie Jezebel, or others that appeared in Gone with the Wind. Reality, of course, is a mean taskmaster and most genuine antebellum homes were somewhat modest by today's standards. Nonetheless, if you ever get into this neck of the woods, do allow a day or so to enjoy the unique offerings of this cherished piece of Americana.

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