Walt's Look Around: Longwood in Natchez - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Walt's Look Around: Longwood in Natchez

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NATCHEZ, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Rounding the bend in the driveway and catching that first glimpse of Longwood is breathtaking. It sits on the crown of the hill like a jewel. And that is exactly the effect Haller Nutt and his wife Julia wanted when they hired Philadelphia, Pennsylvania architect Samuel Sloan to design and build Longwood in 1859. Haller Nutt had made a fortune and wanted a home that reflected that fact. Gay Guercio is a tour guide at Longwood.

 "Well there were more millionaires in Natchez right before the Civil War than there were in New York City. And they all made their money by raining cotton, selling cotton, the whole economy of Natchez was based on growing and selling cotton," said Guercio. "And most of the cotton was grown across the river. Near the river because the soil was very rich over there, but of course you didn't want to build your big mansion over there because it would be flooded. So, they built their town houses on the bluff here in Natchez."

On the eve of the Civil War, the shell of the house was completed and interior floors were laid and the roof sealed in. Then in the war broke out. 

"When the war started, the workmen went back up north. But they left scaffolding and tools that you'll still find upstairs because they thought it would be a short war and they'd come back and finish the house. So Haller moved his family into the basement, and this is the basement of the house, to wait out the war," said Guercio.

So, the family lived in the hastily completed basement level. But before you get the idea they were just cramped in there, there are 10,000 square feet of room in the basement. But there would never be enough money to complete the 30,000 square foot home overhead. No black and white checkerboard tile entranceway. No plaster to cover the exposed bricks, no statues of the seasons on the ground floor and other statues on the levels up above. None of that ever happened. Only temporary stair steps were completed from level four to level five and then from level five on up to Haller Nutt's observatory at the top of the house, under the dome. What would Longwood have been like if it had been finished?

"It's like we tell people who say, it's a shame it wasn't finished. It would have been magnificent. And we say we still think it's pretty magnificent," said Guercio.

And it's no wonder then that Longwood in Natchez numbers among the 7 Wonders of Mississippi. 

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